Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore

Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore
March 5, 2012, 5:23 pm
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Darryl Sutter, who once roamed the halls at La Pavillon du HP, was asked what he hoped for from Sundays Dallas-Calgary, and his joking response was a perfectly sensible, Can they both get nothing?And because he could only be wrong, he was totally so. Dallas won, 3-2, so the Stars got two, and the Flames got one part of the NHLs unbearably flawed system of reward and punishment.But if he wanted zero, he could have found it in a familiar place.San Jose.
The Sharks are now nested in eighth place, a blade away from ninth, and on one of their occasional long-term walkabouts. Theyve lost nine of their last 12, are faced with one of those dance-or-get-off-the-floor moment, and their head coach may not be back in time for their next road trip.RELATED: NHL conference standings
Now thats pretty damned zero-esque.The problem of the Sharks has been diagnosed many ways by many folks, but it really boils down to this. They are playing as a sixth-to-eighth-place team playing sixth-to-eighth-place hockey good enough for the playoffs, but not good enough to make a deep run. You may cite injuries as the reason if you wish, but Bill Parcells wasnt lying when he said You are what the standings say you are. Neither was former Sharks coach Kevin Constantine when he said, Potential is synonymous with getting your ass kicked.The sentiment is the same. The winning and the losing is all the required data. But if you must know, the Sharks are where they are at because they still think they are what they are not a team that can turn it on and off at will.It is instructive that they just finished losing at home to St. Louis, which whether you like it or not is a better team than San Jose. The Blues score first, and then they watch you slowly choke on their game. Its so very Ken Hitchcock, which is why he will be a Hall of Fame coach when he decides to stop coaching.RELATED: Sharks sluggish in 3-1 loss to Blues
Losing to the Blues is not a shame for this team, but it was regarded as such because the Blues took San Joses skill away, and the only way to combat that is to out-ugly the game. When San Jose grinds, it wins. When San Jose wants to fly up and down without a care in the world, it doesnt.And because you all like numbers this early in the morning, another one. St. Louis is 33-0 when it scores three goals or more. Thats a team with a very good clampdown rate. It isnt the be-all and end-all Los Angeles, currently not a playoff team, is 22-2 but it matters.The Sharks, on the other hand, are a sad 24-11 when scoring three. only one team either in or within two games of a playoff spot, has a worse record, and thats Winnipeg, which is 21-11.In short, in the race to three, the Sharks get there as often as anyone, but often make the game a race to four or five, which doesnt work nearly so well.The point, as though you never thought we would get to it, is that San Jose can score (13th in the league, which is meh but tolerable), and it can defend (seventh in goals against, which is good), but it does not do both at the same time often enough to be a top-caliber team.It is as if the Sharks struggle with who they are on a nightly basis. Can they run up and down with the young Turks of the league? Not consistently. Can they shut down a team with defense and puck control? Theyre better than most at all. Can they be both? Yes, if you like middle-of-the-pack hockey that is neither consistent nor satisfying.Thus, this isnt a talent issue, or a coaching issue, the two most common culprits cited by message board genii and chat-show experts. This is an image issue, as in, Who do they think they are? The evidence suggests they are a defensive team with grit and meanness, but their inner desires suggest a team that can go firehouse shinny with the best of them. They can do both, but they cant do them at the same time.And until they reconcile those two competing interests, they will be as they are. They can be more like the Blues, and position themselves for a playoff run, or they can be like the Jets and sweat out the final 18 games. But this isnt working, not the way they think it should, and we know this because they are what the standings say they are. The matter of what they intend to do with it is the story of the final quarter of the season.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com