Tag:San Jose Sharks
Posted on: August 31, 2011 9:31 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference


By: Adam Gretz

Over the past decade -- and especially over the past five seasons -- the Western Conference has been dominated by a small handful of teams, particularly at the top of the regular season standings. In any given year it's been a safe bet that Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver will be there in some order.

In the early 2000's Detroit, Colorado and Dallas were the dominant teams in the West, winning divisions, playing for the conference title and usually winning the Stanley Cup. In recent years the power has shifted a bit, with Detroit remaining in the drivers seat and the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks joining them at the top of the confernce.

The Red Wings are the only team that's made the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons, finishing in one of the top-two spots seven times, and out of the top-three only once (2009-10). In the pre-cap era when they could spend as much as they wanted on free agents (and keeping their own players) they were an elite franchise, and adjusted to the capped NHL remarkably well, continuing to remain as one of the gold standard franchises in the league.

There's been quite a bit of juggling in the No's 4 through 15 spots, but the top-three (the divisional winners) have been pretty consistent.

In total, nine different teams in the West have claimed a division title over the past nine seasons, with only five of them taking more than one. Here's the quick breakdown:

Central Division: Detroit (8), Chicago (1), St. Louis (0), Nashville (0), Columbus (0)
Northwest Division: Vancouver (5), Colorado (2), Calgary (1), Minnesota (1), Edmonton (0)
Pacific Division: San Jose (6), Dallas (2), Anaheim (1), Los Angeles (0), Phoenix (0)

There's not really a lot of variety there. While nine of the 15 teams have managed to win a division over this stretch, the past five years have been dominated by Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver, with each of those clubs winning their division in four of the past five seasons. Heading into 2011 each team is looking to be an early favorite to take its division once again.

Colorado and Dallas, the other two teams to win more than one title, haven't finished at the top of their respective division since before the lockout.

But what happens once the postseason starts? Are the Western Conference playoffs still dominated by the same three teams at the top?

Over the same nine-year stretch 10 different teams have managed to go as far as the conference finals, with (no surprise here) Detroit leading the way with four trips. The rest of the teams have had the following appearances: San Jose (3), Anaheim (3), Chicago (2), Vancouver (1), Calgary (1), Edmonton (1), Minnesota (1), Dallas (1) and Colorado (1).

The list of teams that have actually made the Stanley Cup Final is even shorter: Detroit (3), Anaheim (2), Vancouver (1), Chicago (1), Edmonton (1), Calgary (1). Since the Salary Cap was put into place prior to the 2005-06 season the list shrinks down to just Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver and Chicago  being the only teams to represent the West over the past six seasons.

Are any other teams ready to take a step and leapfrog the established power in their division, or the conference in general? The Kings may have positioned itself to make a run at San Jose in the Pacific thanks to the blockbuster trade that landed them Mike Richards, forming a fantastic 1-2 punch down the middle with he and Anze Kopitar.

Chicago, coming off a disappointing defense of the Stanley Cup this past season thanks in large part to a sluggish first half, should give Detroit a solid run for its money, but the Canucks look to still be the runaway favorite in the Northwest, as well as the Conference. If not the entire NHL.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 26, 2011 9:42 am
Edited on: August 26, 2011 1:25 pm

Sharks extend Logan Couture for two seasons

By Brian Stubits

The San Jose Sharks built up their blue line this offseason, but now they have returned their attention to the forwards, securing Logan Couture for an additional two seasons.

The news first came from CSN Bay Area and CBSSports.com writer Ray Ratto, who broke the news late Thursday. The new contract calls for Couture to make $2.75 million in the first year of the deal then $3 million in Year 2.

"We reached a number that was fair to both sides," Couture said. "I want to play in San Jose, I want to stay there and I want to win there. I was happy to get the deal done."

Couture, a Calder Trophy finalist as the NHL's top rookie last season, was slated to become a restricted free agent after next season when he is due to make about $1.25 million. So now the 22-year-old will be under contract through the 2013-2014 season.

