Monday, January 31, 2011

Sharks Must Carry Hot Play Into Second Half Of The Season

The All-Star break couldn't have come at a worse time for the San Jose Sharks. Riding a 5-game point streak and playing some of their best hockey all season, the Sharks hope to continue their good play Tuesday against the Coyotes.

We will find out very early, and I mean Wednesday, if the Sharks "were who we thought they were," as they embark on a 7-game roadtrip spanning 2 weeks where they will see the likes of Tim Thomas and the Bruins and Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.

Although they will not be playing very tough cometition on this roadtrip, it will be nice to how they react to not only the adversity of the 8th spot in the Western Conference, but also if they will continue their good play after the All-Star break.

With just around 30 games to play in the season, the Sharks must turn their season around after having a dismal first-half, by Sharks' standards. That starts tomorrow.

Players that should have performed in the first half must perform in the second half, such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley. Ya know, the former "best top-line in hockey."

This team shouldn't be led by in mostly every offensive category by rookie Logan Couture. Although it's great and the future is bright, where are the team's leaders? Why is Couture leading with 22 goals on a team with names like Heatley and Marleau?! We're just not used to it.

It all needs to change in the second half.

Looking forward, hopefully the All-Star break didn't slow their roll because the Sharks were playing outstanding. The offense was meshing, the defense was shut down, and goalie Antti Niemi was solid in net.

It will be a long 32 games left in the season. 8 points separates 6th place from second-to-last place in the West so a lot can change very quickly.

Accept the high's and low's from the Sharks the rest of the way, but hopefully more high's than low's for a team not accustomed to struggling to make the playoffs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What If Aaron Rodgers was drafted by the 49ers?

It's hard to say as to what would happen if the 49ers had taken Aaron Rodgers out of Cal with the #1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Rodgers is now headed to the Super Bowl as a Green Bay Packer, and Alex Smith, who the 49ers ended up drafting, is at home on his couch hoping to have a job next season. Hindsight is 20/20.

This topic has been up to much debate since Rodgers and the Packers punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLV. If the 49ers had drafted Rodgers, what would have happened? If Alex Smith was a Packer, what would have happened?

Rodgers may have been the smart pick by the 49ers because he was from a pro-style offense at Cal, while Smith was exclusively in the spread offense at Utah with next to no competition to play against. Smith was book-smart and Rodgers had an attitude. That means nothing now.

Rodgers was able to learn behind Favre, which is the reason for his success. Smith was able to learn behind...Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey? That is where the two players' careers differ.

I am not saying if Smith was on the Packers they would be heading to the Super Bowl. Never. And I'm not saying if Rodgers was on the 49ers they would be heading to the Super Bowl. Get real. Neither would be.

Smith would be better than he is today because he would have had the tutelage of Favre, and Rodgers would have fit much better in the 49er system than Smith did, yet not as good as he is today because he would have been thrown into the fire that is the NFL when he was not ready, just like Smith was.

If the draft had gone that way, neither would be in the Super Bowl and neither team would have been any good, although in the weak NFC West I would think that with Rodgers the 49ers would have won their division this year only by default.

I would predict the two quarterbacks to have similar success today if the two players had been drafted differently. The 49ers would be winning maybe a couple more games, and the Packers losing a couple more games.

All that can be said is that when Rodgers was sitting there on draft day waiting to be drafted for what seemed like forever, it payed off, because now he is headed to the Super Bowl. And the quarterback that was taken well ahead of him and received more recognition and more money for going #1 overall that day may be looking for a job soon. It's funny how things turn out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Last Night's Game Proves You Cannot Count Out The Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are holding on to the 9th spot in the Western Conference at 53 points. Yet, last night's game in Vancouver shows that this team still has what it takes to get to the playoffs and be an elite team in the West.

In one of the more entertaining games of the year, the Sharks behind goalie Antti Niemi came away with a shootout victory in Vancouver against arguably the best team in the NHL.

The Canucks are fast, play great defense, and get consistently good goalie play from Roberto Luongo. But last night, the Sharks were just as fast, played one of their better defensive games, and saw Niemi come alive in net.

Coming into the game, it was the defense of the Sharks that lacked. Now, after a performance like that last night, where does the front office go from here? They need a defenseman. We know this. But might all-around good play from the team be the missing piece?

The Sharks have looked lack-luster and slow on the ice, and have looked out of sync with each other all season. They still look out of sync offensively, but the defense was beautiful last night. Something they have been looking for all season.

Now on a 3-game winning streak, the team seems to be coming together as they head back home. Do not count this team out. They are too loaded with rich talent and good young players to be poo-pooed with this many games to play in the season.

