As The Teal Turns- The San Jose Sharks after being almost too quiet for the past month finally made news this past Tuesday and lots of it. Some of the news was expected while other items certainly were not (at least to most of the public anyway). The good news first was the resigning of goalie Alex Stalock to a two-year deal which was a move that everyone expected. Stalock is a good value and frankly the only Shark who really earned a new deal this past season (you cannot reward anyone else after a record setting playoff collapse). The Sharks also resigned Mike Brown which was a small surprise, but the contract really has very little if any impact on the salary cap and he fills a roster spot which is about all it really does. Then came the shocking firing of now former Sharks color commentator Drew Remenda and the revelation that the Sharks TV deal with Comcast is the lowball deal of the century. The deal is reportedly so bad that it could ultimately cost the Bay Area and Northern California it’s franchise. The last two items will be gone over in more depth. The Sharks also have the draft which begins Friday, June 27th. GM Doug Wilson will be in charge of it again which means anymore who knows what to expect. Free Agency begins July 1st, but don’t look for team teal to be active there at all per in-house policy. As for any trades, they can still happen and this is an item that remains to be seen. If you are looking for either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau to be moved, right now it seems somewhat unlikely baring the unforeseeable. NBC Sports had an article talking about the Sharks franchise being at the stage of a “Nervous Breakdown”. One thing seems for certain, operational flaws which mostly happened behind the scenes now seem to be coming to the forefront. The Sharks certainly could have realized that their “Stanley Cup” dream and window now has finally closed. To make matters still worse, that window may have been slammed and nailed shut by the rival Los Angeles Kings for some years to come. In all truth, the Sharks may only need to retool the roster, but it’s starting to become obvious with the franchise hemorrhaging money that operating on the cheap or even attempting a hockey version of the “Moneyball” approach may be where the Sharks are heading (or "Money Puck"). This off-season will be anything but dull. If you are a Sharks fan, putting your hopes for the franchise winning a Cup on indefinite hiatus may not be a bad idea.
Remenda Gate- The big news of the week was the announcement the Sharks franchise terminated long time color commentator and a huge fan favorite Drew Remenda. This announcement came as a huge surprise to everyone except for maybe Remenda himself. Teamed with Sharks TV play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn, the two made arguably one of the best broadcast teams in the NHL. They were thought of so highly that NBC Sports Network would also use them for west coast late games with some not even involving the Sharks. There are several reasons to question such a move as this. All questions here are somewhat valid too. Remenda was nothing short of a consummate professional who as an open fan of the team (Drew viewed himself as a just fan in the booth, nothing more). Remenda was never shy about calling it as he saw it. He would defend and praise the team when it needed it, and he would constructively criticize the team when it was necessary to do so. Remenda during the game seven telecast April 30th expressed some dismay at how the team handled the game (as it became apparent a record setting loss was well on its way to becoming a cold reality). Remenda I thought was always point on with his assessments of the team. Being a former bench coach back in the early days of the franchise, he had insight that few others could really bring to the table. Remenda probably forgot more about hockey that those at the very top of the ownership chain have ever known.
