Let us begin with this: I love Drew Remenda, in that I’d-have-almost-any-kind-of-beer-with-him-at-any-place-at-any-time kind of way. He is a smart, funny fellow whose job as the San Jose Sharks television analyst dovetails neatly with the fact that he both knows and enjoys hockey.
Hey, can’t beat getting paid to feed your passion, I always say.
Thus, our latest on-air disputation over whether the Sharks played well enough to win or really, really well in Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks is kind of annoying. Not because we don’t enjoy arguing about hockey, or anything, really. And not because this time it became a tag-team, with Sharks’ play-by-play man Randy Hahn as his partner and former NHL player and CSN talking face Bret Hedican as mine.
Or, more accurately, as me as his partner.
No, it’s annoying because we also had an on-air dustup last year over the same subject, which is “Well, just how good are these guys supposed to be, and how much credit do they get for doing what they’re supposed to do?” That one got blown out of reasonable proportion, and though Remenda and I were fine with each other within minutes of the end of the postgame show, we were low-level hockey topics in the Internet hockey dungeons for a few days.
Tuesday’s was actually more benign, and anyway, Hedican started it by saying the Sharks played inconsistently and were in many ways lucky to win the game. So this is actually his fault, even though I did chip in to agree and call it, in my own inimitable fashion, “a ski-mask job.”
This set off Remenda, who respectfully but forcefully disagreed, citing their grit and work ethic and character and courage and willingness to pay physical prices (especially defenseman Brad Stuart). He was fair but passionate in his rebuttal, and on the safe assumption that he meant every word of it, he should be both. Full points to him.
I bring this up not because you should give a damn about whether Randy and Drew like Bret and the little guy, but because some of you think Drew and I don’t like each other. And because some of you think I am excessively cruel to the local shinnyists.
Well, the others can speak for themselves, but I will state my position for those who don’t fully understand it.
1. I don’t work for the Sharks, so I don’t owe them anything in terms of opinion or loyalty or kindness. You want that, there are plenty of blogs who will accommodate you.
2. Everyone gets to watch and see and interpret what they wish. This is a hockey game we’re talking about here, not a murder trial.
3. I don’t believe that work rate, character, grit, physical price or any of the other intangibles the Sharks were credited with Tuesday are anything more than the minimal standard they should be displaying nightly. They are professionals, they have a history of success, and doing what you’re supposed to do is a baseline, not a creditworthy reward in and of itself.
4. I don’t know how blowing a 2-0 lead, getting outshot, 38-30 a game after saying you want to shoot the puck more, and having to rely on your goaltender (the remarkable Antti Niemi) to save you from a 6-2 loss translates into a great performance. The Sharks are not the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are a team with deep playoff aspirations – hell, for all we know, they might still have Cup aspirations. This was, by any reasonable analysis, an uneven but satisfying performance for them. They were not the better team for the better part of the game, but they got the two points they needed. That, ultimately, is the best part of the evening.
5. If Joe Pavelski doesn’t score in the shootout, or if Jason Garrison’s shot with 53 seconds left in regulation doesn’t hit the post, most of you would be screaming about all the above points in decrying a blown result, and I would be the voice of reason. Well, Hedican would be the voice of reason. I would still be, oog, me.
In short, this is actually just a discussion between two guys about what the Sharks ought to be. Even at this advanced stage of their development, where the window seems to be closing slowly rather than opening widely, their talent level and organizational skills suggest that they ought to be far closer to Anaheim than Calgary, tonight’s foe. They may have turned the corner from their hideous February, and they may finally be coming to grips with their new persona as 60-minute grinders, but Vancouver was not the game that will be the recognized turning point. This was a game when they overcame their bad angels and muscled out a win in which Vancouver was objectively the better team for a greater portion of the evening.
As for Remenda, all is well. As it has been. Besides, this is really Hedican’s fault. And Brodie Brazil eggs him on off camera, so be mad at him, too. I am an innocent man, falsely accused, and in need of a beer. Drew, over to you.