It didn't take long for Sharks 'choking' talk to return

franzia.jpgIf any team can relate to the “What have you done for me lately?” feeling, it’s the San Jose Sharks. They bounced back from a heartbreaking loss against the Colorado Avalanche by never losing another game in the series. After going up 2-0 at home against Detroit, the Sharks managed to snatch Game 3 in a dramatic overtime victory. Yet one bombastic 7-1 loss brought out the “choking” claims and all sorts of buzzards of negativity.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski featured a nice roundup of the various viewpoints on the subject and offered his feedback.

Were this not the Sharks, a big loss and a 3-1 series lead headed back home wouldn’t amount to anything more than an anomaly at best and a recalibration at worst. But San Jose hasn’t earned the right to escape from a devastating loss like this without facing questions about their resolve and fortitude and …

… oh, wait, yes they have: Lest we forget they already faced them in Round 1 against the Colorado Avalanche after the Dan Boyle/Ryan O’Reilly/OT Goal From Hell debacle. So beaten-down and debilitated were the Sharks that they only won their next six games by a combined score of 24-14.

So what that Heatley was shut down or that Thornton reminded us why he doesn’t wear the ‘C’. So what the Nabokov was shelled and pulled. It’s not on them to win Game 5: It’s on Pavelski and Clowe and Setoguchi and Mitchell and Couture. They’ve been the backbone of this team in this postseason, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll go spineless in three straight.

The other thing to consider: The Red Wings haven’t put together back-to-back dominating efforts in this postseason. They’ve looked this good before — think Game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes — but haven’t followed through. And we expect back-to-back-to-back Cup-worthy efforts to win this series?

You could almost feel the relief of some lazy-minded folks who really wanted to dust off their tired choking jokes and go back to a world in which the Red Wings always “figure it out.” Now, I’m not saying it’s wholly impossible that Detroit could pull off a miracle comeback. Winning Game 5 would bring this series to 3-2 which could conceivably be followed by a series-tying win at the Joe. Then, of course, it would be a Game 7 featuring one epically nervous Sharks team (and fan base).

Still, my guess is that the Sharks come out with a thunderous vengeance in Game 5 and wrap things up either there or in Game 6. The Red Wings played too well in this series to be swept, but they’re going to have to pull off quite the turnaround to justify the surprisingly early sightings of Chicken Little.

Scroll Down For:

    Colton Orr — one of the last enforcers — has retired

    Florida Panthers' George Parros (22) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Colton Orr (28) fight during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, Feb. 18, 2013.  (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
    AP
    Leave a comment

    After 477 games, 12 goals, 12 assists and — most notably — 1,186 penalty minutes, Colton Orr has retired from the NHL.

    “I feel privileged to have played for a decade in the NHL and to have had the support of four great organizations in Boston, New York, Toronto and Calgary,” Orr, 34, said, via the NHLPA. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play with great teammates and against great players, many of whom have become great friends.”

    Undrafted out of the WHL, Orr was a prototypical enforcer, the kind that few teams carry anymore. In 2009-10, he fought 23 times in 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, piling up 239 PIMs in the process. That was the most he ever fought in a single NHL season. But he dropped the gloves 36 times for the Providence Bruins in 2003-04 and 33 times in 2004-05, per hockeyfights.com

    In the NHL, Orr had a couple of infamous bouts with fellow tough guy George Parros — one that ended with Orr going face-first into the ice and suffering a season-ending concussion, another with Parros getting knocked out and leaving on a stretcher.

    “I look forward now to the next chapter of my life which I could not be happier to share with the two loves of my life — my wife Sabrina and daughter, Charlotte,” Orr said. “They are the two consistently bright lights in my life who have made the darker parts of my journey a very bright part of a very fulfilling career.”

    Related: ‘The game has changed’

    No chemistry issues or character problems here, says Wild GM

    2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
    Getty Images
    1 Comment

    Reflecting on a year in which pundits saw mostly regression and a lack of team cohesion, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher took to the podium on Thursday to reflect on what he called a “disappointing” campaign.

    Among the key takeaways:

    There’s no chemistry issue on our team.

    Not surprising Fletcher had to go here.

    In mid-February, the club was forced to fire head coach Mike Yeo amid rumblings the players had tuned him out — which, not coincidentally, came amid a horrific losing streak.

    There were also major, season-long issues with veteran players like Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, both of whom woefully underachieved.

    Vanek, in particular, was a healthy scratch under Yeo and interim bench boss John Torchetti. The 32-year-old’s effort level repeatedly came into question, and now buyout rumors loom.

    Elsewhere, team leaders Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were embroiled in controversy when, following his dismissal, Yeo took issue with the two working with skills coach Adam Oates during the season.