The Sharks are not commenting on the reasons for letting Remenda go other than to say they want to take the broadcast in a “different direction” (as with the franchise apparently too). The firing was done by Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora. GM Doug Wilson also was in on the decision too. Remenda is a class act. In interviews on the NHL network as well as a Puckdaddy Podcast with Greg Wyshynski and Jeff Marek, Remenda took the high road and was grateful for the 20 years he had with the teal franchise. Remenda did not take the franchise to task and actually likened his termination to a “Sienfeld Moment” (“It’s not you, it’s me”). To me this was a sad and somewhat unfortunate decision made by the Sharks. Usually decisions like this come from the very top which means the ownership likely made the call. Remenda may have been viewed as too honest with the fan base and with cost cutting moves likely in the works, Remenda’s thoughts were probably more that the top brass wanted to deal with. The truly sad thing is the message this sends to the rest of the broadcasting staff both on radio and TV. “Keep your criticisms to yourself if you want to keep your job.” Remenda is a class individual who will be missed and certainly never forgotten. He not only was a color commentator, but he was also a teacher. Many people, especially the younger group of team teal fans learned much about the game of hockey through Remenda through the telecasts, the Drew’s Clue’s segments and even sometimes in person. The Sharks let a true asset to the franchise walk out the door. Remenda hinted that he may look to get back into coaching though not at the NHL level. If Remenda does this it would certainly be to his further credit. At the same time, I would not be surprised to see him in a broadcast both maybe next post-season covering games for NBC Sports Net, or even TSN or CBC. In fact, if I were the head of an NHL team and needed a solid color commentator who had strong knowledge of the game and league, Remenda would be the first person I would call. Remenda has handled this whole situation not only as a professional and with true grace plus extreme class, but also as a man. Remenda is someone you want your kids to look up to. He not only calls a good game, but plays the game of life the right way too.
Remenda will be missed by the Sharks fanbase. San Jose Sharks, this is your loss, not Remenda’s.
Comcast TV Deal- As reported by San Jose Mercury Columnist Mark Purdy Tuesday, the Sharks TV deal has been revealed to be one of the worst if not the worst in the NHL. If the details are correct, this explains why the Sharks are swimming in red ink. In summary, the TV Deal was singed with Comcast Sports Network in 2009 and extended through 2028 covering 20 seasons. The Sharks make around $7 million per year on the deal. The deal was signed by former Sharks COO Greg Jamison who left the franchise four years ago. In comparison (and according to Forbes magazine), the Toronto Maple Leafs have a TV deal worth almost six times as much as the Sharks. All three New York-New Jersey area teams, Chicago, Dallas, and even Los Angeles and Anaheim have deals worth several times more than the Sharks. The Kings and Ducks are making money hand over fist and have been for years, which explains in part why between the two teams they have won now three of the last seven Stanley Cups. Meanwhile the Sharks truthfully have never really come close at all to even a finals appearance ever. It gets even worse when you consider that apparently owner Hasso Plattner (who has more money than many owners) is now reportedly wanting a new arena for the Sharks to replace the SAP Center and wants it more sooner than later. And just to think, all of this news comes out exactly one day after the season ticket renewals were due.
First off, the economic times in 2009 versus today in 2014 were probably a lot different when you consider how fast things can change in the world and business of professional sports and even technology. This said, you can also see both sides of the arguments. The Sharks on one hand can say they got low balled on the deal, and looking at it in retrospect they are probably right. On the other hand, Comcast can come out and say “You knew the entirety of the deal when you signed off on it.”, and in the same retrospect they are probably right too. Can the Sharks ask to renegotiate the deal? They can and should if they feel it was a bad one. If Comcast want to truly be a broadcasting partner with the Sharks, they should also be agreeable to do so as well. However also consider that reportedly NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was called into to intervene which is all you really need to know as far as how serious this matter is.
Replacing The Shark Tank?- As far as a new arena goes, the Shark Tank opened in 1993. The city of San Jose has signed off on repairs and upgrades for the arena, but that may just be a bandage more than anything. With the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers to begin play in the new Levi’s Stadium in three months, there are land development opportunities in the same land area which includes plenty of room for a new arena. This is something Plattner will want as a condition of keeping the Sharks franchise in the Bay Area or even Northern California. This is something Sharks fans really need to pay attention to as this is not an idle threat by ownership. One must consider that the Sharks again are a franchise that has been draining more money than it has been taking on. Red ink is never anything to sneeze at. Part of the decision to let Remenda go may have also been a cost cutting move. As a rule of thumb in business, if one cost cutting move happens particularly one that grabs everyone’s attention, the message usually is that more could easily follow and that nobody is safe from it. Though many Sharks players have no-movement clauses in their contracts, if the team hits hard times and is no longer a factor to even make the post season, the Sharks could very well decide to let some key players go in exchange for draft picks or even rights to players they know will never sign with them. The latter is obviously the very worst case scenario and not as likely to happen, but file that one away just in case.
