Archive for 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

As an employee of Apple, I’m not exactly sure how much or even if I should blog about anything Apple-related, but Steve Jobs’ passing has seemed to transcend Apple, iPhones and iPads, or even technology. The news has struck a chord with the world. There are so many Steve tributes out there, but one of the best has come from President Obama on the White House blog, and I think I will just leave it at this.

Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.

Tayte Hits the 4 Month Mark!

For Tayte’s four-month anniversary, I took his picture to match his brothers’ 4 month old pictures. I loved the one I took of Caleb so much I made sure to take the same one of Tyler. And now it’s Tayte’s turn!

Babies at 4 Months

On Your Choice of Hockey Sticks

A little background on this post. Certain great NHL players have deals with gear manufacturers to use their stuff exclusively. Check out “Team Easton” and the Bauer Athletes. They parade around in their gear and promote their stuff not only on the ice but in marketing. Because of their deals, the players are limited to using only what the manufacturer offers–which shouldn’t be a problem if the players love the brand and their equipment.

I remember reading earlier this summer that Ovechkin decided not to renew his contract with CCM and this morning I read he’s signed a deal with Bauer! From that, I’ve read some articles about how Ovie has favored Bauer sticks over CCM ones for a while now–some articles even draw parallels from more successful seasons to the seasons he used Bauer sticks!

Ovie
Ovechkin with his familiar yellow laces, now in full Bauer get-up

Of course there are many more factors into Ovie’s point production than simply his choice of stick, but as a hockey player I can say that besides your skates, your choice of stick is the other piece of equipment that impacts your game the most in that it has a direct impact on your shot, passing, and puck-handling. I’m guessing that Ovechkin is more most with his shot in his choice of stick.

me
I’m so happy to be playing hockey in my budget gear!

Personally, I’m a big fan of Bauer gear–most of my hockey equipment is made by Bauer and Reebok. I do have to agree with Ovie on his choice of stick brand though. I noticed a huge difference in my shots when going from a very old, very stiff aluminum Easton from 10 years ago to a modern Bauer Vapor X:20. I felt the whip from the low kick-point as soon as I was in the middle of taking my first shot with my new stick. The shot definitely had more zip to it and the sensation of a new composite stick flexing that much when taking my shot was very weird.

And the X:20 is by no means a great stick–it is close to Bauer’s bottom-of-the-barrel in it’s available line of hockey sticks. I can only dream about using one of those ultra-light, super-expensive APX sticks but I imagine the differences between a $50 stick and a $250 one are pretty big.

Hockey is a very gear-heavy sport. If you’re a great player like Ovechkin then it probably doesn’t matter what brand equipment you’re using, but like we see with professional athletes of every sport, they look for every edge over their competition, no matter how slim.

Conference Finals 2011: Sharks v Canucks

The Shark vs The Canuck

Quick Round 2 Recap

After Game 3 with the Sharks leading the series 3-0, I was looking like a genius with my analysis of the series. Turns out the Red Wings gave the Sharks all they could handle and more, bringing the series to 3-3 and a monumental Game 7. The Sharks got it done though, preventing what could have been the lowest point in franchise history, choking away a 3-0 lead for only the 4th time in NHL history.

But the important thing is that didn’t happen and the Sharks eliminated the Red Wings for the second year in a row, moving on to face the Canucks for the privilege of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals!

Conference Finals …again

The Sharks are in the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row! This time last year, they had just disposed of the feared Red Wings in 5 games and Sharks fans like me were confident they would be able to eliminate the 2nd-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. It turns out we severely underestimated players like Niemi, Bolland, and Byfuglien. The Sharks were swept by the future Stanley Cup champs. This time around the Sharks are the 2nd-seeded underdogs against the President’s Trophy winners Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks were the President’s Trophy winners for good reason: they dominated the regular season: 1st in goals for, 1st in goals against, 1st on the power play, 3rd in the penalty kill, 2nd in plus-minus. Despite being such a powerhouse in the regular season, they haven’t steamrolled the competition in the playoffs like everyone expected. The Sedin twins, scoring leaders in the regular season, are inexplicably struggling in the post-season: a minus-8 so far. The Canucks played 7 games against 8th-seeded Chicago, and despite expectations, did not have an easy time with Nashville. San Jose is a much better team than either of their opponents thus far, and should give Vancouver a much bigger challenge.

The Captain Joe Factor

The Sharks are playing the best hockey that I have seen them play since I have been a fan. Joe Thornton has shed his “No Show Joe” nickname, setting the example as captain with hard work in all areas of the ice. He has been playing top minutes and despite linemate Patrick Marleau having an off-series, the Sharks’ top line was the best line against Detroit.

