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Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Q

Posted by davefowkes on 05/18/2009

Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Q&A with Stanford football assistant coach Greg Roman – part I

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State of the Sharks: Disappointed

Posted by davefowkes on 05/14/2009

Disappointment, anger and frustration, those are the emotions the San Jose Sharks and their fan base continue to feel after the Sharks first round upset loss to Anaheim. The Sharks held their annual “State of the Sharks” event with their fans. CEO Greg Jamison, GM Doug Wilson, head coach Todd McLellan and players Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski were on hand to face questions from a crowd estimated in the three to four thousand range.

The mood of the crowd was mostly upbeat. There were standing ovations for the players and the coach as they were introduced. Overall the mood of the event was jolly. But the underlying current of disappointment was certainly felt in the questioning and certainly in the answers.

“I thought the anger and disappointment would diminish by now but watching all these other game sevens, it has not,” Wilson said. “We built this team with high expectations and we will never lower them. We have some difficult decisions ahead.”

Wilson has spent the last few weeks since the end of the season as he says conducting an autopsy of the Sharks season. “I should not use that term but it is how it feels.”

While nobody would give details on what went wrong or what changes are to come, there was a clear theme that developed: The Sharks must improve their mental toughness.

“It takes a physical and a mental commitment,” Coach McLellan said. “We are close physically but Detroit is ahead of us on mental toughness. How do we help players be mentally tougher? I don’t know the answer to that. We can look inside the organization and we can look outside the organization. We have to be mentally tougher. Will this (a first round playoff exit) make us mentally tougher or will we wither away? I think we will be in the first group.”

The comparison to what Detroit has gone through was another regular theme. McLellan pointed out that the Red Wings stumbled a number of times before finally breaking through to the top.

Players were the focal point of a number of questions early on. Joe Thornton was asked why he did not shoot more? How can he play more angry in every game like he did in game 5? And why did he lead the league in getting thrown out of the face-off circle?

But while some of the questions were filled with laughs, and the players were able to have fun, the elephant in the room never left.

“This is a better hockey team then we had in Tampa,” Dan Boyle said comparing this team to the one he won a Stanley Cup with. “Come playoffs everyone has to step up. The top guys take a lot of heat but everybody needs to step up. Goaltending needs to be better, our top guys have to be better, and our second guys have to be better. I think this is a better hockey team but we have to come together. I look forward to getting back on the ice.”

“We take the blame,” team captain Marleau said on Anaheim’s top line out playing them. “We need to be better. Why did this happen? That is the soul searching we are doing.”

Thornton added, “They did out play us. Their power play was better than ours. They are three big guys that played well down the stretch. We should have played better.”

In the end the question that all Shark fans will be asking though is what will the Sharks do to improve themselves next year? While the answer to that question was evident in the Sharks management will clearly be looking to improve the team’s mental toughness, it was not clear how they would go about doing that. Will there be changes? It certainly sounds like there will be some.

“Who will be with us (next year)? I don’t know. But we will look into the mirror and we will do what it takes to get it done. We will bring back people committed to get where we want to go,” Wilson said. “The next couple of months will be uncomfortable. I like the players here but we need those who will fight through this. We want more guys like Mike Ricci.”

Ricci who is a member of the organization received a standing ovation when he emerged to take questions after the players left. “I wish I could put guys like Ricci and (Brian) Marchment (who is also with the organization) back in the lineup,” Wilson proclaimed.

One thing about the Sharks that is apparently very different from Detroit was this State of the Sharks event. “I can’t believe how many people are here tonight,” McLellan said as he compared it to his days in Detroit. “It strikes me just how passionate you are as fans. I came from a place they call hockeytown and I guaranty you, this would not happen there! Be proud!”

The event lasted well over two hours. In the end there were not grand gestures, there were no clues as to the Sharks offseason plans, but what was clear is that the Sharks management is trying to put together a winning team. The next step will be to improve the mental toughness of the team. The Stanley Cup question though is, will that mental toughness come from inside the organization or will it come from outside?  In all likelihood, a little of both.

Disappointment, anger and frustration, those are the emotions the San Jose Sharks and their fan base continue to feel after the Sharks first round upset loss to Anaheim. The Sharks held their annual “State of the Sharks” event with their fans. CEO Greg Jamison, GM Doug Wilson, head coach Todd McLellan and players Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski were on hand to face questions from a crowd estimated in the three to four thousand range.

