Goalie situation unsettled for Sharks

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Goalie situation unsettled for Sharks

Todd McLellan has replayed 2010-11 all he can; he has reviewed what happened and didnt, what he could have done and what he shouldnt have, and why the Sharks ultimately ended where they did, and how they got to here.

And he neither smiles nor frowns much, so it is correctly assumed that he is punched out on last year.

This year, though, he is fervently noncommittal. Even on his starting goaltender, who looks more and more like Thomas Greiss rather than Antti Niemi due to Niemi's still-cranky knee.

On paper, we ought to be better, the Sharks coach said as he leaned back in his chair mentally surveying the locker room directly ahead and separated by dry wall. Not on paper, well found out quick enough.

He likes this team a tick better than the one he left last training camp with. I think weve had a better camp. Weve worked a little harder, weve done things a little differently, and were deeper, he said. I think guys get it. I mean, you dont know until youve played some games, so Im not trying to assume too much, but were pretty much where we ought to be right now.

Well, not entirely. He already has a hole in goal, where Antero Niittymaki is still months away from playing, and Niemis knee (cyst, surgery) is still not behaving as a proper knee should, so although nothing has been announced, the increasingly heavy betting is for Greiss to start Saturdays season opener against Phoenix.

This does not suggest Niemis knee will still be balky a week from Friday in Anaheim, or Saturday at home against St. Louis. But it is a noteworthy development in a camp that has really only had three: Niemis knee, Martin Havlats vexing shoulder, which has not yet been cleared for full-contact fun, and Brett Burns, the upright freezer-sized defenseman whose principal duty has been to hear McLellan tell him not to worry about the expectations of a hungry world.

Ive told him he needs to do the simple things, that he doesnt need to be extraordinary, McLellan said. He doesnt have to make any impression with us except that he knows what he want him to do.

The rest of it has been standard camp whatnot, with only the occasional tweak to the routine, like using two rinks in practice so that resurfacing doesnt eat up 10 minutes of practice time. It seems moderately anal behavior, but McLellans focus is simply to break routine. He starts practices earlier, they go longer, and meetings are moved up and back almost at whim. Except with McLellan, whim is pretty much going to the odd ballgame in mid-summer. Once the job beckons, he is there for the duration.

It was a very quick summer, he said. Barely time to collect yourself. The draft, the trades, camp. It just sort of flew by. We wanted to be fully focused and ready as we could be so that we didnt have to do what we had to last year.

That is, to fritter away three months and change looking like the Ottawa Senators.

I cant really quantify how much that did or didnt hurt us, though you sort of know that it wasnt the way we wanted to do things, he said. It leaves too much to chance, and forced to do a lot of things we didnt want to do -- play the goaltender (Niemi) too many games in a row, play some guys too many minutes for too many games, things like that.

The whole idea is not to have to do that again, he said, leaning forward. I mean , look at the playoffs. The teams that built up the cushions and knew where they were going to be wended up in the Finals.

That wasnt San Jose. And this might not be San Jose, either. There is still the nagging sense that until they show they can start fast, they should be expected not to do so. Then again, they have started fast in other years, and still limped into the playoffs.

Well, there are things you can control, and things you cant, McLellan said. Theres paper, and theres not paper.

Paperwork is due Saturday morning. Not paper is way harder. And nothing reminds a fellow of the capricious nature of the no paper season quite like not having your goalie for the opener.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

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AP

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.