Ray Ratto

Couture is the only Shark who is All-Star worthy

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Couture is the only Shark who is All-Star worthy

The NHL All-Star Game is, well, what it is. An exhibition, only it isnt even as good an exhibition as the Winter Classic.

But as an engine for perception, its about as good as youre going to get, and the perception of the San Jose Sharks at this moment in time is that the player the other teams would take first is Logan Couture.

RELATED: Sharks' Couture an All-Star

Couture was the Sharks sole representative for the game in Ottawa January 29, and based on the rest of the Western Conference, it is hard to see how (a) there was a better choice from the Sharks or (b) how there was an additional choice.

The format requires that between forwards, defensemen, goaltenders and rookies, every team must be represented, and here were the other Western Conference selectees.

Corey Perry, Anaheim
Jarome Iginla, Calgary
Marian Hossa, Chicago
Patrick Kane, Chicago
Jonathan Toews, Chicago
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado (rookie)
Ryan Johansen, Columbus (rookie)
Jamie Benn, Dallas
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
Jimmy Howard, Detroit (goalie)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton (rookie)
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles (goalie)
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota
Craig Smith, Nashville (rookie)
Ryan Suter, Nashville
Shane Weber, Nashville
Keith Yandle, Phoenix
Brian Elliott, St. Louis (goalie)
Alexander Edler, Vancouver
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver
Cody Hodgson, Vancouver (rookie)

And given the numbers and the every-team-must-be-represented requirement, it is hard to see how the Sharks could have gotten anyone else on the team. I mean, head coach Todd McLellan had his input, so it isnt like they didnt have a voice in the room.

But an all-star team is more a jigsaw puzzle than a measure of absolute value, if that helps you feel better about Joe Pavelski, the other Shark that had a worthwhile case to make.

In fact, this may be a measure of the 2012 Sharks as a system team rather than a star-studded operation. It has stars, true, but none of them are having exemplary years. It has veteran skill, but the Sharks continental reputation still does not glow as brightly as those of the Red Wings, Blackhawks or Canucks.

In short, they start and stop with defense. The Sharks have risen from a fitful offensive start to rank 12th in goals scored, but they are fourth in goals allowed, even with a dreadful penalty kill, and defense isnt sexy unless includes players like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber (Nashville).

The Sharks are completing, in short, their transformation into a system team. Whether that helps them in late January is clear it doesnt but April, May and June is the mountain before them.

Thus, you may seek out snub-worthy Sharks for your own amusement, and frankly, other than Pavelski youd have a hard time doing so. Even Marc-Edouard Vlasic, enjoying his best year as a Shark, isnt having the same kind of year as Suter, Weber, Yandle or Edler.

Thus, the logic of Couture and Couture only is as close to unassailable as any All-Star team can be. Couture is San Joses best version of the new, young, intrepid NHL star that the league wants to showcase (hey, Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom didnt make it, and hes the best defenseman of the last 20 years). If hes the only one, so it goes.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

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AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.