“People have criticized Joe Thornton, said he’s not a playoff guy, but the passion he played with [in game seven] is just a clear example of what Jumbo brings to our team. He’s our Captain, he’s got to be our catalyst. It’s going to start with him. He worked extremely hard and it rubbed off on everyone else.”
–Devin Setoguchi after Game 7

Joe Thornton’s performances so far in the playoffs have silenced critics for now–and has earned him attention of a different kind.

Sharks, the Underdogs

Whereas in the series against the Red Wings, opinions were split, nobody is picking the Sharks to win this one. That doesn’t mean anything though. In years past when the Sharks were huge favorites to win it all, they have fallen flat, exiting in the 2nd–even 1st round! Maybe the all that expectation and pressure, now on the Canucks will work to the Sharks’ favor. The Sharks are in for a long, tough series against a team that is on paper is better than they are. However, I think the Sharks are actually playing better, and have gone up against tougher opponents in these playoffs, and I truly believe they can pull it off.

Going further, I believe the Sharks have all the pieces in place for a Cup-winning team: a captain who is showing he knows what it takes to win, a Cup-winning goaltender that the Sharks defensemen are actually playing for, an underrated defense that has been performing well recently, and a team that has overcome adversity and keeps fighting to find a way to win.

Prediction: To the detriment of my heart health, Sharks take it in 7 and go to the Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history! In their 20th anniversary year!

History Will Be Made

The Sharks earned a few more “History will be made” spots out of this series:

Semifinals 2011: Sharks v Red Wings

The Shark vs The Red Wing

Quick Round 1 Recap

The Sharks got it done against the Kings, though it wasn’t the cakewalk we all thought it would be. After that series, I have even more respect for the young Kings team–especially Jonathan Quick who stole Game 2 and was down right amazing in Game 6.

The Sharks’ forwards did what they have been doing all season long–scoring was spread out between all four lines, and when the Sharks were playing their game, the Kings had no answer for the 2nd and 3rd lines. The Sharks showed a resilience I’ve been seeing since the 2nd half of the regular season, coming from behind a 4-0 deficit in Game 3 and clutch performances under pressure, winning 3 games in overtime. And we got 2 History Will Be Made commercials out of it:

Next…

So the Sharks advance to the Semifinals to face their arch-nemesis Red Wings. Unlike last year when I was very, very afraid to be facing the Red Wings, I feel really good about this matchup. Both are very good teams, but the Sharks this year seem to have the Wings’ number. During the regular season, they beat them 3 out of 4 times. In those 3 wins, the Sharks outscored the Wings 12-6. In fact, since landing the starting job as the San Jose netminder, Niemi has not lost to Detroit.

So what, the regular season is much different than the playoffs, you say? If include last year’s playoffs in those numbers, that makes the Sharks beating the Wings 7 out of 9 times. If you look at playoff history between the two teams, this year will be their fifth playoff meeting. Right now it’s split: Detroit won in 1995 and 2007, San Jose in 1994 and 2010.

I was actually at the HP Pavilion for the last game these two teams played. I was confident but my game companions were not. I brought up all the points mentioned earlier and how this year’s Sharks are pretty strong against the Wings. The only argument they had for fearing the Red Wings was, “but it’s the Red Wings.” The Sharks went on to win that game pretty easily, 3-1.

Just like it’s time to take the “choker” label off the Sharks, it’s time to shed this irrational fear that we Sharks fans have of the Red Wings. I’m not saying the Red Wings are incapable of beating the Sharks, but we Sharks fans have no reason to fear Detroit just because it’s the Red Wings. This year’s Sharks team can stand toe-to-toe against them, and if we don’t beat them, we’ll give them a good fight.

I think we’ll beat them.

Prediction: Sharks in 6. Big Joe has a great series, Lidstrom doesn’t retire after the end of the season.

More in-depth matchup analysis on NHL.com

Quarterfinals 2011: Sharks v Kings

Sharks v Kings

I love this time of the year: the Stanley Cup playoffs! Just like last year, I’m going to give my predictions for every round the Sharks are in.

The Western Conference was so close this year that even with all but 1 day left in the regular season, we didn’t know who the Sharks would match up with in the first round until the Blackhawks lost to the Red Wings earlier this morning. For the first time in NHL history, all three California teams are in the playoffs. And another first: the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet in the playoffs in a Battle of California quarterfinals.

It should be a good series to watch…for us! Sure the Kings have a cooler NHL Guardian, but the team isn’t the same without their number one and number two leading scorers. The Sharks match up well against the Kings and though the series series is tied 3-3, the Kings won 2 of those 3 in shootouts–they’re a great shootout team. Unfortunately for them, no shootouts in the playoffs.