The mood of the crowd was mostly upbeat. There were standing ovations for the players and the coach as they were introduced. Overall the mood of the event was jolly. But the underlying current of disappointment was certainly felt in the questioning and certainly in the answers.

“I thought the anger and disappointment would diminish by now but watching all these other game sevens, it has not,” Wilson said. “We built this team with high expectations and we will never lower them. We have some difficult decisions ahead.”

Wilson has spent the last few weeks since the end of the season as he says conducting an autopsy of the Sharks season. “I should not use that term but it is how it feels.”

While nobody would give details on what went wrong or what changes are to come, there was a clear theme that developed: The Sharks must improve their mental toughness.

“It takes a physical and a mental commitment,” Coach McLellan said. “We are close physically but Detroit is ahead of us on mental toughness. How do we help players be mentally tougher? I don’t know the answer to that. We can look inside the organization and we can look outside the organization. We have to be mentally tougher. Will this (a first round playoff exit) make us mentally tougher or will we wither away? I think we will be in the first group.”

The comparison to what Detroit has gone through was another regular theme. McLellan pointed out that the Red Wings stumbled a number of times before finally breaking through to the top.

Players were the focal point of a number of questions early on. Joe Thornton was asked why he did not shoot more? How can he play more angry in every game like he did in game 5? And why did he lead the league in getting thrown out of the face-off circle?

But while some of the questions were filled with laughs, and the players were able to have fun, the elephant in the room never left.

“This is a better hockey team then we had in Tampa,” Dan Boyle said comparing this team to the one he won a Stanley Cup with. “Come playoffs everyone has to step up. The top guys take a lot of heat but everybody needs to step up. Goaltending needs to be better, our top guys have to be better, and our second guys have to be better. I think this is a better hockey team but we have to come together. I look forward to getting back on the ice.”

“We take the blame,” team captain Marleau said on Anaheim’s top line out playing them. “We need to be better. Why did this happen? That is the soul searching we are doing.”

Thornton added, “They did out play us. Their power play was better than ours. They are three big guys that played well down the stretch. We should have played better.”

In the end the question that all Shark fans will be asking though is what will the Sharks do to improve themselves next year? While the answer to that question was evident in the Sharks management will clearly be looking to improve the team’s mental toughness, it was not clear how they would go about doing that. Will there be changes? It certainly sounds like there will be some.

“Who will be with us (next year)? I don’t know. But we will look into the mirror and we will do what it takes to get it done. We will bring back people committed to get where we want to go,” Wilson said. “The next couple of months will be uncomfortable. I like the players here but we need those who will fight through this. We want more guys like Mike Ricci.”

Ricci who is a member of the organization received a standing ovation when he emerged to take questions after the players left. “I wish I could put guys like Ricci and (Brian) Marchment (who is also with the organization) back in the lineup,” Wilson proclaimed.

One thing about the Sharks that is apparently very different from Detroit was this State of the Sharks event. “I can’t believe how many people are here tonight,” McLellan said as he compared it to his days in Detroit. “It strikes me just how passionate you are as fans. I came from a place they call hockeytown and I guaranty you, this would not happen there! Be proud!”

The event lasted well over two hours. In the end there were not grand gestures, there were no clues as to the Sharks offseason plans, but what was clear is that the Sharks management is trying to put together a winning team. The next step will be to improve the mental toughness of the team. The Stanley Cup question though is, will that mental toughness come from inside the organization or will it come from outside?  In all likelihood, a little of both.

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Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford legend Ken Margerum elected to Hall of Fame

Posted by davefowkes on 04/30/2009

Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford legend Ken Margerum elected to Hall of Fame

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Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Toby Gerhart update

Posted by davefowkes on 04/28/2009

Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Toby Gerhart update

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Sharks beat Ducks to stay alive

Posted by davefowkes on 04/25/2009

(San Jose, CA)  —  The Sharks pounded out a win over Anaheim to stay alive in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 6-minutes into the overtime, Patrick Marleau literally pounded the puck into the goal from under the goaltender to win the game 3-2.