As for season ticket holders looking to cancel their tickets or even resell them, that choice is strictly your decision. If you are dropping tickets for personal economic reasons such as having to do some hard line budgeting, that’s one thing and completely understandable. I have a good friend who’s dropping his tickets to he can send his daughter to a good school. A good education in life is far more important. Good reasons also include dropping tickets solely because you need more money for the basics in life. Sports tickets are a major expense and if you no longer can afford it nobody will blame you and it is totally understandable. It does not make you any less of a Sharks fan either. You have to do what you have to do, that’s part of life.
If you are dropping your tickets however because you are still pissed off at the team for losing they way they did in this past post season, sure you could do that but really think about if first. I am not going to try to convince you or anyone else to keep your seats. However keep in mind why your got them in the first place. We cannot do anything about what just happened. We cannot do anything as far as who stays or leaves the team or organization. We cannot even do anything about the TV deal or Drew Remenda. However you are a shareholder of the team irregardless of what Hasso Plattner or anyone else thinks. It does not even matter what another teams fanbase thinks. Whatever the hell they think is irrelevant. You are a Sharks fan and you are the 7th man on the ice (the goalie is the 6th man). If you are going to drop your tickets because you are angry, you have to know that no reasonable person, owner of GM can promise a Stanley Cup. No team can promise that either (I can guarantee you the Kings never promised their fans a Stanley Cup. Three years ago it wasn’t even a thought). If you drop your tickets for that reason, you do have that right as sometimes you have to go with your “Plan B”. However keep one thing in mind, Plattner has a “Plan B” too. (Hint: it’s Seattle, Washington...don’t laugh. Plattner will call your bluff in no time flat).
Alex Stalock Returns- The Sharks resigned goalie Alex Stalock to a new deal worth $1.6 million over the next two seasons. Stalock had it not been for a career threatening injury a few years ago may have been with the franchise sooner. Stalock earned his new deal as he showed he can not only handle the pressures that go on with being between the pipes for team teal, he actually thrives on the pressure and actually plays better with the game being intense. What Stalock did this past season will only prepare hin perhaps for the time that he may become the Sharks top goal tender on the roster. Every time I watched Stalock, he was impressive. Even in games where he was on the wrong end of the score, he never quit on the game or on a play. He played a full 60 minutes even when the team didn’t. If you want to look at how to become highly a successful goalie in the NHL, look just to the south at Jonathan Quick as an example. Quick is not afraid to get in a teammates face and demands that his team gives a full effort. His team responds. This is what Stalock will need to do, he has the tools to be successful and many of the same abilities that Quick has. Stalock is certainly not at Quick’s level now, but given the opportunity and time he can get there but needs the help of his teammates as any goalie would. As for Antti Niemi, it will be interesting to see what happens with him. Niemi won a Cup with Chicago four years ago and still has good qualities, but this past season was certainly not his best. I do not know if he will remain with the Sharks. He could just as easily be the opening night goalie for team teal as he could be with another team. Niemi seems to be the mostly likely candidate to be traded as the Sharks could still get some value for him. Regardless of what happens with Niemi, look for Stalock to be in strong competition for the Sharks number one net minder job.
NHL Off-season Moves of Note- The Anaheim Ducks announced that Jonas Hiller, Saku Koivu and former Shark Daniel Winnik will not be returning to Orange County next season. With Koivu being 39 and Winnik being a journeyman, those two moves aren’t all that surprising. However Hiller was a bit of a shock when you consider he was one of the more stalwart goalies in the NHL. Injuries plus the emergence of Frederick Anderson and John Gibson was enough apparently for the Ducks to send Hiller packing. Could the Sharks pick up Hiller should Niemi be dealt elsewhere? Perhaps. However if you are thinking of bringing him in, he will need to pass a physical and hopefully he will still have enough of his skills which earned him the nickname “Hiller the Shark Killer.”. Also, former Shark Jamie McGinn has signed a two-year $5.9 million dollar deal to remain with the Colorado Avalanche. The New York Rangers will be buying out Brad Richards contact. As for the Sharks, GM Doug Wilson is emphasizing the need for a rebuilt and for the Sharks being a “Tomorrow Team”. While some rebuild is needed, you cannot forget about the core you still have and can build around. What DW decides to do here remains to be seen.
