Urban: Bay Ball, Hot Stove edition (Dec. 1)


Urban: Bay Ball, Hot Stove edition (Dec. 1)

Dec. 1, 2010

With baseball's annual Winter Meetings set to jump off in full force Monday in Florida, it's exactly the right time to hop into that dusty old dinghy and head out into the restless bay before the next storm hits. The A's are in the lead spot today, so let's start at Jack London Square and head toward McCovey Cove to start what figures to be a fairly bumpy ride The Giants have dominated the Bay Area's Hot Stove doings for the past week or two, but the A's jumped back into the spotlight late Monday when CSNBayArea.com got confirmation that GM Billy Beane was set to meet with free agent Lance Berkman on Tuesday.
RELATED: A's to meet with Berkman
The spotlight got brighter still early Wednesday, when it was reported elsewhere -- by a veteran, conscientious, well-respected local scribe -- that the A's also met Tuesday in Houston with free agent Adam Dunn. Serious candidates for Dunn's services, the A's were said to be, and that got Oakland fans all atwitter (pun intended). Let's face it: Dunn is a heck of a lot more exciting as a potential addition to that power-deficient lineup. Berkman? Not the needle-mover A's fans want to see, and it doesn't help that he's gone public with his disdain for being a DH -- that's kind of where you'd fit best in Oakland, buddy and his preference for playing in the National League.Alll indications are that Beane's meeting with Berkman went well, but Berkman isn't good enough to prompt any sort of move regarding Daric Barton, who is nine years younger (25 vs. 34) and a far a far superior defensive player. Yeah, Berkman hit 45 homers in 2006, but that was while playing in the thimble that is the Astros park, and he had plenty of lineup protection at the time. His power production had dipped every year since, though, and he'd be virtually naked in Oakland's lineup. There's no room for him in the A's outfield, either, so he's a DH at best -- and not the most attractive or healthy option at that. Hideki Matsui would be a far better fit.Dunn, however, would definitely prompt a move to make room at first base. He's a legit slugger, still in his prime, and four years at, say, 60 million total would be a worthy investment despite his defensive shortcomings. He's the epitome of the power bat Oakland needs.Alas, bad things happen to good people, and the report of the BeaneDunn meeting was withdrawn later in the day. Even the very best reporters in the business get burned by bad information from time to ts interest in free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre thus far unrequited, its Berkman or bust. And those two words are a little too close for comfort right now. Brandon Belt, the Giants top prospect, isn't exactly basking in the glow of his stellar 2010 season, which included a star turn as a member of the Arizona Fall League champion Scottsdale Scorpions.I spoke to Belt on the phone Wednesday to set up an interview Friday, but he said, "That's not a great day for me."To clarify: It's not a great day for an interview. It's sure to be a great day in general, though, Belt, back home in West Texas now, is getting married Friday.So we're going to talk again Thursday or early next week. The honeymoon is going to have to wait; his bride-to-be is still in college. The interview, though, will be right here on CSNBayArea.com before you know it. Stay tuned. What of Beltre? I hear he's got an eye on the Angels, who are going to spend whatever it takes this offseason to get back into the contender mix in the AL West next season. Carl Crawford is likely to land there, too, and Crawford and Beltre would turn things around in Anaheim in a hurry.That makes adding a Matsui type -- Berkman at the very least, because Jack Cust is all but gone -- all the more urgent for the A's, whose pitching is great but not so great that it can carry a team that scores less than Les Nessman of WKRP in Cincinnati. The Giants' signing of Miguel Tejada should serve as another kick in the butt for Pablo Sandoval, who appears to be penciled in as the starting third baseman in 2011. But that pencil has a big, fat eraser on it, and with Mark DeRosa said to be headed for 100 percent readiness come spring, Sandoval better be digging him some lettuce sandwiches for the holidays.DeRosa is being paid starter's money, too, and if he's healthy and Sandoval comes to camp still looking like the Michelin Man, DeRosa will happily claim the hot corner. Food for thought for the Panda; just don't smother it with cheese and sour cream, big boy.Smart move by the Giants, by the way, to basically tell their dough boy that he's on his own this winter. No more "Camp Panda" or hand-holding. It's time to find out, once and for all, exactly what makes the guy tick, and leaving him to his own devices -- and vices -- this time around should provide the all-important answer come February. That's it for now, folks. I'm leaving for the Winter Meetings on Sunday, so if you have a coverage idea, drop me a line at murban@comcastsportsnet.com. Until then, peace, Taco Bell's chicken flatbread sandwiches, and Love Gun by Kiss to all.
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Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.