Training camp begins

The rookies have come to town, headed to Colorado to play against (more experienced) Avalanche and Ducks rookies, losing both games.  Meanwhile, those with under 50 games of NHL experience have been getting drilled by the NHL Sharks staff.

Starting Thursday, the rest of the guys (not still in World Cup of Hockey participation) will have their chance, and a few try out players will be seeking a contract (including some prospects).

The U50 and rookies have been skating and scrimmaged on Wednesday.  I noted that many of the drills seem to focus on speed – both offensively and defensively.  (Woe to the defenseman or forward who needs to improve his edge work. It’ll be obvious to the casual viewer that improvement is needed.) Guessing this is a chance for the organization to identify which players can skate faster/fastest, which was an issue against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Sharks appear to be about $1m under the cap to start the season (this may change, slightly, as players are assigned to Worcester and the NHL roster clarifies).

The initial camp roster has no veteran PTOs (Professional Try Out).  This means that the Sharks really do want to give their younger players a chance to play their way onto the NHL roster.  There are seven prospect try outs on the roster, the same as the initial rookie camp roster. (Two haven’t been seen since the rookie camp “ended”, but no releases have been announced.)  With 45 players under contract (two which can slide if they don’t make the NHL roster), there is room to sign some of those try out players, or vets on PTOs around the league for more depth.  (Last season the Sharks did bring Zubrus in on a PTO, but that was after the season started and camp ended.)

Should be a competitive camp.  Vets should not be complacent and rookies may surprise.  The action starts Friday on the ice.

What a difference a year makes

2015-16 had a much better result than the 2014-15 season.  46-30-6 compared to 40-30-9.  So a six win improvement.

Last summer, it was noted that the basic additions of Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Martin Jones would only “add” about 3 wins per WAR.  Can the emergence of Donskoi account for the rest?  Probably not, but it definitely was a team effort to get the additional six wins.

In the chart, one can see wins and losses by goal differential for the regular season. The team seemed to be alternating some periods of wins and losses until the biggest positive differential in January.  Most folks have set this as the start of the Sharks’ season turn around.  After that period, it definitely had more wins than losses.  Pundits have attributed this to the Sharks finally “getting” DeBoer’s system and playing well together.

Whatever the cause, the Shark did make the playoffs and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  And even though they had four more wins than they’d ever had in the playoffs, they still came two wins short of winning the Cup. (And they are the envy of twenty-eight other teams.)

How’d I do on guessing last season’s opening roster?  Pretty good. Donskoi kinda replaced Torres in the lineup, but Goodrow essentially spent the season in the AHL. Smith followed soon after, replaced by Zubrus.

The Sharks did exceed most pundits’ predictions (of them not even making playoffs).  One even was surprised (still in August 2016) they had exceeded expectations by going as far as they did.  (Amazingly, so many pundit predictions are so far off from reality, either way, that it can be laughable, or sorrowfilled.)

How will 2016-17 go?  There’s 30 days until camp starts and 39 (Logan Couture!) days until the puck drops.  A lot to watch with injuries (from World Cup, exhibition games and camp) and chemistry between players to help determine the season opening roster.  (But I’ve penciled in Dell for backup duty and Meier among the NHL forward lines.  And put a few guys from the 15-16 NHL roster on my “gotta-watch-out-or-will-end-up-in-AHL” list too.  Competition will be keen.)

News flash: Hertl won’t play at the World Cup tournament for Czech Republic as he’s still recovering for knee injury he suffered in Stanley Cup Finals, but expected to be ready for NHL season start.