Leftovers from the Road
It started February 11th in Columbus. It ended March 25th in Anaheim. “It” was a heinous stretch in the Sharks season that had them playing 15 out of 20 games on the road. I realize that plenty of teams have had less than perfect schedules in this lockout shortened year but the past 6 weeks was a real challenge.
The final tally saw the Sharks go 7-9-4 during the stretch, picking up 18 out of a possible 40 points in the standings. The good news is that they returned home in 8th place in the Western Conference and finished the marathon with a character win over the rival Anaheim Ducks. With 11 of their final 17 games on home ice the Sharks are in a good position to push for a playoff spot.
It was tough to see longtime Shark Douglas Murray leave the team for the Pittsburgh Penguins via trade. Murray wasn’t just popular in the dressing room; he was an all around good guy and would routinely wish even the broadcasters good luck on game nights. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt and the trade deadline approaching next Wednesday, the price is very high for established players.
GM Doug Wilson was able to extract two 2nd round picks from the Penguins for Murray who was originally an 8th round selection back in 1999 and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. While the Sharks will miss Murray’s many talents, the bottom line is that the team must get faster and the trade allows quicker and younger defensemen like Justin Braun, Matt Irwin and Jason Demers the opportunity to develop and compete for more ice time.
The picks will allow Wilson to continue to refresh the roster of developing talent in Worcester and beyond. It’s also a pretty good move for Murray who has an excellent chance to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup if not this year, in the near future.
If you are confused what a “hit” is in the NHL, so am I. Here’s a hit as defined by the league.
“A hit occurs when a player applies legal and physical contact to impede the puck carrier such that his forward progress is contained or he loses possession of the puck, and/or, legal physical contact is applied to a player who has just relinquished possession of the puck temporarily impeding him from rejoining the play.”
If it sounds a little confusing, it sure is to the minor officials around the league who keep track of hits. When the Sharks played in Calgary March 6th it seemed like a fairly physical game. Yet when the final stats came out Calgary outhit the Sharks 8 to 5. That’s a total of 13 hits.
Five games later on March 16th in Los Angeles the Kings outhit San Jose 46-36 for a total of 82! Seriously? Something’s lost in the translation if one stats guys’ hit count is 69 different than another’s. It makes you wonder if the hit stat is worth referencing at all. But you can bet player agents and teams use it during contract negotiations.
Finally, the result of the Sharks game aside, it was great to be in Minnesota last weekend. The entire Twin Cities region was buzzing with hockey atmosphere. St. Paul hosted the WCHA Final 5 college tournament, the NCAA Women’s Final 4 was in Minneapolis and the Sharks tangled with the red-hot Wild. The “State of Hockey” indeed!
I’m Randy Hahn