"Logan is an excellent teammate and he proved it by committing to the team-first philosophy that we have instilled here," GM Dough Wilson said. "Last season, as a rookie, he was a catalyst for our hockey club as one of our most consistent players. Over the last two postseasons, he has been one of our most reliable players. We’re excited to see him build upon his early success and continue his growth over the next three seasons."

Couture was a bit of a revelation last season in San Jose, breaking out with 32 goals and 24 assists in his first full campaign. For much of the season, he looked like the team's best player and somebody who can help continue to carry the Sharks torch in the Pacific.

 "Obviously, it was a successful year last year for myself," Couture said. "My goal coming into this year is to improve as a player. I'm not looking at specific statistical numbers. I want to improve my all-around game, be better on the penalty kill. I still want to score goals and points, but I want to just improve as a player."

Signing Couture presumably puts an end to a busy summer for the Sharks who now have the majority of their biggest contributors locked up through the next two seasons (Cap Geek), at a minimum. Add the core sticking around with the additions of such players as Brent Burns and Martin Havlat, the Sharks will undoubtedly be contending for the Cup again this season.

"I'm just excited to get back to the team with the changes we made," Couture said. "We're definitely a better team."

We've seen some problems with teams trying to tie up their restricted free agents this offseason, such as Drew Doughty in Los Angeles, so it's good to get it done this far in advance to when they don't have to worry about it.

So I can't imagine you can find anything not to like about this move, unless you're a fan of one of the Sharks' division foes.

Photo: Getty Images

The Associated Press contributed to this report

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:55 am

Daily Skate: B's Nathan Horton 'back to normal'

By Brian Stubits

HORTON NO LONGER HURTIN': In just his first postseason of his career, Nathan Horton seemed to be building a reputation as a playoff performer before he went down on a huge hit from Aaron Rome in the Stanley Cup Final that led to a concussion. But now Horton is feeling significantly better and says he's symptom free (from ESPN Boston). "I feel pretty good. I don't have any headaches. I'm back to normal and I'm excited to start playing again," Horton said. "It just takes some time and we had a little time to take off and I just feel like myself. I can't really tell you the timetable but it was really quick and I feel good."

FINE WITH FACEOFFS: The Columbus Blue Jackets haven't been the best team in the NHL over the years, but one area where they have been good is in the faceoff circle. They have a host of guys who are better than 50 percent on the draw. The Jackets Cannon blog talks about what that can do for the team beyond puck possession.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: The Predatorial blog had some extra time on its hands so it decided to take a look at how teams fared on Saturday nights last season. Surprisingly, the worst record in the league (of teams that made the playoffs) was the Bruins, who won just 33 percent of their games. The best record of non-playoff teams? The Panthers, with a nice 58.8 winning percentage. Take a look at all the numbers for yourself.

NAME GAME: The San Jose Sharks have a new member on the blue line in Brent Burns, so naturally it's time to come up with some names for the defensive pairings. The Battle of California blog took its stab at names. The best of the bunch is for the pairing of Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Picklesnake.

ARIZONA STATE HOCKEY: Who says the Coyotes haven't made an impact in the desert? The Arizona State University Sun Devils are ramping up for another season of hockey as they chase a national championship (note: it is not a varsity sport, so the competition isn't the the heavyweights of college hockey).

QUEBEC COMEBACK: The push to get hockey to return to Quebec City continues. Now that Winnipeg has the Jets back, Nordiques fans are still hoping for the same. Here's a video making their case (and eyeing the Coyotes franchise as the prey).

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: August 19, 2011 4:42 pm

Ex-Sharks CEO Jamison interested in Coyotes

By Brian Stubits

It's another day, so naturally there's another name being thrown out in the Phoenix Coyotes ownership search. I must admit, this one seems like it could be legit.

Glendale spokeswoman Julie Frisoni confirmed Friday that Greg Jamison, former Sharks president and CEO as well as current part-owner, is one of the bidders to buy the franchise and that no bonds would be sold as part of any proposed deals. She would not elaborate on the negotiations or who the other bidder was.

