Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Its all numbers for Ron Wilson these days. Two nights ago, Tim Hunter celebrated 1,000 games as Wilsons assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, Wilson won his 600th game, as the Leafs beat San Jose, 4-2. Later this week, he will celebrate his 1,300th career game.And by his estimation, the Leafs have to win two of every three games between now and the end of the season to consider being an Eastern Conference playoff team.In the meantime, the Sharks, who are in dramatically better shape than the Leafs, are in worse shape than theyve been in years.Losers of five in a row, they will now try to break that streak Thursday against Edmonton without centerbest player Logan Couture for at least a game and probably not much more after enduring what looked like a deep right leg bruise from the knee of Leaf enforcer Colton Orr.VIDEO: Logan Couture injury update
The good news: Couture went home without crutches but with a brace and a limp that was somewhere between noticeable and pronounced. Barring overnight swelling that provides evidence of structural damage, his time off the ice may be minimal.The bad: The Sharks cant really afford to be without him for even a shift, not the way theyre going.Once again, their offense produced shots without goals Patrick Marleau had both, but 40 other shots were handled in one method or other by rookie goalie James Reimer.But the defense broke down repeatedly in the Leafs four-goal third period, and head coach Todd McLellan might have had more energy to fulminate about the mistakes if he didnt already have one eye and one ear trained for any Couture news.Weve been whining and bitching about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defensive commitment that let us down in the third period, he said. Just a lot of mistakes that we shouldnt be making. The only way were going to get out of this is to keep working, improve our defensive play, remain disciplined and to stick together.This lack of fire, let alone brimstone, is the sound of a coach who knows when ripping the team to the media is worse than not doing it. McLellan doesnt look beaten or desperate, but he knows the longer the slump lasts, the harder it will be to get out of it.Nobody knows that more than Wilson, though, the man who was fired in San Jose to make room for McLellan. Wilson has been pushing the tractor motor uphill in Toronto almost since the day he arrived, and Tuesdays win merely put the Leafs into a tie for 11th, 11 points behind eighth-place Atlanta.RELATED: NHL Standings
Tuesday, though, was a good night without qualification for the veteran coach.Its good that I was able to do it here, he said between deflections of credit. Pretty special. The last time we were here, we ran into a buzzsaw, were down 4-0 in the first period and we had no chance, and the last time up there, I thought we should have won.But we were a little bit fortunate tonight, we ran into a team thats been squeezing the sticks a little hard lately.Squeezing? The Sharks have been leaving trails of fiberglass and tooth enamel through most of the season, and it may be dawning on them that their issues may not be effort- but talent-related.They look slower than the elite teams, they get to the spots they want a tad slower than they need to, they barely break even in the faceoff circle and along the wall, and their shot flurries come from far out and dont produce enough quality rebound attempts.More to the point, though, they are finding out for the first time in years how the other half lives the half that plays golf in April and gets lectures from the teams that are still playing. It is still far too early to make such declarations, but slumps bring out the worst the expectations of others, and right now the Sharks look as close to inert as they have since before Ron Wilson got here.486 games ago.

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


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.