Ray Ratto

Wings coach fires jab, predicts Sharks' lines


Wings coach fires jab, predicts Sharks' lines

Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California
Ray Ratto

DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock got in a few final gamesmanship swings Wednesday morning before Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal, announcing not only his teams change (Kris Draper for Drew Miller, and thats all ... for now) and his lines (as expected, he is splitting Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk onto separate lines), but also declaring Sharks coach Todd McLellans as well.

Well practice with 93, 13, 96 (Johan Franzen, Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom), 44, 40, 11 (Todd Bertuzzi, Zetterberg and Dan Cleary), 8, 51 and 26 (Justin Abdelkader, Valteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler) and 33, 43 and 17 (Draper, Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves), and hell counter with moving Logan Couture onto (Joe) Thorntons line and putting (Patrick) Marleau in the middle.

To which McLellan smiled when asked if he could confirm Babcocks announcement and said, Maybe.

If I did that, he said, its just size and strength down the middle. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are obviously skilled, but theyre also very strong. Marleau is 6-3, 230, 225, in there, not that Logan Couture couldnt do the job, because he has.

RELATED: Lines shuffled at Tuesday practice

In other words, We might.

That said, McLellan reiterated the fact that individual matchups havent the import when two teams are so similarly constructed and have played so often.

There are no secrets, no magic, no strategies, he said. I hear broadcasters and analysts all the time saying how the coach should have had such and such a player on the ice for 10 seconds, but its not that easy.

And Babcock eventually confirmed that theory by saying of his changes, We didnt win when they (Datsyuk and Zetterberg) were together, and we gotta find a way to win a game.

McLellan may not open the game with Couture and Thornton together, because he hasnt messed with his top three lines in the first eight games of the playoffs, but he can go to them quickly enough if the Sharks got off their traditionally slow start. San Joses worst period throughout the season has been the first (they ranked 12th with 69 goals, and tied for first with 94 in the second), and the same has been true in the postseason, where they have two first period goals in their eight games but 12 in the second.

Maybe its the fact that the defense has the longer change in the second period, and were trying to be more cognizant of our line changes in the second, McLellan said. But I dont know for sure.

But as is his postseason mantra in all things, Maybe.

As in, We might.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together


National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

So after one day, the NSOBL (the National Son-Of-A-Bitch League, as if you couldn’t guess) has survived the contemptible brain-burps of the Panderer-In-Chief. Now we’ll see if the players’ fury has true staying power.
And by staying power, we don’t mean whether they will continue to defy the call of the National Anthem (an easy enough task), but whether they view their newfound solidarity as something that needs to be nurtured to truly endure.
After all, it’s easy to be galvanized by the noisy neighbor who spends his day on the porch shouting irrational obscenities at the neighbors. But Donald Trump isn’t the issue; he never was. All he did was put a face to the idiocies that prevent us from being the country we should be.
But this started a year ago with a single knee, a single person, and a broader cause than a President who needs to pick fights the way a vampire needs naked necks. Colin Kaepernick, whose career as a football player is essentially over because he caused the NFL a headache by honoring his conscience, took his knee to protest police excesses, and didn’t need to be called a son of a bitch to do so. He was later, of course, part of the medley of all the other insults that followed, but he didn’t kneel because he was insulted. He knelt because other were, and worse.
But the beauty of these days is that we take any idea or action and immediately change its meaning to fit our own prejudices. Kaepernick’s message was too nuanced for a lot of people’s facilities because they value symbols more than people, but nobody doesn’t understand being called a son of a bitch by a boss you hate.
So the new NSOBL is just starting to coalesce. There will not be a shortage of reasons for players to find their voice and conscience, and to break the bonds that required them to ask permission before speaking or thinking. If they are as they purport to be, they will remember that change happens with a single son of a bitch.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in


In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.