Joe Thornton had a goal and two assists and Marleau and Devin Setoguchi each had a goal and an assist as the top line lifted the team to victory. Evgeni Nabokov saved 23 shots in net. Jonas Hiller was again a star for the Ducks stopping 44 shots and keeping the game close throughout.

The Sharks had a two-nothing lead in the third but a slow start to the third period led to two Anaheim goals and a comeback to tie the game and eventually force the overtime.

After a poor showing in game 4, the Sharks character was questioned. That included the character of the top line. Thornton and Marleau talked with coach Todd McLellan about getting the top line of Thornton, Marleau and Setoguchi back together for tonight’s game. They had often been separated during the past few games. “We really have not played much together this series so we were really happy to be back together since we played together pretty much all year,” Thornton said.

The coach liked the results as well. “We are obviously happy with their (Thornton, Marleau and Setoguchi) performance tonight. They were challenged in the locker room by the coaching staff and this is supposed to be their time of year.”

Torey Mitchell continued to impress with his energy and speed he created a number of turnovers and scoring chances for his linemates Jonathan Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick. “We got to put out a lot of energy out there and I thought we did a good job of that,” Mitchell said. This was Mitchell’s third game of the year after missing the season with a broken leg.

The Sharks scored first on the power play. Patrick Marleau took a shot from the slot that deflected off of Hiller to his left where Thornton was standing for a quick shot past the goalie.

Devin Setoguchi got his second career playoff goal on a great shot. Working from behind the net, Setoguchi drifted out to the left side and as all the defenders played the pass, Setoguchi fired a shot that just squeezed in between Hiller’s pads and the goal post.

And then the Ducks struck! It started on a Mike Grier turnover after he fell at center ice after bumping into the linesman. Andrew Ebbett got the puck and charged the Sharks zone. He slid a nice pass to Ryan Carter who beat Nabokov between his legs for the goal.

Just under 4 minutes later, two defensemen collapsed on Scott Niedermayer as he carried the puck into the zone, he flicked a pass to his right to Corey Perry who beat Setoguchi into the zone. The pass hit Perry right on his stick and he blasted a slap shot that beat Nabokov. The Ducks tied the score at 2 in front of a stunned crowd.

The Sharks struggled at the start of both the second and third periods which is what cost them. “We were frustrated,” Mitchell said. “We have ups and downs, so we just tried to ride the storm. We have to do a better job of that in the future.”

The Ducks had a great chance midway through the period when Marc-Edouard Vlasic slipped and went down at center ice, Mike Brown ended up with a breakaway but he could not control the puck on a deke and Nabokov made the save.

The game winner was a great play by Thornton who skated toward the goal, took a shot, got the rebound, went behind the goal, passed it to Marleau who shot the puck. It appeared that Hiller had stopped it but the puck was loose under the goaltender. Marleau kept hammering at Hiller’s leg until the puck scooted into the goal for the win. The crowd obviously erupted!

“It is just like basketball,” Thornton described the game winner. “you just shoot the ball and follow your rebound. I shot it and it came back to me. I wrapped it around (the net) to Patty who was determined to put it in the back of the net. It was a great play by Patty.”

“Everything is fine and dandy right now,” McLellan said. “But we still have a noose around our necks and we better be prepared to play even better (in game 6) than we did tonight.”

The Sharks trail the best of seven series 3-2 now with game 6 in Anaheim on Monday night. If they can win that one, game 7 would be Wednesday in San Jose.

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49ers get playmaker, then look to next year

Posted by davefowkes on 04/25/2009

Day one treated the San Francisco 49ers at the draft. They were first surprised to see a play maker fall to them in the first round, then acquired a first round pick in next year’s draft. 49er brass sounds happy.

The 49ers and their fans were quite surprised to see WR Michael Crabtree fall to them in the #10 spot of the first round. Crabtree is recovering from a broken foot but he is a two time Biletnikoff winner for best college wide receiver at Texas Tech. When the Raiders past on him at #7 he just kept dropping. Despite quality at OT and DE still on the board the 49ers selected Crabtree.

He is a play maker. He has a lot of potential and could be a star wide receiver in the NFL. 49er fans should be happy to finally have a play maker in the fold. That said, all of the emails/texts/social webpage response was nearly identical: Great pick by the 49ers but who is going to throw to him? I was against the 49ers picking a wide receiver other than Crabtree because it seems clear the Mike Singletary approach is to run, run and then run some more. With Shawn Hill at quarterback I don’t expect a very wide open offense. But most receivers dont turn into stars year one. So 49er fans should be patient and hope that in year two or three when Crabtree is ready to be a star, they have a quarterback or offensive game plan that is ready to take advantage of his ability. For now, just be happy they have a play maker at wide receiver.