Clearing One Item Up- Last week’s “My Two Cents” took a different approach which has left some questions that I wanted to clear up. First off, it was NOT to imply that the Sharks were up for sale and that Hasso Plattner was looking to sell the team. The Sharks are not for sale, the disclaimer is mentioned in the article. The reason for the article was to explore how the Sharks might look if they had different ownership at the helm. I am aware that Plattner would never sell the franchise to Larry Ellison. The reason that I mentioned Ellison was that he like Plattner has very deep pockets. Where Plattner took a somewhat impassive approach to the Sharks playoff loss, Ellsion (along with the also mentioned Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer) would be ones who would demand answers and would do all they could to put the Sharks in the best position to win a title. I do not get the same feeling with Plattner. Many disagreed with the article which is what I expected and I even understand why. I respect that and am grateful for the feedback even from the harshest of the critics. However many more actually agreed with the article as being on point. The purpose was to simply wake up the fan base to what’s going on. This is your team too, but you may have to fight to keep it. If this news of this week is indication of what’s going on with the franchise, you now see why I’m critical of Plattner and SJSEE. From what it appears, there has been a ton of mismanagement going on under their watch. All the while the Kings have won two Stanley Cups while Anaheim has one in the last seven years. I no longer think it’s a coincidence. Greatness starts at the top. At times, so does mismanagement. Hence my concerns, hence the article.
Non-Hockey Item: Tony Gwynn- This weeks worst news to me really had nothing at all to do with either the San Jose Sharks or hockey itself. On Monday (June 16th), the sports world lost one of the most classiest men ever to don any professional uniform in any professional sport. San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn passed away in Poway (near San Diego) at the age of 54 after losing a long bout with oral cancer. If you are a baseball fan Gwynn needs no introduction. Gwynn in his playing career was a consummate professional who took to his baseball career in the same way any true craftsman takes to their chosen trade. In his career, Gwynn hit .338 for his career and had the second highest overall batting average of any player since World War II (second only to Ted Williams). Gwynn also worked to be a great outfielder and would be one of those who arrived at the ballpark first and turned out the lights as the last one to leave late at night. His love for the game and love for life were unparalleled. Gwynn was a teammate that others who played with him said he was always was one they could depend on just to be there. Gwynn spent his whole playing career with the Padres organization. He had opportunities to go to bigger markets but wanted to remain in San Diego because it was special to him. Gwynn would pay it forward after his playing career ended in 2001 as he would go on to become the head baseball coach at his alma mater San Diego State. Once at SDSU, Gwynn helped make many improvements to the team facilities and stadium which he freely paid for out of his own pocket. Gwynn would do the same thing for local area high schools and youth sports organizations. Gwynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 alongside Cal Ripken Jr.
Gwynn not only was a great baseball player, he was a great person who wanted more than anything just to give back and be an ordinary everyday Joe. He did not just want to be known as someone who was the Padres best ever player, he just wanted to blend in with his community and be an intricate of part of it which he was. Gwynn was the best example of not only how one should conduct himself on the field, but also off the field as well. Regardless of whether a professional athlete plays in the NHL, NFL, NBA or MLB, Gwynn was the one example that everyone could follow and look up to. Gwynn was not once in a generation, he was once in a lifetime. You can’t replace him, but you can be a winner just from living, going about your chosen profession and playing your sport of choice as he did. The right way.
...just my two cents...
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