Last week it appeared a Canadian group was moving toward a purchase of the team that would contain an eight-year out clause that would allow them to relocate if conditions didn't improve. It made sense. It also helped substantiate a report earlier that said there were two as-of-then unnamed suitors with serious interest in buying the team.

The Phoenix Business Journal reported that Jamison is at the head of a new ownership bid to buy the team and is looking to keep them where they are. The Journal says a sales agreement is expected to be worked out very soon with the NHL, which includes money down front, giving Jamison's group exclusive negotiating rights.

ESPN.com, meanwhile, reports the talks aren't as advanced as the Journal indicates, saying that Jamison isn't poised to make an offer as of yet.

A little background on Jamison: He was the head of Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment from 1996 until late in 2010. He still serves on the Sharks' board of ownership and also served on the NHL's executive committee. That past relationship could seriously help a bid here considering the team is now owned and controlled by the league itself. But the ownership ties with San Jose would obviously have to be severed first.

Things have certainly picked up since Matthew Hulsizer dropped out of the process. When that happened, the future was very dim in the desert as it seemed the potential suitors had dried up. But in the last week two seemingly serious and viable bidders have emerged.

As always, we have learned not to count our chickens before they hatch in this never-ending Coyotes story. But optimism is on the rise after sinking.

Photo: Getty Images

The Associated Press contributed to this report

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:03 am

Daily Skate: Sabres need cuts; NHL bands

By Brian Stubits

FADE TO BLACK: After an offseason that netted them Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino among others, Sabres fans can't wait for the season to start. But before that can happen, Buffalo still has to take care of its little salary cap problem. It's a bit hard to believe but the Sabres now have the league's highest payroll, thanks in large part to the man in charge, Terry Pegula. As a result, the Sabres are too high and have to find a way to cut $3.6 million from the NHL roster. Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News suggests the most likely way would be to stash Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn in the AHL. They still have some time, though, not needing to get below the cap until opening night.

SHARK BITE: Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment reduced its workforce by 19 members yesterday (via Mercury News). That would be the Sharks' corporate parent. But of those 19 positions, none came from the hockey division of the company. One of the unfortunate 19, however, was Ken Arnold, senior director of communications. Mike Lee over at letsgosharks.com is sad to see Arnold depart as he says Arnold was instrumental in not only the Sharks' communication outreach, but the NHL's embrace of the Internet.

ROCK ON: In the depths of the offseason abyss, hockey fans must find a way to entertain themselves some way. So yesterday in the Twitterverse a bit of a contest took off under the #nhlbands hashtag where people were challenged with taking hockey names and morphing them into band names. The Toronto Sun put together a list of the best names. No. 1? Halak Sabbath. A close second goes to Crosby, Staals & Nash. I threw out a late submission of Ehrhoff Supply. Didn't make it.

TOO LATE IN THE GAME: Fellow Eye on Hockey blogger Adam Gretz has been doing a great job of keeping you up to date on the features in the next edition of EA Sports' NHL series, including all the legends in the game. One other feature -- or lack of -- worth mentioning is it looks the game will be shipped before we ever see a jersey for the Winnipeg Jets, so it will be available as an online update to the game. In the meantime, I would assume they just use the retro look at the default?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 13, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 1:54 pm

Scott Hannan signs with Flames

By: Adam Gretz

Veteran defenseman Scott Hannan has finally found a team after nearly a month-and-a-half on the free agent market, signing a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

The deal is worth $1 million, and helps add some physicallity to the Flames blue line that lost Robyn Regehr earlier this summer in a trade with Buffalo, and is currently made up of Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Cory Sarich, Chris Butler and Anton Babchuk.

In 78 games last season with the Avalanche and Capitals, when he made $4.5 million, he finished with a goal and 10 assists. He was acquired by the Capitals mid-season to help solidify their blue line for a playoff run.

In a statement released by the team Hannan said he wanted to find a team that was committed to winning and could go deep into the playoffs, while general manager Jay Feaster was pleased to get him for such a reasonable salary cap number. Said Feaster, "He has demonstrated his commitment to our organization and his desire to be a part of our team by agreeing to a contract that enables us to fit him under the salary cap. We are very pleased to add him to the Flames family, and we look forward to his contributions to our success both on and off the ice."