    The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo noted that Oates showed up at a Wild morning skate in January, so he asked Yeo about it:

    When you say things never felt right, did this start with the Adam Oates stuff? “Yeah. I thought we dealt with it. We talked with Zach, and we had no issues with it after that. And talked with some players, and … Whether it’s something like that, whether it’s the trade rumors, whatever it is, when there’s things that might cause a little unrest, they kind of sit there and they hang out. When things are going well, they’re forgotten and pushed to the side. But when things don’t go well, quite often they come back.”

    Did it bother you that Oates came to the Buffalo morning skate? That was at the start of the tailspin? “I’m not going to even comment on it. But I would say, that I would not do the same thing.”

    Yeo went on to add he felt there was a divide in the Wild locker room.

    “It just felt like there were almost two groups,” he explained. “There were younger guys and there were the older guys. It wasn’t just a group.”

    He’s definitely a very serious candidate for the head coach position.”

    That was Fletcher on Torchetti, who’s currently holding the interim tag. The Wild GM praised Torchetti for being “able to push and pull this team into a playoff position,” but stopped short of promoting him to full-fledged head coach.

    Why?

    Well, the Wild weren’t that good under Torchetti.

    They went 15-11-1 during the regular season and bowed out to Dallas in six playoff games. Granted, they showed some fight and spirit at times, and a few players definitely played better under Torch than Yeo (Erik Haula was exhibit 1a).

    But there were also some alarming moments of apathy and poor play, like a late-season drubbing in Winnipeg which led goalie Devan Dubnyk to remark, “we’re going to get throttled if we’re going to play like this.”

    This is probably why Fletcher fielded so many questions about his team’s character and chemistry on Thursday.

    He’s done almost everything within his power as a GM with this group — big trades, coaching changes, free agent splashes — yet with the club is still potentially headed in the wrong direction.

    That’s why it was time to start questioning the group.

    Related: Wild owner says Fletcher’s not on the hot seat

    Report: No deal between Coyotes and Stars’ Jackson

    Anaheim Ducks v Arizona Coyotes
    Getty
    1 Comment

    When the Arizona Coyotes fired Don Maloney earlier this month, Les Jackson’s name was immediately raised as a potential candidate to become the new general manager.

    Jackson is the highly regarded assistant GM in Dallas. He’s been with the Stars dating back to their days in Minnesota.

    And, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Jackson will remain with the Stars.

    If Jackson is indeed out of the picture, the favorite to replace Maloney becomes Coyotes assistant GM John Chayka, the 26-year-old who specializes in analytics.

    The Coyotes have promised that a new GM will be hired “well before” the draft in late June.

    Related: What’s up with the Coyotes’ arena situation?

    What’s going on with the Avs and NCAA standout Butcher?

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 07:  Will Butcher #4 of the Denver Pioneers celebrates his goal with teamamtes on the bench in the third period against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    1 Comment

    There’s plenty to like about University of Denver junior Will Butcher.

    He was one of the top defenseman scorers in the country this season, with 32 points in 39 games, and was named a Second-Team (West) All-American.

    He’s good good bloodlines, the son of ex-NHL blueliner Garth Butcher.

    What’s more, Butcher — Colorado’s fifth-round pick in 2013 — is regarded as one of the organization’s top prospects, per ESPN.

    So how to explain this, from the Denver Post?

    Butcher will remain at DU for his senior season. He might be more likely to have his rights traded or become a free agent in 2017 than sign with the Avalanche.

    Just have to sit back and see how this one plays out, but the 5-foot-10 Butcher is certainly an excellent NCAA defenseman.

    The concern about players going back to school for their senior campaigns is that, once they’ve finished, they’re eligible to go to unrestricted free agency.

    (Like what happened between the Nashville Predators and Jimmy Vesey.)

    In the same article — titled “Avalanche signs one All-American but might pass on the second” — the Post said there would be more on the Butcher story in Sunday’s paper, while posting this tweet from College Hockey News:

    It’s probably worth noting Butcher, now 21, was from one of the last draft classes of the Rick Pracey era. Pracey, Colorado’s longtime scouting chief that was turfed in 2014, didn’t exactly go out on the greatest of terms.

    Colorado’s first-round pick in ’14, Connor Bleackley, was widely panned before getting dealt to Arizona in the Mikkel Boedker trade. The other piece of the Boedker trade — Kyle Wood, taken in the same year as Bleackley — was sent packing in part because the Avs had yet to sign him to an ELC.

    At the Frozen Four, Butcher discussed his status with the Avs in a Q&A with Hockey’s Futures. He said the proximity between DU and the NHL club made it easy for the Avs to monitor him, and that he was in frequent contact with player development consultant Brett Clark.

    When asked about where he saw himself slotting in with the Avs, Butcher had this to say:

    “I think the Avs have got some deep prospects on their blueline, so there’s definitely going to be some competition there. But I haven’t really focused on that because I’m just focused on the Frozen Four right now.”