The Sharks have more size, more speed, more talent, more depth. The only thing the Kings have on the Sharks is their defense and a dangerous goaltender. The only way the Sharks can lose this series is if they underachieve big time, and I’m hoping that they’re past that now…

I actually like the Kings. They’re a good, likable young team and I picked them to have more success in the regular season. When the Sharks vs Kings match was first announced, I knew how we Sharks fans felt, but headed over to various Kings forums to see what they thought. Most Kings fans recognized that they’re the underdogs in this series and was surprised to see that they also have a mutual respect for Sharks and their fans. Just like us, they absolutely hate the Ducks and Stars. Of course, this respect for each other will all change after this first-ever playoff series between the two teams.

Sharks in 5. Quick steals a game and for tradition’s sake, Pavelski dominates the first round.

A more in-depth analysis of the matchup at NHL.com.

First Season of Fantasy Hockey Done!

It is done. My first ever foray into the world of fantasy sports ended with a better-than-expected playoff showing and finishing 3rd overall:

Fantasy Hockey

I had a pretty disappointing regular season run, ending 6th out of 8. I made the mistake of drafting Craig Anderson, Drew Doughty, and a couple other busts for the season. But that happened to everybody in the league, too.

Then came the playoffs! Just as in real life, it was filled with dramatic upsets and even a loss due to a technicality in the semifinals! The Imagination Movers had a pretty bad draw for the 1st round of playoffs, squaring off against my own brother who was coming off a late-season tear beating everyone in the league and moving up to 4th place. He hadn’t even lost a match-up in 9 straight weeks. Needless to say, I was expecting to be out in the first round, so I was just as surprised as everyone else when I upset the LA Boots! Oh yeah, and then in the semifinals I lost to the 7th seeded Dhunt’s Team who then got clobbered by the T-1000’s in our fantasy Stanley Cup.

T1000's victorious!

T1000’s victorious!

We Know the Outcome of the Western Conference

And now we can use the results of the playoffs in our league to predict the outcome of the Western Conference, using the standings as they are as of today:

Western Conference outcomeThe unfortunate results of the Western Conference.

Surprisingly (and unfortunately for us Sharks fans), I see this as completely plausible, except for maybe the Coyotes upsetting the Red Wings. The Preds will continue their long-standing tradition of a first-round exit, the Sharks will repeat their 2007 collapse against the Ducks, and the Canucks will finally have their revenge and eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champs. They’ll continue on to take out the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals.

I now understand how my friends at the office are so addicted to fantasy football and fantasy basketball. It was a blast and I can’t wait to do this again next season after the Sharks win the Cup this year.

Go Sharks!

365 Project: The First Month

It was the end of 2010, and my friend Aaron had just completed his 365 project and I was challenged to start my own. What better time to start than the beginning of the new year?

January has come and gone, and I have found out that it’s harder than I first thought to put up a good photo every day. I’ve been pretty good about taking photos every day, but at the end of some days I find myself needing a “good” picture for this project. There have been a more than a few times that I was scrambling to take a good photo around that house before midnight. Still it’s been a fun learning experience. It will be fun to look through my 365 Project photo set and see a real photo-journal of the year.

Here are some of my favorites from January:

January 3

January 3 – Tyler wanted me to take a picture of him with “his friends.”

January 10

January 10 – Glam shot of Caleb.

January 16

January 16 – We just can’t believe how amazing this apple corer / slicer / peeler is!

January 29

January 29 – Off to the races! The AWANA Grand Prix, held every year, is a big, fun event for kids and their dads. Caleb’s car made 5th overall!

Sharks at the Halfway Point

At a little past the halfway point in the season with the Sharks just coming off their 5th straight loss I felt compelled to jot down some thoughts about how the season is going so far. The season isn’t shaping up to be a followup of last year’s regular success, and for the first time in several years the Sharks are finding themselves in an actual fight to get back into a playoff spot.

Sharks in defeat

The D

As I wrote in my pre-season thoughts last fall, we all could see that the Sharks were not going to be as solid on the blueline as they were last year. I mentioned the younger D-men would have to step up and fill Rob Blake’s big shoes, but I didn’t expect our best D-men to have such a bad year. Vlasic, Murray and Boyle have not been solid defensive “stars” — Boyle himself is always the first to tell you when he has a bad night.

The Sharks are still missing that defenseman to replace or at least make up for in part, all that Rob Blake brought to the team. Besides his on-ice contributions — booming shots from the point and solid physical presence in their own zone — it looks like Blake had more of an effect on the Sharks than we thought. Of course he brought veteran leadership, but it’s now obvious that he had good chemistry with his linemate, Vlasic, who has struggled early in the season.

