It seems as if the Sharks 2005-06 campaign has been a tale of two different seasons: the pre-December season and the post-December season. This may not apply to anyone more than it does for standout defenseman Scott Hannan.
Much to the dismay of Sharks fans, San Jose found themselves four games under .500 entering play in December. After enduring a 10-game losing streak in which the Sharks couldn’t seem to find a break, the team saw their goals against exceeding their goals for by a large amount.
Even the strongest of players were finding it hard to snap out of their funk. Hannan, being one of those players, could not catch a break, finding himself at a minus-19 rating after the Nov. 30 contest in Dallas. But hard work and determination saw Hannan pick up his play and return to the form that has made him one of the steadiest defensemen in the League.
“Minus-19 isn’t good, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I was playing as bad as the numbers were looking,” said Hannan. “I feel I’ve definitely been playing a lot better lately and that can be attributed to the whole team playing well, too. When the team’s playing as well as it is and they’re moving the puck well, it makes it a lot easier on the defense.”
In the past 19 games, Hannan has been a plus-17, while posting nine of his 12 points during that span. Those numbers are more along the lines of what Hannan expected out of himself when entering the season.
“A lot of it had to do with having to move the puck quicker,” said Hannan. “Sometimes when things tend to slide you try to overcorrect them and work too hard. That was a lot of it.”
Many felt that Hannan was trying to do too much on the ice, but since his resurgence, the Kelowna, British Columbia native has gone back to basics and simplified his game.
“He had a lot of bad luck early in the season, but a lot of it was he was trying to do too much and it got him in trouble,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “He ended up making more mistakes than anyone else trying to cover up for everybody else. His whole turnaround started right from the (Joe) Thornton trade.”
Coinciding with the Thornton trade was the call-up of Doug Murray, and just days later, the return of Josh Gorges. Both players have played a big role in the Sharks recent upswing. Hannan has played with both Murray and Gorges and has become partners with Gorges in each of the last 12 games.
“Since Dec. 2 he’s been a plus-17,” added Wilson. “It also goes hand-in-hand with Gorges and Murray being called up. He feels more comfortable playing with them than with anyone else and they help him as much as he helps them.”
The Gorges-Hannan pairing has benefited both players. They’ve been an even or a plus in all 12 games they’ve played together. The steady defense they provide has been contagious throughout the whole defensive unit and has made the goaltender’s job easier. For Gorges, it has been a blessing to play with Hannan, who like Hannan, played for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League.
“I’ve known him for awhile because we live in the same hometown,” said Gorges. “Just watching him and learning from him has helped me get experience, develop and get better and I feel very fortunate to be playing alongside him. The way he’s playing now is just so solid. You watch him defensively and he’s got great fundamentals. He’s always in the right position and making the right plays. He’s a great guy to play with and he makes the game so easy for everyone else on the ice.”
Hannan gives credit to the rookies who filled in when Kyle McLaren and Tom Preissing were out of the lineup.
“Everyone has stepped up,” said Hannan. “Having the young kids play well, getting McLaren and Tommy (Preissing) back is huge. Those are tough losses with a couple guys that take up a lot of ice time. Having Doug and Josh step in and get significant ice time and play the way they have takes the pressure off everyone.”
With everyone back on the right track, Western Conference teams are in for a battle when they take on the Sharks. With just under half the season left and sitting only six points out of the final playoff spot, San Jose has plenty of time to make their way back up to the top.
“We’re working towards the goal of getting to the playoffs,” said Hannan. “We’re focused on that and winning games. If we keep winning games, climbing the ladder, doing things right and playing like we can, we know we’re going to be there in the end.”
NEXT GAME The Sharks will play host to the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio network and sjsharks.com.