(I didn't change the caption on the picture up there, so everyone can see what it says. When Brad Winchesters are fighting amongst themselves, the world is a dark place indeed!)
My 79th-favorite movie of all time is the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. In that spirit today's post will feature the stinking corpses of some long-deceased gamedays from last season.
Thus far in the new season the Sharks seem to be struggling a bit with the whole "playing hockey" thing. There hasn't been a lot to cheer about so far outside of the opening beating the team gave to the Coyotes. It can be hard to keep perspective on the importance of small stretches of wins and losses, especially when the hockey Internet spills gallons of virtual ink over every single game. In order to help everyone remember how very very very early it is in the season, I'll take a look back at some posts from last year. Hopefully it will help us see our present-day worries with a bit more clarity.
On October 16th of last year the Sharks were coming back from a week off after playing the first two games in Sweden. The team had split their first two games and we were all still trying to figure out what the forward lines would look like. I wrote this about the lines for that night's game against the Thrashers (whoa nostalgia!):
McGinn-Thornton-Setoguchi (the same as Friday and Saturday, and the team's best line so far.)
Marleau-Pavelski-Mitchell (Marleau takes Clowe's place on this line.)
Clowe-Couture-Heatley (Clowe, the team's leading scorer, is playing with Couture and Heatley.)
McLaren-Nichol-McCarthy (...and the rest!)
Obviously the early games of the season are for figuring stuff out (for bloggers as well: I predicted "big things" for McGinn-Thornton-Setoguchi). This season the Sharks still haven't gotten Martin Havlat into the lineup, so the team's lines may be even further away from their final incarnations than they were at this point last year.
In the spirit of Halloween, I'll end with some statistics that should frighten any Ducks fan who reads them. You have been warned.
Ducks: 11 games played, 4-6-1.
Sharks: 8 games played, 4-3-1.
Goals Per Game
Ducks: 2.46, 27th in the league.
Sharks: 3.00, 9th in the league.
Goals Against Per Game
Ducks: 3.27, 25th in the league.
Sharks: 2.88, 16th in the league.
In truth the three of us here at Battle of California could have saved some time today and just merged all of our gameday posts into one giant festival of dissatisfaction and impotent anger*. The California teams all seem to have driven off a cliff into the Valley of Suck about a week or two ago, and it's no fun for anybody in the Greatest State. The Ducks have lost six in a row, the Sharks have lost four of their last five including two absolute shit-storms to Columbus and Vancouver, and the Kings have lost five of six starting with the Sharks kicking their ass back on the 15th**. The Kings are currently the only California team that would make the playoffs, and they're just BARELY holding on.
Jeeze, reading that is painful. I think this is what it must be like when an assault victim has to describe what happened to them in court.
The last seven games for the Sharks have looked like this:
So good news, everyone: tonight the Sharks are going to win!
Obviously everyone knows the Sharks ended last season in first place in the Pacific. Any sort of season-end analysis would have called last year a great year. And yet the season contained within it maddening stretches of mediocrity and inconsistency.
So when exactly does it stop being crazy to worry about how the Sharks are doing? When is it no longer "still early"? How far into the season do we have to go before we can start to have a real picture of whether a team is good or not?
Those standings are from February 3rd. More than fifty games into the season, the Pacific division was still wide open. Dallas, a team that missed the playoffs entirely, had a five-point cushion and games in hand.
So remember everyone: it's still early. And it's going to stay "still early" for a long long time.
Prediction: Sharks sign Ving Rhames* to a one-day contract and he scares the Ducks so bad they forfeit.
* = I never thought about this before but...what the hell kind of a name is "Ving Rhames"? I mean...what is that?