As I watched the beginning of Tuesday night’s Sharks game, I took an informal one-question poll of the one Sharks fan in my immediate vicinity:
“Evander Kane, huh?”
“Yeah man! It’s great to finally have some scoring punch on the wing!”
This wild disrespect for Patrick Marleau, who played plenty of wing and outscored Kane in each of the last four seasons, is admittedly typical but still baffling to a non-Sharks fan who viewed Patty’s passive stat-compiling with an impartial eye.
That being said, the excitement over Kane is both palpable and reasonable — and his impact is readily apparent to the viewer. That could not be said of Marleau.
Kane is a welcome jolt of energy to a Sharks offense that sits in the middle of the pack, 16th in the NHL in goals-per-game. He’s a big winger who impacts the game physically, a talent he put on display in his Tuesday debut with a few big hits in addition to two assists during the Sharks’ four-goal second period.
Most notably, Kane is not as old as his long NHL history would suggest. He won’t turn 27 until August, which puts him firmly in the midst of San Jose’s youth movement: younger than Melker Karlsson and Tim Heed, just eight months older than Joonas Donskoi. Kane is also on pace to break 50 points for the second time in his career.
Put simply, the Sharks have added a scoring wing who immediately made his presence felt on the ice, a pro in his ninth year who may still have his best hockey in front of him, a piece that — if all goes well — can fit right into a developing young core that should be ready to take center stage when the Thorntons and Pavelskis and Burnses of the world can no longer carry the water.
He may not average two points per game, or lead four-goal second periods every night, but the man named after a certain Heavyweight Holyfield can be the Real Deal for a Sharks squad still searching for its first Stanley Cup title.
Bay Area baseball sets up team-building philosophy test case
The conventional pop-wisdom on the A’s and Giants is clear: One franchise has won three World Series titles this decade, the other makes news for the wrong reasons — be it stadium site drama, sewage floods or trading away their best young talent.
The actual story is somewhat more complicated, of course.
Starting in 2010, with the Giants’ first championship season, San Francisco has made the playoffs just once more than Oakland, with the same number of division championships (two). The A’s have two of the three best seasons over that stretch, and the Giants’ 2017 was the worst season either team has had.
The most noteworthy distinction is that while the Giants have been at least moderately competitive every season besides last, Oakland has gone deep into the tank in the non-playoff years.
In other words, the primary difference between the Bay’s baseball teams comes down to operating philosophy — while Oakland lives in a perpetual state of tear-down rebuilds, the Giants have been in more of a reload mode, generally choosing to augment a stable core with veterans.
The ages of the respective rosters bear this out: The Giants should have four players 28 and under in their starting lineup and rotation, with Joe Panik the only position player in the bunch; the A’s have 11 guys in that category, including the entire starting rotation and the cornerstone corner infielders.
In a delightful confluence of circumstances for baseball nerds, the next several years should be a great barometer for the success of their respective strategies.
Oakland seems to have a young core they like, and that fans might reasonably and safely get attached to, along with a pile of prospects on the come; more or less the ideal situation for a rebuilding franchise. If the Matts (Olson and Chapman) on the corners are as good as everyone hopes, and guys like AJ Puk, Dustin Fowler and Franklin Barreto deliver on their potential, the 2021 A’s could be a force.
Meanwhile in China Basin, the course was firmly set on a different path with the offseason acquisitions of comparatively geriatric but historically productive 30-somethings Andrew McCutcheon and Evan Longoria. If they get fully healthy seasons from their many well-established veterans, you can believe they’ll be a playoff team, and we’ve seen what they can do if they get into the tournament. On the other hand, if things go bad it’s hard to even imagine what the 2021 Giants will look like.
I’m not sure either franchise had other options from a strategic perspective.
The Giants couldn’t tear things down around Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, especially given the apparent emptiness of their prospect cupboard. Say what you will about Oakland’s modus operandi and whether their spending limits are artificially self-imposed, we all knew they weren’t going to be adding expensive talent and it’s hard to imagine how doing so would have helped.
Warriors’ emergence as culture leaders tastes as sweet as June’s title will
Any real Warriors fan knows the call. Quoth Tim Roye: “The BAY’s team … is the BEST team!”
This is true now, and has been true mostly the whole time (pesky 2016 Finals notwithstanding) since the voice of the Warriors spoke the words. But Golden State’s participation in our sociopolitical culture over the past year-plus has made both halves of that momentous phrase stand out more than ever.
The Bay Area is a world-renowned melting pot of personalities and ideas. Most of us residents are proud of this identity — many transplants like me chose to make a home here in large part because of it — and the Warriors in turn do us proud when they live up to it.
The W’s were back in the news for their political positions as they visited Washington D.C. for Wednesday’s game against the Wizards — from Jacob Palmer’s piece in these pages to Anthony Slater’s question-and-answer session in the Athletic. Basketball results aside, they staked their position where they always have: On the side of open-minded tolerance, and caring compassion, and hope for positive change. In short, with the people.
With their choice to not simply skip the usual White House visit but replace it by taking a group of kids from Kevin Durant’s neighborhood to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the team spoke their values clearly. They also literally spoke about their values with every news outlet in the sports world, in their usual style — thoughtfully and open-mindedly.
That description fits the Bay Area’s general goal for sociopolitical discourse — if we can all keep our minds open and use our brains, perhaps we can all have a reasonable conversation about the world we find ourselves in.
The Warriors are the best team because of what they do on the floor, but they’re never more the Bay’s team than when they make their presence felt in the culture.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional who lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on 95.7 the Game, usually on weekends. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky; he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.
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