Huskins needs to contribute, especially for the amount he’s being paid. There are defensemen in this league that are paid half as much and contribute more on the stat sheet…which is nothing.

The goaltending was a big question at the beginning of the year, with the departure of longtime anchor Nabakov. I have actually been pleasantly surprised: Nittymaki and Niemi have both played very well–the Sharks have bigger problems than the goaltending…

The O

And as if the defense was enough to worry about, the Sharks forwards are under performing as well this year. What is supposed to be the Sharks’ strength, the best line in the first half of the 2009 NHL season last year is now mediocre — or worse — this year. Even though they technically aren’t a line anymore their individual contributions have been dismal. Jumbo Joe isn’t the offensive threat he was before for whatever reason. Marleau and Heatley disappear entirely for long stretches of games.

What happened to these guys?
What happened to you guys?

While Pavelski and Setogouchi are working hard, they are also having a disappointing season points-wise.

Clowe is having a breakout year, and much of it has to do with his linemate, rookie phenom and Calder contender, Logan Couture. The bad news? Logan left last night’s game with a brace and perceptible limp after being kneed by Colton Orr.

The 3rd Period

When watching the Sharks play, even if they have a big lead going into the 2nd intermission, I can never shake the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that Sharks are going to blow it. And the that feeling isn’t unfounded. The stats backup what we already know: The Sharks are the worst 3rd period team in the NHL. In the 3rd period, the Sharks are 27th (of 30 teams) for goals for, and 3rd in goals against! In an article about blown 3rd period losses, Fear the Fin puts it plainly:

From a winning percentage standpoint, San Jose sits at .762%, 27th in the NHL. St. Louis, Edmonton, and the New York Islanders have worse winning percentages, but have gone into the third period with a lead in far less games than the Sharks. No matter which way you decide to slice up the numbers, the returns are clearly lacking.

The State of the Sharks

The result? After 42 games, the Sharks are the 11th seed in the conference. If the playoffs were today, they Sharks would be out of the post-season for the first time since 2003, and only the second time in 12 years. The bad thing is that it looks as though the Sharks are no longer the elite status team they have been in past years. They’re no longer that feared date on an opposing team’s schedule.

So what should be done? I don’t know if anything can be done. Fans are calling for trading the big three or the firing of Todd McClellan or even Doug Wilson, but I don’t see any of that happening.

The big three are locked up with no-trade and no-movement clauses, and even if they waived it, we wouldn’t like what we got back. Would we really be happy with the reverse of the Joe Thornton or Dany Heatley trade? We have to remember that they, along with the team as a whole, are in a slump. Careers, like a hockey game, are filled with ups and downs and shifts in momentum. The big three are still among the top players in the NHL.

Fire McClellan for what? For the President’s Trophy in 2008 and the Conference Finals last year (losing to the eventual Cup champs)? And Doug Wilson is widely-regarded as one of the elite GM’s in the league. We could do a lot worse.

So the only thing it seems, is to wait, and let the losing streak shake out — at least until the off-season, when big changes are easier.

The trade-deadline is looming, and there might be help coming. I think the Sharks could look to move Setogouchi for a solid defenseman. Seto’s young and still has great trade value despite his off-year this year, and the Sharks need help on the blueline more than on offense.

The Bottom Line

It sounds hopeless, but the good thing is that there’s plenty of time to turn things around. The Western Conference is still so close that Sharks can easily move up with just a handful of wins. Since they moved from 4th to 11th with 5 losses, it looks as though a win or loss is worth 1 place in the standings if the other teams cooperate. They come out of their funk and they’ll end up with a spot in the playoffs. When they start playing to their ability, I still think they are a better team than Minnesota, Phoenix, Anaheim, Colorado–even Chicago, all of whom are currently higher in the standings.

Since I’ve been a Sharks fan they have always been a great regular season team, and are expected to top their division and be in the top 4 of the conference. In past seasons …say 2008, their top spot made them a little too comfortable — and then they get ambushed by the 8th seeded Ducks.

Jamie Baker did say one thing that I thought was somewhat of a silver lining — the way the season is shaping up, this will force the Sharks to play “playoff hockey” in February and March in order to earn their place in the playoffs. That might carry-over into the playoffs and make them a better post-season team. Think Philadelphia last year, who only made the playoffs in their last regular season game. They carried over that play into the playoffs and earned a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

The second-half of the 2010-2011 season will either be the most disappointing season in several years, or an inspiring rally back to the top. Let’s hope it’s the latter.