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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Cheechoo

(Disclaimer: I haven't actually seen any preseason games so this is all based on stats sheets, summaries, and hearsay. But numbers don't lie.)

Man, does it suck right now to be Jonathan Cheechoo or what? After last season's reasonable post-injury second half, you'd think that Cheech be feeling pretty good about things and settling in for a season next to good buddy Joe Thornton and potting in a good 40 or so goals. If you looked at Cheech's goals-per-game clip once he finally recovered from double-sports hernia surgery, it's about what you'd expect from a Rocket Richard winner.

I'm guessing when Todd McLellan first put his lines together, Cheechoo wasn't too happy about being bumped off of Thronton's wing. Ron Wilson had done that before but that was mostly to help Cheechoo find his game again while he was recovering from injury. From all accounts, Cheech is in the best shape of his career and he claims to be lighter and quicker than before, so this isn't a strategic move to accommodate injury.

Preseason, of course, is only the preseason, but it's still gotta be disconcerting to Cheechoo that 1) he's off the top line and 2) his ice time hasn't been that great so far. Here's his line from each of his preseason games:

Game 1: 5-2 win vs. Anaheim, 14:54 ice time, 1 assist, 2 shots, 0 missed shots
Game 2: 5-1 loss vs. Phoenix, 15:58 ice time, 0 points, 2 shots, 1 missed shot
Game 3: 4-3 OT win vs. Phoenix, 13:11 ice time, 0 points, 2 shots, 1 missed shot

Now you can say that his diminished ice time is due to McLellan's desire to keep everyone fresh (especially in the last game which was a back-to-back with travel) but Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are hitting the 20-minute mark in their games. However, what I find most disconcerting is that McLellan is preaching shots on goal and Cheechoo, who's got a dynamite shot in all forms, is hardly firing the puck off.

Luc Robitaille (cheap pop from Kings fans) used to talk about how he didn't think too much about shooting, he just shot as hard and as often as possible. The idea was that you get your shots off and get into a rhythm with them. I get the sense that Cheechoo's not doing that so far, and I don't know if he's got his head up his butt from being demoted or what. It's not like he needs Joe Thornton to score; this is a guy who put in 28 goals with Mike Ricci as his center through a combination of tenacity and lots of shots from all sorts of crazy angles. Thornton obviously makes this better with his passing, but he should still be a 30-goal guy without Big Joe.

Am I fretting about a few preseason games? Maybe a little bit, but the preseason is where habits develop, and habits can turn into bad trends which can turn into bad seasons. Shoot the damn puck, Cheech.

11 comments:

Earl Sleek said...

I see where your concern is Mike, but personally I see Cheechoo as a guy who's so mercurial that I think it should be illegal to do any three-game studies on the guy. He'll probably pot 8 goals in his next three games or something and we'll have to talk about pre-printing his name on the Richard Trophy.

Of course, I wouldn't mind a shot-timid version of Cheechoo -- better than the Duck killer we used to see.

RudyKelly said...

LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, habit. Where are the Sharks getting their scoring this year? I see Thornton, Clowe, and a bunch of question marks. (And even Clowe's coming off a big injury so it's not like he's guarantedd anything.)

Ian said...

Where are the Sharks getting their scoring this year? I see Thornton, Clowe, and a bunch of question marks.

The official line is that Marleau and Cheech will rebound from off-years, and Michalek will improve on his OK production from the last couple years. Thornton is Thornton, which means 90+ points with a nickel and a wish on his wings.

If Pavelski and Clowe and Setoguchi have good years, and the above is all true, the Sharks have a really good offense.

But that's a lot of optimistic production. The pessimist in me says to count on at least one of Marleau, Cheechoo, and Michalek to have a sub-par year for one reason or another. Michalek has the size and skill to be a dominant winger, but just hasn't put it all together consistently. If he struggles, I could see him being dealt for another scoring forward.

Anonymous said...

Doubtful that any of them have sub-par years. If they do, then does that count as being "on the decline" or in Cheecho's case, "lost a step since injury?"

Sarah said...

...mercurial...

That right there is why I tell my students it's not always what you read, its that you do read. Now I'm not advocating Perez Hilton is as good for your scholarly growth as, say, Plato. But hey, I just picked up new vocabulary on my favorite hockey blog. You, Earl, again prove your awesomeness.

That aside, I agree Rudy and Ian. To bank on those three having to have awesome seasons is a gamble. Until proven otherwise, the offense will, again, be a question mark. Such is life when your "good on paper" guys are wildly inconsistent in production and growth.

Earl Sleek said...

The pessimist in me says to count on at least one of Marleau, Cheechoo, and Michalek to have a sub-par year for one reason or another.

Haha, you guys said "sub-par", so I get to link to one of my favorite old posts of mine.

Basically, the optimist should say that these Sharks players will have "sub-par" years, and the pessimist should say that they will have "terrific" years.

If you follow my stupid grammar logic, that is.

Mike Chen said...

Maybe I'm drinking the teal Kool-Aid, but I'm convinced that Marleau will return to 80-90 point status. He just seems like a different player after he pulled his head out of his ass last February -- and he was consistent after that point and way grittier than he'd been in the past. Just seemed like a turning point.

Michalek I think will have a decent but unspectacular 65-point season. Cheech, however, is a freakin' wild card. If he's healthy, he should product at somewhere around his normal pace but who knows. Maybe it's his year to have his head up his ass.

Anonymous said...

Cheechoo did indeed fade into the background. He does get the puck, but he always waits to be in the perfect position, just shoot the damn thing.

You guys forgot the Sharks new hero, JR. Roenick should be shooting and assisting tons of goals this season.

Honestly, the Sharks are a complete question mark. They seem to have no problem pulling it together in the regular season when they have to. But come playoff time they completely loose their shit to the pressure. We'll see what the new coach can do. Go Sharks!

Steve said...

I was at the Sharks v. Phoenix game in San Jose. Marleau missed on a couple of chances that I think Cheech or Pavelski would have buried.

I think where the Sharks will surprise this season is with defenseman scoring. Blake and Boyle were putting shot after shot on the net. I'd like to see Clowe post up in front a little more, especially with those cannons from the point. Even Semenov has been shooting and doing a good jup of jumping up in the play.

For the Sharks this year the amount of potential they have is astounding!

1) Goal scoring defenseman added
2) Healthy Cheech
3) Marleau coming out of a slump
4) 'Jumbo' Joe Thornton doing what he does best
5) Michalek maybe living up to his potential? Fingers Crossed!
6) Healthy Clowe
7) Pavelski/Setoguchi/Mitchell (when he comes back)showing why they deserve their spot.
8) J.R. Being J.R
9) Nabby!

I'm not sure why people arent picking them for cup glory! They have all the components to be a cup winner.

Yeah they choked in the playoffs a few too many times in a row, but given the potential stars they have on their team, I cant write this team off!

Earl Sleek said...

I'm not sure why people arent picking them for cup glory!

Well, for one, they've been my pick for the last two years, and I'm sick of looking like an idiot...

Nobody (I think) is questioning the Sharks' potential. That's firmly solid. However, year after year of not meeting their potential means that really only the stubbornly optimist uses "best case" in projecting their season/postseason. Sure, it's possible, but until it actually happens, I'm taking more conservative bets.

Steve said...

I know what you're saying.

Maybe 4th time's a charm?