The 49ers next move was surprising. With pass rusher Everette Brown still on the board, they traded their second round pick to Carolina for a first round pick next year.

My initial response is that anytime you can turn a second round pick into a first round pick it is a great trade. That said, the 49ers need players now, not in the future. Brown is a pass rusher which is always a need position. And Brown was selected by Carolina. If he turns into a star, you can be sure this trade will be second guessed again and again. Next year’s draft should be fun, but will that improve their 7-9 record this year?

In day 2 the 49ers need to find a decent safety, a backup running back for Frank Gore, and add some depth on OL, DL and a late round sleeper quarterback would not hurt. How about Graham Harrel of Texas Tech?

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Raiders send shockwaves through draft

Posted by davefowkes on 04/25/2009

Give Al Davis credit, he has everyone talking about the Oakland Raiders. Day one of the NFL Draft is in the books and the Raiders were number one in pulling surprises.

Reaching deep down the draft board, the Oakland Raiders selected WR Darrius Hayward-Bey with the #7 overall pick in the draft. After trading down in the second round, they went deeper down the draftboard to find DB Mike Mitchell out of Ohio University. Both players are super fast, but both players could have huge question marks and could have been had much later in the draft.

Hayward-Bey was the fastest player at the combine. Most people considered him an end of the first round or beginning of the second round talent. He never stood out at Maryland averaging 46 catchers per year and getting just 42 catches his senior year. He had some big games, but also some games where he would get shut out. But what is most frustrating to Raider fans is not so much that they went after Hayward-Bey, but there were two other wide receivers on the board graded much higher. Michael Crabtree is a two-time Biletnikoff award winner for best college receiver. But the Raiders went speed.

The Raiders chased that in the second round by shocking the world by selecting Mitchell. Mike Mayock on the NFL Network said he did not even know who Mitchell was until a couple of weeks ago when he ran a fat 40 at the Ohio University’s pro day. Mayock then raised him to a 7th round talent. Scouts Inc. was so excited by him they did not even include him in their coverage leaving him a zero grade.

With the draft nobody really knows what will happen. Who will be a steal, who will be a bust, who gets injured, but what we do know is about where players are to be selected. If the Raiders really wanted these speed guys, they easily could have traded down for more picks, or in Mitchell’s case waited another 3-4 rounds. There was a lot of other talent the Raiders could have used that was on the board when they selected Mitchell.

It just continues to show the Raiders have their own way of doing things, and that way seems to keep getting them back into the top 10 in the draft every year.

Today it certainly made for some good comedy while watching the draft!

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Sharks Misery

Posted by davefowkes on 04/24/2009

It has taken me all day to come up with the effort of typing over last night’s game. As a San Jose Sharks fan it just made me angry to watch the 4-0 loss to the Ducks. Losing the game is one thing. Had the Shark s come out and put forth a great effort only to see a few breaks go against them and lose the game, so be it. But last night was supposed to be a desperate game. An opportunity for the Sharks to even up the series coming back home.

Instead, the Sharks just looked like they were skating in mud. There was no urgency, there was no consistency, it just looked like there was no effort. The star players, the classy veterans, the young guns, nobody had good games last night. The Sharks laid a giant egg.

I have no excuse for it and I am pretty sure the Sharks themselves have no excuses for it. It just does not make sense to me how they could pull out that type of game in what was clearly states as their most important game of the year.

When the Sharks get eliminated there will be many questions asked. How do you blow up a President’s trophy winning team. I am glad I am not Doug Wilson. Because it seems clear that despite the regular season success, the Sharks current roster is just not capable of making a deep run into the playoffs. Is it the quiet leadership of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton? Is it the lack of raw-raw guys? There is just something about Shark hockey that just does not let them mentally take it to the next level.

In the past it has been 2nd round exits. This sure looks like a huge first round disappointment instead. If that truly happens (and being down 3-1 in the series it is hard to imagine it not happening at this point) then Doug Wilson is going to have some very big questions to deal with after the season.

