Kukla's Korner Hockey
from John Grigg of Sportsnet,
Biggest story line to watch: There’s really only one thing people are waiting to find out: What happens with deposed captains Thornton and Marleau? (That’s right. Did you forget that Marleau wore the “C” from 2004 to ’09?) Will management get its way and be able to move them. And will Wilson and McLellan have the cojones to play their veterans less if it helps make that happen? If they do, San Jose is sunk, because while they’re on the downside, Jumbo Joe and Marsie (or whatever Marleau’s nickname in the room is) are still effective players who’d be top six on just about any team in the league.
A secondary story here is goaltending. If Stalock continues to push Niemi, who will end up the starter?
Finally, is Hertl the real deal? A possible Calder nomination was scuttled by injury last year, but he scored the fifth-most goals in the league per 60 5-on-5 minutes last season. Can the 20-year-old keep that kind of production up?
2014-15 prediction: Anaheim, Dallas, L.A., Minnesota and St. Louis will all be stronger this season, while Chicago remains a standard—that’s six Western teams better than San Jose. You do the math.
NEW YORK, NY (September 23, 2014) – Premium TV network EPIX and the National Hockey League (NHL®) announced today that they have formed a partnership to produce and distribute a two-part original series, debuting on EPIX in December 2014, that will bring hockey fans onto the ice and behind-the-scenes with the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals as they prepare to compete in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, and the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks on their road to the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™.
Produced by 52-time Emmy award winner Ross Greenburg, the series will offer viewers an exclusive look inside the world of the NHL, with strategically placed cameras and microphones providing an all-access pass to players’ homes, locker rooms, training rooms, and the arena.
“The letter thing is I think overblown by people on the outside. Within this room, we’re confident going forward. If we have a captain, if we don’t have a captain, if someone else is the captain, we don’t really care. There’s enough leaders in here to do a good job.”
-Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. Much more on the Sharks from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo.
from David Pollak of the Mercury News,
Former Sharks captain Joe Thornton said Wednesday that he and his teammates went to Lake Tahoe for a bonding session last weekend to address whatever divide that might have developed in the locker room at the end of last season.
"We all have come together," said Thornton, who lost the captaincy last month as part of general manager Doug Wilson's call for a change in the team hierarchy and culture.
SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed defenseman Justin Braun to a five-year contract extension. The extension, which will commence next season, places Braun under contract with the Sharks through the 2019-20 season.
"Justin has emerged as one of our most well-rounded and dependable defensemen," said Wilson. "He's an excellent skater who excels in matching up against the opponents top players on a nightly basis and fits in well with our core group of younger players. We feel Justin has just scratched the surface of his talent and we are excited to have him under contract for the next six seasons."
from David Pollak of Working The Corners,
Q: I won’t pretend to know exactly what goes on in the room, but there are outward signs the Sharks weren’t one big happy family last spring, what with talk of being co-workers, not teammates. Is there a rift?
(McLellan) “I think when people speak, you have to listen and Doug has listened. . . . When I hear comments such as we were co-workers, not teammates, if I’m a player and I sat within 10 feet of these individuals throughout the year, I’m mad.
“I think it takes a lot more courage to speak to your teammates when you’re in the locker room and try and fix things than to stand after in a closed room without any teammates around and go that route.
“My issue isn’t necessarily with Patrick and Jumbo as ‘C’ and ‘A.’ We’re forcing some individuals that have these opinions to step up and show us. We’re kind of telling them, go ahead, repair things.
Unfortunately, the focal point is on Joe and Patty. They suffer from being that focal point. But for me, a lot is on a lot of other players.
from Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
There have been few players in the offseason NHL headlines more than Joe Thornton, who was first the subject of rampant trade rumors and later stripped of the club’s captaincy after four seasons when management made it clear there was an issue in the dressing room that reared its head in the playoff debacle against Los Angeles. Don’t expect the attention surrounding Thornton to die down any time soon, either, as the Sharks will attempt to fix the self-identified problem with essentially the same group.
Whether than can be done is debatable, and it’s not a reach to suggest that the fate of the Sharks’ 2014-15 season hinges on how Thornton adjusts to a role change both on and off the ice. Sharks associate coach Larry Robinson suggested in an interview earlier this summer that not everyone in the dressing room was receptive to the affable Thornton’s brand of humor, so maybe easing off a bit in that department is a good place for him to start.
It’s wholly unfair to blame Thornton alone the Sharks’ dressing room problems, though.
Why didn’t the younger players that had an issue with his approach go either to him, or the head coach, or the general manager to relay that there was a problem? The Sharks want to turn the team over to the younger core of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but the fact that none of those players (or others) were able to repair the rift doesn’t exactly reflect positively upon them, either.
from David Pollak of the Mercury News,
Tortora, the team's top business executive, discussed other aspects of the team's finances in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview.
He said the Sharks finished roughly $10 million in the red last season, an improvement over the previous two years but still not the sustainable business model sought by owner Hasso Plattner, who covered nearly all of that loss in what has become an annual cash call.
To better its economic picture, the team is hoping to improve its long-term TV deal with its broadcast partner, Comcast. Those talks have been continuing, Tortora said, and Comcast "remains receptive to working with us."
One report earlier had suggested that if the Sharks continue to suffer financial losses, the team would consider moving from San Jose with a new arena near Levis' Stadium in Santa Clara as one potential option.
Tortora again played down that likelihood, saying "our focus has been to figure out a long-term solution to stay in San Jose." While the team does not see the need for a new arena, he added, it is important to work cooperatively with the city "to figure out a way to maintain and fund the necessary capital repairs that a 21-year-old facility needs."
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
... Whew. The summer sure hasn't gone the way that the Sharks wanted, has it?
"It's gone exactly the right way we wanted," Wilson told me on the phone the other day.
See? There's where we all might get confused.
But during a lengthy and healthy discussion of all these matters, Wilson finally figured out a different way to frame his message. Or maybe he finally just said out loud what he has been thinking all along.
"I really want people on this team who are comfortable feeling uncomfortable," Wilson said. "That includes the general manager, the coaches and the players."
In that case, mission accomplished.
Heck, even as a lowly journalist trying to explain the Sharks, I don't feel comfortable telling you what exactly is going to happen this winter or if the team can still put together a decent run at a playoff spot. But I'm comfortable with that. I guess. I think.
This much, I do know: Wilson has given his coach a challenging task.
from Eric Gilmore at NHL.com,
How will the Sharks respond after their stunning first-round loss? -- The Sharks were humiliated after losing four straight games to the Kings. Most likely, they'll use that meltdown as motivation.
"The way we ended was disappointing to say the least, but it's something that we're going to have to look into the mirror, each one of us, and look to each other and all start pushing in the same direction," defenseman Jason Demers said.
"I think we still have that team that can go all the way."
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org