Ratto: Prescription for what ails Sharks


Ratto: Prescription for what ails Sharks


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We know what youre thinking. We always know what youre thinking, because you always think the same thing.

Fire the general manager. No, fire the coach. No, trade the following players who have offended me.

See? I told you.

But in plowing through the Sharks remains after another playoff expiration, the true frustration reveals itself in the following truths:

1. The Vancouver Canucks were a better team.
2. This was, give or take a game, as good as the Sharks could do. Again.
3. All the players you hate cant be moved.

Now theres something to make hope spring eternal for you.

Vancouver had all the known Sedins, which was a sufficient problem in and of itself. But if truth be told (and frankly, why start now?), it was the extra parts the Canucks had that truly explained the reason why the series lasted only five games.

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What the Sharks didnt have, and what ultimately got them on the wrong side of the Canucks, was defenseman Alexander Edler, and left wing Chris Higgins, and defenseman Christopher Tanev, and center Maxim Lapierre, and winger Raffi Torres. A smooth puck-handling defenseman who could spring an attack ... a grungy corner man who never lost a battle when he really needed to win one, an extra defenseman who was more asset than detriment, an agitating centerman, and an ultra-agitating, well, agitator.

The Sharks could come close to recreating Henrik Sedin as long as Joe Thornton was healthy. When Patrick Marleau was scoring, which he was in the conference final, he was Alexandre Burrows. When Dan Boyle was the Dan Boyle of old, he was Kevin Bieksa -- except, of course, for the skillful adaptation to the presentation of good fortune in the second overtime Tuesday.

But Ryane Clowe didnt win the battles Higgins did, and Jason Demers didnt play so he could learn a few tricks from watch Edler, and Scott Nichol and Joe Pavelski werent close to being as usefully annoying as Lapierre, and Kent Huskins didnt fit in for Demers as well as Tanev did for Aaron Rome, and no Sharks did what Torres did, though Ben Eager certainly tried the best he could.

In short, San Jose was short. In getting less than full measure from Clowe (injured), Joe Pavelski (save that great dive and flick to Devin Setoguchi in Game 5), Setoguchi (save taking that flick and scoring the tying goal in Game 5), Dany Heatley (who had looked sharp against Los Angeles but faded with every passing game after that), Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood (who went as Pavelski went), they didnt have the cards to play a full hand against a team that did, and did.

Some may suggest that a healthy Thornton might have changed all that, but the Sharks lost Games 1 and 2 with him at full pace, and thats not to say he didnt play a full captains games. He was as good as he has ever been, and won over most of his long-running Canadian skeptics.

RELATED: Sharks fall short, Canucks claim series with 2OT triumph

In addition, Marleau, who had been largely inert through most of the first two series, earned his pay packet against Vancouver as he had a year ago against Chicago in the Sharks last conference final finale. Clowe and Pavelski will probably given passes, and Logan Couture, whose own series was less than exemplary, was asked to perform one of two unfair tasks for a rookie -- deal with the Sedins or deal with the Ryan Kesler line.

As for what comes next, that will be handled during Thursdays post mortem. Doug Wilson, whose job is safe, will speak of the season (probably in glowing terms), Todd McLellan (who job is just about as safe as Wilsons) will be a bit more measured, and the players themselves will lament another lost opportunity while praising each other for going as far as they did.

All the safe routes. Vancouver was better. San Jose wasnt going any further. But substantive changes will be hard to come by. Heatley has three years and 19 million left on his deal, and would be hard to deal even if he would accept a trade, which he doesnt have to. He'll need to gear up for an arduous summer if he plans to be more of a factor next spring than he was in this one. Setoguchi could be moved, but the return might not be sufficient. Wellwood and Ian White are also restricted free agents, and the Sharks dont have the cap room to absorb them all, even if they wanted to.

The Sharks need some change in their room, but the central core of seven players (Thornton, Marleau, Boyle, Heatley, Couture, Pavelski and Clowe) seem inviolable. Tinkering at the edges is the most that can be expected here, while they wait and watch Vancouver do with the springboard the Sharks gave them what Chicago did a year ago.

San Jose? Just the 27th to fall, again. They are right to feel vaguely unsatisfied.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.