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A Parable

Once upon a time there was a professional hockey team. This was a brand new hockey team in the NHL, in an area where hockey was not necessarily the primary sport of interest. The fans were enthusiastic, and a shiny new arena was built for the team, after some debate and delay.

But this team was bad — very bad. It finished in last place 4 of its first 6 years. In its second year, the team had 71 losses, a record that stands today. It took 9 years before the team won more games than it lost, and 10 years to get 40 wins. The franchise had 5 coaches in its first 8 years.

However, the franchise never gave up. They added a piece here and a piece there, they became regulars in the playoffs. Though they have not yet won their conference or the Stanley Cup, they are one of the premier franchises in the game today — the San Jose Sharks.

The moral of the story is that success takes time. I was there for the Sharks first three years, and it was ugly. “Dump and chase” was the only offense, except they had nobody fast enough to get to the puck. 71 losses is not pretty, even though the season was 84 games at the time. The CBJ and the Sharks have the same number of Stanley Cups and Conference championships. After this season, they will hopefully have the same number of rookie goaltenders who won the Calder Cup. (Evgeni Nabokov won it in the Jackets inaugural year of 2000-2001). Yeah, the Sharks made the playoffs a few times in the first several years, but would not likely have made the playoffs in this era with those records.

A similar story played out in the Bay Area about 10 years before the Sharks came to town. Another pro team with a history of futility had just 2 wins the prior year. They brough in a new silver haired coach, who insisted on taking an undersized player in the 3rd round of the draft, and staking the franchise on it. The coach was Bill Walsh — the player was Joe Montana, and the rest is history.

We are seeing the transformation in front of us, and it promises years of competetive hockey. We may or may not see the playoffs this year, though I think we will, and we believe that we will do well. The point, at least for me, is that we are competetive every night, are fun to watch, and we can all be proud of both the effort and the results we are seeing as this team begins to mature. A few pieces more, carefully added, are needed, but with our arsenal of young talent, both on the big club and in the minors, the future is gleaming.

As we head down the stretch for this season, let’s root hard for the boys to win, relish the victories, agonize over the losses. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture and appreciate the transformation we are seeing. We can now start trusting that it is here to stay, and that is huge. Go Jackets!

8 Comments

  1. roadman

    February 22, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Stay the course, just do what we've been doing and we're there. 13 games since ASB, 8-4-1. 22 games to go, 14-7-1 = 29 pts = 95 = playoffs!

    Now, what do you think SH's move will be? I think we have to add some skill up front, someone who can finish. JW was a good find but has not yet been put between Nash & Juice and I don't think he handles the puck well enough for that spot. Can we find a reasonable center to make a push? I think we could make it standing pat but but would love to see a move if the right deal can be found. Even at the cost of a #1 pick provided he is signed going forward, Vermette, Antropov, Lombardi? Wouldn't mind a rental but would prefer an addition ongoing.

  2. JAL

    February 23, 2009 at 2:51 am

    I agree — Williams adds a lot of skill, a great shot, and a lot of guts (i.e. shootout deke stunt), but is not a #1 Center. I like your list, and those are pretty much my top three as well.

    Vermette is signed for another year, which is a plus, but I like Antropov’s game a bit better. I think that either could be had for a 1st Round choice, or maybe a 3rd and a prospect. I don’t have a good sense of what it would take to get Lombardi, as Calgary’s situation is vastly different than either Toronto or Ottawa.

    I like Antropov’s size and game best of the three, but don’t know what the prospects would be for signing him long term. Nothing bad, I just don’t know. Vermette and Lombardi both have years left on their deals.

    Right now, probably rank them 1. Antropov, 2. Vermette, 3. Lombardi.

    Also keep in mind that a simple record of 12-10 gets us to 90 points, which I think will get us there as well. Need a good road trip, with at least 3 points.

  3. roadman

    February 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    But I would like the position that 95 gets a lot better :) !!!

    Arace’s latest comments dispel the thought of Antropov and there sure seems to be a lot of talk about Halpern lately and Connolly from Buffalo but I don’t see BUF making that move (in the race) for picks. Also not sure how CAL lets go of Lombardi but I’m sure that SH has something in mind. I just hope that it has an energizing effect on both the team and the fan base.

  4. JAL

    February 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out Antropov, based upon Arace’s comments. Here’s why:

    Antropov is a fiercely competetive guy, and likely is chafing with Toronto’s poor performance.

    Secondly, people tend to act differently when they are in the microscope that is Toronto, and to a similar extent, Montreal. Look at the mess the Canadiens are facing right now.

    Lastly, there is an uneasy relationship with the Russian born players up there. Tough to quantify, but Kozlov and the Kostizyn brothers are taking the bulk of the heat in Montreal.

    Antropov could come into Columbus and be the man. Look how Umberger, Commodore, Tyutin have flourished in that environment.

    Halpern could be a good fit, but I think the issue is this: Howson will not surrender a number 1 pick or top prospect for a center much north of 30 years old, unless a certified stud. Don’t blame him –that sort of move is not wise in a salary cap world, particularly where the economy will be putting a squeeze on.

    Staal may not be such a pipe dream, and comes with a long term contract that is not out of line. But there would likely be a long line of teams vying for that one. We have a bit of an edge, being only 3 hours away.

    It will be fun to watch.

  5. roadman

    February 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Fun to watch and to speculate indeed!

    Not so much fun however, to have to sit and wait for it to happen.

    I will guess 4 point road trip!!!!

  6. Anonymous

    February 24, 2009 at 2:26 am

    Nice analogy, except San Jose started with a base roster from Minnesota. But still, patience is a virtue.

  7. Todd G

    February 24, 2009 at 4:40 am

    uhhh..ur thinking of Dallas. San Jose was indeed an expansion team.

  8. JAL

    February 24, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Well, you are both right, to an extent.

    San Jose was a true expansion team, awarded to the Gunds, who sold the Minnesota North Stars as a condition of getting the Sharks franchise.

    Before the 91-92 season, an expansion draft was held, but in two phases. In the first phase, the Sharks got to select unprotected players from the North Stars. In the second phase, as in the CBJ expansion draft, both the Stars and Sharks chose unprotected players from the remaining teams.

    Two years later, after the 92-93 season, the Stars moved to Dallas, and 7 years after that Minnesota got the Wild, the same year the CBJ started.

    So, not sure if having the two phase draft helped or hurt San Jose — probabbly neither. Having watched them play in those early years, I can promise it didn’t help!

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