One thing is for sure. Coach Todd McClellan has made all the right moves lately. It's too bad he didn't start panicking sooner.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Panda Dropping Lbs.; I'll Believe It When I See It

Haven't heard news from your World Series Champion Giants in awhile? This should make you happy. Remember that meatball playing 3rd base last season for the Giants? I think Sandoval was his last name? Yeah, well, word is he has dropped 22 lbs. in "Operation Panda Try #2."

Rish Aurilia said he saw him around Christmas time in an Arizona mall and he said he had lost 17 lbs. Now in January, sources are saying it is up to 22 lbs.

Whatever the number is, my answer to it is "I'll believe it when I see it," with my second answer being "I don't care. Talk to me in spring training. We'll see what his weight is then."

It's true, "Operation Panda" has already happened...last year. Same thing, reports were he had lost weight, but when he showed up to spring training, nothing had changed. And a lousy season followed.

Even if he did lose the weight, he must keep it off, all the while adjusting his swing. There's a lot on his plate.

It would be great for the Giants if the weight-loss was true. Having a healthy and fit Panda would do wonders for a still unsexy line-up. But we'll separate truth from rumor sometime during the third week of February, when position players report to camp.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Harbaugh To The 49ers Seems To Fit

It is final. The week that was "Harbaugh Mania" came to a close on Friday with the 49ers pulling out on top and signing Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to a 5 yr./$25 million deal.

The week that was had the Bay Area at the center of the sports universe with its best college team dueling with the its most notable pro team in a game of "Who wants to pay me more?"

Turns out, it wasn't even about that. It was Harbaugh's decision. He made his decision early this morning and the news broke around mid-afternoon sending 49ers' fans in a frenzy.

The 49ers got their man, but debate today was about whether this "hot comidity" was just that. Is he? Hopes are high. The comparison was that of Bill Walsh coming from the coaching ranks at Stanford and leading the 49ers to a football dynasty. Is Harbaugh the second coming? That remains to be seen, but it looks good on paper...right?

There's something about Harbaugh, though. He led a Stanford team from the slums to, most likely, #3 in the nation when it's all said and done.

Something about him, something about his attitude, the way he coaches on the field says he will not let his team fail. He just doesn't tolerate it.

Another good thing about Harbaugh. He won't pull his pants down in order to make a point. Although, I cannot confirm that as of yet.

It's a great hire by a franchise that needs a pick-me-up after a most disappointing season. Now the work begins. And we will see how hard Harbaugh is willing to work, but I'm willing to say the 49ers got a really hard worker.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can You Spot The Next 49ers QB?

Did you happen to watch the Insight Bowl on December 28th? How about the Holiday Bowl on December 30th? Maybe the Sugar Bowl on January 4th? Odds are you at least peaked at one of them while flipping through the channels one day. Might have you had a peak at the 49ers 1st round pick of the 2011 NFL Draft? Quite possibly.

In the Insight Bowl, you had a quarterback for Missouri named Blaine Gabbert, who recently passed up his senior year for a promising NFL Draft; in the Holiday Bowl, you had Washington’s Jake Locker, who if he came out last year would have been a sinch for a top 10 pick, now he faces somewhere from top 10 to end of the 1st round; in the Sugar Bowl, you had Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, the prototypical quarterback at 6’6”, which have scouts salivating, yet those who watched the Sugar Bowl saw just some of his weaknesses that NFL teams worry about.

Whether any of these quarterbacks are good enough to be the 7th overall pick of the 49ers is yet to be seen, or decided by folks like Todd McShay or Mel Kiper Jr.. All that is known is the 49ers need a quarterback, and these quarterbacks go 2, 3, and 4 in terms of best quarterbacks available (slide Cam Newton in there somewhere, too). It makes sense, I promise.

Who do the 49ers pick? Maybe not a quarterback at all. Word is they could get a Gabbert, Locker, or Mallett somewhere at the end of the 1st round if need be. What has the highest impact as to who they take is who will be the coach in 2011. That has yet to be decided, and so is who they take in the 2011 Draft.

Allow me to make a suggestion, though? Scouts are drooling over Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett. Sure, maybe he isn’t Andrew Luck, but Mallett’s 6’6” frame with one hell of an arm will have him climbing the Draft Board in about a month or so.

It may be a little early at #7, but the 49ers have not had a quarterback with that size and that much upside in a long time. The only thing that may hurt Mallett’s draft stock is his inaccurate arm, which he has improved every year. At 6’6” and 238 lbs., that can be taught.

The 49ers will have decisions to make in the coming months. They found their general manager, now the head coach and a possible future franchise quarterback are yet to be decided.