The Chicago Blackhawks won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in exhilarating, triple-overtime fashion on Wednesday night. The game itself was a great omen for hockey — it appears two highly competitive teams are facing off for an exciting Stanley Cup Championship. It should be compelling hockey, which means more eyes will be turning towards NBC to watch it. People paying attention to hockey is a good thing, right?
The Chicago Blackhawks are involved in a Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four years, meaning it’s the second time in four years both noon-to-3 hosts on KNBR have dusted off their old Blackhawks fan cards and brought them into the studio. While I generally do a good job of avoiding 680 during the lunch hour, I’m a regular listener to Damon Bruce. There’s been no shortage of Blackhawks gloating on 1050 lately, and Thursday in particular, Bruce made it all about the Sharks.
Okay, let’s back up. Bruce made San Jose his punching bag du jour after they got knocked out by the Kings. The usual Sharks memes had sufficed: they’re not tough enough, they’ll never win a cup with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, they don’t have killer instinct. These themes continued, only more vehemently, after the Blackhawks took Game 1 of the Final.
Troll so hard. RT @DamonBruce: Had any San Jose Sharks been involved in this game, they would’ve have died two periods ago!
— Ruthless Sports Guy (@Ruthless_Sports) June 13, 2013
Damon must have missed the Blackhawks’ acquisition of Michal Handzus, but in his defense, it was a quiet move at the trade deadline, during the regular season. Either way, his opening monologue for Thursday’s show proved he was paying attention:
There is just a level of play which you have to have in order to be a champion. It is a level of play and a style of play that can only be set by the leaders of your team. And I’ll tell you right now, the leaders of the Blackhawks, the leaders of the Boston Bruins, if ever get into a fight with the leaders of the San Jose Sharks, the Sharks are all dying that day. You know what Zdeno Chara would do to Patrick Marleau? Do you have any idea what he would do to him? He would kill him. Absolutely kill him. Joe Thornton would be, “oh, look at all the finesse of Joe Thornton.” Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara would just come in and just be like BAM! How ‘bout that? Can’t have too much finesse in your game when you’re getting carried off the ice on a stretcher. Oh but he does the little things! You know what? That’s why you go nowhere, because as you’re focused on the little things, real hockey teams are focused on the big things. Like big hits, big shots, put it on the goal.
I’m not trolling you, Sharks fans. I’m the truth serum that you hope your front office finally hears.
Let’s take it from the top. Do you know what Zdeno Chara would do to about 95% of the players in the NHL? He would kill them. Absolutely kill them. He’s a 6-9, 256-lb physical freak. The list of players he would kill includes Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Marleau’s game has never been molded around physicality, but then again, neither has Kane’s. After all, the Blackhawks’ star has never taken a fighting major in his NHL career. We know Thornton fights, though. Here’s an example.
Different players play different roles for hockey teams. Marleau is a goal-scorer, and he’s second in playoff goals among active players (57) behind only Jaromir Jagr (78). Thornton is 12th in active playoff points leaders (ahead of Marleau at 13th) with 97. He was praised by many as having his best playoff performance this postseason.
The guy who was supposed to be “killing people” for the Sharks was serving a five-game suspension during the Kings series, but that’s neither here nor there.
Moving right along. Bruce took a break from the Sharks, but couldn’t make it to the end of his second segment before opening up on them again:
All you need to do is watch the Stanley Cup Finals to know why the Sharks have never been there. There is a level, there is a gear that you must have to skate in that series that the Sharks are incapable of finding. Some guy last night said, “Damon, we never say bad things about your Cubs.” Alright, well first of all, why would you? They’re absolutely no threat to anyone, and unlike the Sharks, they have not been in the playoffs falling short every year for over a decade now. You can tell me how bad the Cubs are at finishing the sentence when they start one. The Sharks have been stuck on the same paragraph for over a decade, and bring back the same authors thinking that it will finish differently. It’s insane. Go ahead, bring back Marleau and Thornton next year, see where that gets you.
Okay, the Cubs over the Sharks. Here’s a weird sentiment. Would you rather have a team that’s been to the playoffs in 16 of their 22 years of existence, or a team that’s been to the playoffs only four times in the same span? A team with a 22-year championship drought, or a team with a 103-year championship drought?
Fun fact: before winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks’ last appearance in the Final was 1991. They got swept by the Penguins. The last time they won a Cup? 1961. Maybe they lacked the toughness needed to win a championship during their 49-year drought. If only they had Bruce to tell them exactly what they were missing!
Next, he started in on the TV ratings for Game 1, which were apparently phenomenal. But he pulled no punches when including one of his latest potshots at Sharks fans:
I wonder what the rating was in San Jose. The reason why Sharks fans are so clueless is because they stop watching when their team is out, so they’ve never seen what a real champion is. The more you watch teams that aren’t the San Jose Sharks, the more it’s obvious what the Sharks need. They need an infusion of bad ass that they’ve been unable to find in any move that they’ve made.
This train of thought started last week, when Bruce was talking about a Sharks fan he met at a bar who told him he stopped watching hockey once the Sharks were eliminated. As we know, a sample size of one is always indicative of an entire population, so that guy’s decision to stop watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs undoubtedly reflects every Sharks fan’s decision to stop watching as well.
I don’t know, maybe it’s because I write about the Sharks, but I feel obligated to watch the sport I cover, not just the team I like. You know, just in case I need to know something about it later. I know I’m not alone, however. I have plenty of Sharks fans on my timeline frequently live-tweeting Stanley Cup Playoff games that don’t include their favorite team.
Maybe it’s Doug Wilson who’s not watching. Think of all the helpful pointers he’s been missing!
All told, Bruce spent about 35 of his first 40 minutes on what’s wrong with the Sharks. The solution? Get rid of Marleau and Thornton (without a single mention of no-trade-clauses). Get tougher. Hit harder. Stop focusing on the little things. Try to do big things instead. Truth be told, Bruce will probably get his wish after the 2013-14 season, when both players are unrestricted free agents. Until then, his Marleau-Thornton witch hunt is about as realistic for the San Jose as his “trade for Darrelle Revis, win a Super Bowl” theory was for the 49ers.
In the end, few Sharks fans can disagree with the frustration. Chicago is a better team than San Jose, and had they advanced past the Kings they probably wouldn’t have made it further. Was this another in a long line of Sharks teams good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make it over the top? Sure, but the “disappearing act of Thornton and Marleau” fallacy had little to do with it, and neither does the idea that Sharks fans stop watching hockey after their beloved team is eliminated.
I used to think more Sharks coverage on sports talk radio was a good thing. I’m starting to wonder if they’re better off ignored.