I know what had the 8 Ball all confused. The Sharks games in Stockholm will be on the 8th and the 9th, not the 6th and the 8th as I thought. I don’t know why I thought that. I’m not sure I want to ask the 8 Ball what it thinks now.
As for rumor mills, I think prognostication (using an 8 Ball or not) is as helpful as reading the rumors about star players who may be on the move. The Spezza chatter is still buzzing, much being made and unmade of statements like “we have no updates.” Someone posted on the Sharks board that a video ad has been released featuring Marleau, which must be evidence that he will stay in San Jose. I am fairly confident that this message was a jab at the rumor mill, not a sincere opinion. One could as easily deduce that they want to sell season tickets using Patty’s image quickly, before any other news comes out. Pretty much all of the rumors are two-faced and inconclusive. I still think that silence is not golden here, but I won’t put too much stock in what I do not hear.
I find it peculiar that I am less agitated over Marleau’s future with the team than I am about Nabby. Maybe it’s just that I don’t know for sure that Marleau will leave, while the rumors seem so one-sided about Nabby that I have little reason to think he will stay. Perhaps it is because I got to the party right in the thick of fan rage at the goalie, aka playoff time, so I didn’t hear the bevvy of criticisms leveled at Marleau during the regular season. That might have solidified my loyalties. I hate to see anyone get beat up. I have read some of those complaints now, buried in discussions about his future with the team or elsewhere. Nonetheless, while he did lift my spirits briefly in the WCF, his public persona does not speak to me at this point, not like Nabby’s or Leighton’s.
I have nothing against him, quite the opposite, I just don’t feel very strongly about the issue. If my dog’s name hadn’t already been Marlowe, I would not have changed it to Marleau. It would have been too confusing for the dog. Part of me thinks Marleau should try a change if all he gets here is whining when he doesn’t save the planet.
I don’t understand this aspect of fandom, that loyalty for the sake of loyalty is considered folly. I’m not playing the game, I’m not winning or losing money on it, it isn’t my neck or my contract on the line. What in the world could make me think I should therefore base my loyalty to a team or a player on their success? That would be ignoble, it is petty.
The team exists for our entertainment, that is all they owe us. If they don’t want to win so be it, they still cause games to be played that I can watch and be entertained by. If they do want to win and still fail, I can’t blame them. I couldn’t do better. If they want to win and they do then I am happy for them. Whatever the situation, I want to stick by them. Maybe I am too ignorant to know what to get upset about, but I suspect that this is the position most of the audience is in, and “most of the audience” is the target audience.
I sympathize with the people who do know what is being done wrong and do know how it could be fixed. I can appreciate frustration, I know how aggravating it is to be right and unrecognized. I am lucky that’s not a problem for me here.
I sat next to a man in a bar watching one of the playoff games and he seemed fairly well-informed. At least he had a lot of answers for people who were asking questions. But he also spent a lot of time shouting angrily at the tv: “Shoot! Damn you, shoot!” Aside from this being unnerving for me, as most angry loud exclamations are, it also elicited from me a gut response akin to “Hey! They’re trying, lay off!” I guess I just have a much milder approach to criticism. Even if the players could hear him (or me), it seems like all that negative energy wouldn’t be helpful.
I much prefer the puckhuffers’ attitude about their team’s successes and failures. Gigantic fireworks of enthusiasm for success, but no equivalent fury for failure. They usually come up with something preposterous and hilarious, acknowledging that mistakes were made without calling anyone names. They call a lot of people names, they just don’t verbally abuse their own players. They might suggest that they were stoned or inattentive or absent entirely, but never in a way that says those players don’t have every right to be so, or that the fans should hold it against them. That seems right to me, loyal and affectionate and a lot more entertaining. They have their heads on right.
Rumor suggests that the Sharks may be prepared to make an offer to Niemi. The offer is described as “big money.” I find this very agitating. He isn’t good enough to justify forgoing one of those fine defensemen that could be acquired. I don’t really know how good the team’s defensemen are. Maybe their coach just stinks. Certainly the forwards could use more confidence. I don’t think we really need much more from them. The forwards we have (with or without Marleau) are always quite busy and frequently they are where they should be. But they seem to spend too much time worrying about defense, which should not be such a big part of their job. They need more reliable support in that area. No matter how big Boyle’s salary is, he cannot handle half the game by himself. With Blake gone, the team really needs to bring someone in or make the most of what they have. The latter option is something they have had some time to do, and apparently have not done it. So something is needed there, something that is not a pretty good goalie who costs a lot.
I could argue that Leighton would do as well, and would cost less, if they want to go with a free agent. I could mention that all it took was a few words of encouragement from Laviolette to boost his performance significantly in Game 7 against the Bruins. A vote of confidence in the frowning face of the odds, and he let no more pucks get by him for the rest of the game. You could argue that this wasn’t much of a compliment since the team had no other seasoned goalie to replace him with.
Then again, they did put Backlund in once when Boucher was beDevilled in Round 1. So Lavi did have the option, he didn’t have to keep Leighton in after three shots got by him in the first 15 minutes. I could suggest that a decent contract and some security and a sense that someone thinks he might do a bang-up job for their team could work wonders…. But no one listens to me, nor should they. I have pretty much mentioned Leights as much as anyone will tolerate on the Sharks board.
I keep mentioning confidence. A lot of people mention confidence as an important aspect of the game. They even mention how certain players can boost the team’s confidence, or how the coach can. But then they turn around and treat confidence like a physical trait that a player has a duty to maintain internally. This is certainly something a person can do, but confidence cannot subsist on a private fuel source. External responses are a factor too.
Is it so surprising that players need that fuel, need the support of their audience? A crowd boos the players they don’t like, and except for Pronger, no one says they don’t care about that. Are players supposed to be immune to criticism from the rabble? That’s a ridiculous expectation. These guys aren’t playing in the back woods out of sight. They are on a stage, it is a performance, they obviously prefer to play in that setting. They obviously like an audience. So probably they do not thrive in a hostile environment. I am glad they want an audience. Otherwise I would not get to watch the game. So I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging that there is an aspect of the performer in all of them, someone who seeks and needs public encouragement.
Sure, they love the game too, but if they didn’t care about public acclaim, they would play in the back woods and make a living elsewhere. The fan’s role is to give that acclaim, or withhold it if we disapprove. There is no need to to amplify our criticisms in ways that may handicap our players. There is no point in actively undermining their confidence when all we have to offer is our opinion.
Late edit: as I was writing that, David Pollak was writing this: Sharks tell Nabakov he won’t be coming back. I am doing the rounds at the message boards trying to sound reasonable about this but inside I am screaming and tearing my hair. I can’t really address this development right now in any coherent or honest way.