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Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford football draft history

Posted by davefowkes on 04/24/2009

Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford football draft history

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Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford football players in the 2009 NFL Draft

Posted by davefowkes on 04/23/2009

Stanford Cardinal Football Examiner: Stanford football players in the 2009 NFL Draft

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Sharks get their bite back

Posted by davefowkes on 04/22/2009

Great win for the Sharks last night. It was a must win game and the team came out and won the game. Not the typical result for a Sharks playoff team.

I said before the game (not in this blog) that for the Sharks to climb back in the series they would need two power play goals per game. Patrick Marleau’s game winner was the second power play goal in three tries. So much for the 0-for-12 in the first two games.

The Sharks brought energy from start to finish, Dan Boyle played his butt off, and most importantly the Sharks showed the urgency that lacked in the first two games.

The only downside to the game was that Evgeni Nabokov was not as sharp as needed, but he did get better as the game went along, making some great saves after the third goal he allowed.

Now the Sharks trail 2-1 in the best of seven series. If they continue to play like they did last night, I think the Sharks have a great chance of coming back to win. But if they revert to the style of play they had at the Shark Tank the first two games, then last night will just turn into a small glimmer of hope.

I will stick with my original prediction, if the Sharks play their best, they will win the series. But there is no margin for error against the Ducks!

OTHER NOTES:  Great to see Torey Mitchell back in the lineup. I thought it was a huge gamble by Todd McLellan to put him into the lineup in such a desperate game, but I thought it paid off. His minutes were down, but when he was on the ice you could see his speed take over and he created a couple of turnovers. Not too bad for a guy playing his first game of the season after recovering from a broken leg.

– The addition of Mitcherll really allowed McLellan to use four lines on a very quick tempo. Shifts were short, fast and sweet. At times it led to confusion, but mostly it meant the Sharks on the ice had fresher legs than the Ducks. It will be interesting to see how Anaheim reacts to that.

–Dan Boyle could do no wrong last night. Two goals and an assist are obvious but his play on defense was outstanding and his quarterbacking the puck on the offensive charge was a difference maker. Anyone remember….um…what’s his name?….that guy from Chicago the Sharks traded for last year….um….Soupy?  Boyle proved his worth last night!

–The star of the night goes to Todd Marchant’s wife. She delivered a baby boy on Monday, was relaesed from the hospital on Tuesday morning, and was at the game last night! Now that is playoff urgency! Talk about grit! Props to her!

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Weekend Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 04/18/2009

A wide variety of thoughts to get me through my weekend:

–It was very interesting listening to the entire Bay Area jump ship on the Sharks Friday. Thursday was clearly a big disappointment for one and all. But I am clearly in the minority thinking that San Jose played okay. They need to play better of course, but it is not like this series is over. Most importantly the Sharks must solve their problems on the power play. If they can get that corrected they will win game 2 and go on to win this series. If they can’t score on the power play, well, let’s just say that would not be good.

–The Sharks must be more decisive on their shots. They had enough shots on net but they were not quick and the goalie and the defense was ready for the shot. The Sharks need to get more movement in the offensive zone. If they can get the defense and goalie moving, those Shots will be far more effective, especially on that power play.

–I still like the look of this young A’s pitching staff. Taking 2/3 from Boston was very nice. The only loss was Brett Anderson who only gave up two runs in 7 innings but lost when the bullpen blew up in the 8th inning and Tim Wakefield was throwig a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Trevor Cahill goes again today but so far his first two starts have been very good. Dallas Braden has got the job done so far. If the hitters can keep up with the pitchers, the A’s have a shot to contend.

–Eric Chavez hurt in the first week. There is a stunner. Notice, at first it was a day off. Then a series. Now he hopes to return on Monday. That is Eric Chavez for you. Hopefully Bobby Crosby continues to improve now that he is getting a few days in a row in the lineup to work on his defense and improve his hitting.

–Too early to say “I told you so?” The Giants are as good or as bad as their starting pitching. So far that pitching has been pretty poor. Tim Lincecum with two bad outings, the Big Unit looking old and Barry Zito looking like Barry Zito. That is enough to lead to an 0-6 road trip. Last night Jonathan Sanchez stepped up with a great outing, and the Giants win. As goes the staring rotation, so goes the Giants!

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