Make sure you guys head on over to Fear The Fin to say hi to everyone. They're a pretty nice bunch, but let's not let nicities get in the way when there's a hockey game to be had! Of course, here are this game's Three Questions with Derek:
I enjoyed watching Jeremy Roenick during his playing career and honestly think he does a better job breaking down tactics than anyone on the NBC intermission panel (granted, not exactly a high bar to clear) but he, along with the vast majority of the hockey media and sizable swaths of the Sharks' fanbase, is dead wrong on Patrick Marleau. Too many are so lost in what they wish Marleau could be (nothing short of Mario Lemieux 2.0 will satisfy these people) that they lose sight of what he actually is: a terrific hockey player. Only Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos have scored more goals than Marleau since 2008. Only five players in the league scored more playoff goals than Marleau between lockouts. His reputation as a streaky player is largely a misnomer, as he's no more inconsistent than any other NHL scorer. Beyond his considerable offensive abilities, Marleau has consistently been trusted by Todd McLellan to play some of the toughest minutes available to Sharks forwards and he excels at driving play in those situations in addition to being the team's best penalty killer. I'm unsure as to the root cause of Roenick's unsettling obsession with Marleau (the guy showed up uninvited to Marleau's Thanksgiving dinner one year to whine about his play) but I think most would agree his hockey mind pales in comparison to that of Mike Babcock who described Marleau as "a player that's misunderstood and misrepresented. He’s a very, very good 200-foot player. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s one of the best penalty killers in the league [and] still contributes in other areas that he never gets any credit for. He does a lot of other things well that as a coach, you really appreciate." I rest my case.
We can really sympathize with you guys and your problems as of late. Is there anything that you can pinpoint specifically that've been causing the issues?
I think some of the same general things that were ailing the Blues are afflicting the Sharks; overall, just rotten luck. St. Louis couldn't buy a save during their recent losing streak while San Jose hasn't been able to buy a goal over this skid. Granted, the Blues are a much better team than the Sharks but just as San Jose isn't nearly as dominant as their 7-0-0 run may have implied, they aren't as bad as their dismal February record indicates. There are a handful of underlying issues with the team; forward depth has been nonexistent since last year, the power play looks worse than it ever has during the McLellan era and the top line is enduring an uncharastertic spell of poor play on both sides of the puck. But the Sharks have also scored on just 3.6% of the shots they've taken at even-strength over the past seven games and it's safe to say that won't continue much longer. Once the pucks start going in, the Sharks should be fine. Not undefeated-and-best-team-in-the-league fine, but a playoff club nonetheless.
What's your assessment of Todd McClellan? Do you think his job's in jeopardy, or will the team just be allowed to play out of this funk?
In my mind, there are few coaches in the league better than Todd McLellan. Since he arrived in 2008, the Sharks are 2nd in the league in wins, 5th in even-strength goal differential, 3rd in even-strength shot differential and 1st in power play efficiency. A good deal of that has to do with the personnel he's had to work with but it's hard to imagine a coach getting more out of this group of players than McLellan has. Despite the perceived lack of playoff success, the Sharks have been the conference final twice as often during the McLellan era as they did during all previous coaching regimes combined. Realistically, in spite of the media hype, the Sharks have just never been the best team in the league in any given season. It's tough to envision a coach, no matter how brilliant, bridging the talent gap between San Jose and, say, Chicago in 2010 or the Canucks in 2011 or even the Blues a year ago. All indications are that Doug Wilson feels similarly and I'd be surprised to see McLellan canned unless the Sharks miss the postseason this year.