Hannan, 32, isn't quite the player he was a few years ago with San Jose and Colorado when he regurlaly logged between 22 and 24 minutes per game, but he's still a steady player defensively and should be some solid depth for a Flames team that's trying to return to the postseason for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Along with missing the postseason two years in a row, missing last season by just a single point in the tight Western Conference, the Flames haven't advanced beyond the first round since they lost the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2003-04.

In 830 career games Hannan has scored 31 goals to go with 154 assists.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: August 12, 2011 12:45 pm

Sharks' Brent Burns now has a big Hogwarts tattoo

By Brian Stubits

Brent Burns likes tattoos. He's one of the league's most tatted up players. Among his list of likes, you can add Harry Potter.

The new San Jose Sharks defenseman acquired from the Minnesota Wild this offseason recently acquired something of his own: a tattoo of Hogwarts plastered across his entire back, complete with a dragon and a flying sorcerer (I'm guessing that's Harry Potter, I admit to not having seen any of the movies).

The picture comes courtesy of Burns' own Twitter account, where he explained that he is a huge fan of the books, adding the hash tag #hogwartslooksfun. Looks a little scary for a Muggle like me.

I'm not a terribly big fan of tattoos and already admitted not being a fan of Harry Potter, but this one doesn't strike me as something awful. Especially after taking a look at a couple posts from our friends over at the Eye on Basketball blog of NBA players Andrei Kirilenko and his creepy back tat and also Monta Ellis' tree on his belly/chest.

It takes some serious devotion to get an ink blot that big on your back. It would be interesting to see what he thinks of it many years from now. Of course if it brings he and the Sharks enough magic to finally break through and hoist the Stanley Cup, he'll consider it worth it.

Hat-tip: Larry Brown Sports

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:32 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 11:53 am

Daily Skate: Top showings at junior tryouts

By Brian Stubits

HAPPY CAMPERS: In preparation for the hockey World Juniors at the end of this year, Team Canada held some scrimmages this weekend Alberta and a few prospects came away with very impressive weekends. Leading the way is Ottawa Senators prospect Mark Stone, who had two goals and three assists in the final game of the weekend, giving him a total of four goals in the camp, the highest total. Florida Panthers top pick in this past draft, Jonathan Huberdeau, also excelled with two goals in the final game, giving him three for the camp. As always, Team Canada will have quite a stock of players to pick from for its final roster that is set to open the Worlds on Dec. 26 in Edmonton. TSN had a wrapup of the scrimmages.

AMERICAN UPDATE: While the camp continues in Canada for the World Juniors roster, the same is going on in the good ol' U.S. of A. America's roster for the Juniors needs to be set, too, and so the 44 players in camp just finished a pair of intrasquad games before taking on Sweden and Finland for a few friendlies. The top performances in the scrimmages go to Kenny Agostino (drafted in 2010 by the Penguins), who tallied a goal and three assists. Austin Watson (2010 selection of the Predators) checked in with two goals and an assist. Rangers top pick in this year's draft J.T. Miller was among those who racked up two points on two goals.

RETURN TO GLORY? You might remember that the St. Louis Blues signed former Sharks star Jonathan Cheechoo to a two-way contract earlier this offseason, hoping he could find the magic that helped lead him to a 56-goal season with San Jose. Cheechoo talked with Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News about what he's been up to, the continued support he receives in the Bay Area and how he (and the Blues) are hoping a new workout regimen will help him regain his old speed and, hopefully, old game.

DISCOVERING THE PACIFIC: For a fun -- and informative! -- link, check out this submission by flyersgoalscoredby.com on the defunct Pacific Hockey League. Did you know that more than 20 years after he became the first African American to play in the NHL, Willie O'Ree played for the San Diego Hawks at 42? And how about the names Tucson Rustlers, San Francisco Shamrocks and Phoenix Roadrunners? Small-time hockey is awesome. This coming from a guy who grew up watching a league with teams named the Sabercats, Gila Monsters, Rage and Fog.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com