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.

Sharks @ World Cup of Hockey

Well, it’s about a month until the first preseason exhibition game.

But first, there’s the World Cup of Hockey (in Toronto), broadcast on ESPN/2. The preliminary round starts September 20, with the final (best of three) on September 27, 29 and October 1 (if needed).

And yes, there are a few Sharks participating.

  • USA: Joe Pavelski (rumored to be named the captain)
  • Canada: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture (injury replacement)
  • Czech Republic: Tomas Hertl; Milan Michalek (alum), Roman Polak (alum)
  • Finland: Joonas Donskoi
  • Team Europe: Mikkel Boedker, Christian Ehrhoff (Germany, alum), Thomas Greiss (Germany, alum)
  • No Sharks: Team North America, Sweden, Russia

ESPN even has put together a “All Snub” team (including Sharks goalie Martin Jones) that would be pretty good, if playing.

Players will be heading to their respected “country” team’s training camp, opening up on September 5.

Some of players have begun skating in preparation for the World Cup training camps.  (And joining other players in town early to prepare for their respective NHL and/or AHL training camps.)  Players in San Jose participating in the “Captain’s Skate” the past two weeks have included: Pavelski, Burns, Thornton; Ryan Carpenter, Nikolay Goldobin, Michael Haley, Patrick Marleau, Mirco Mueller.  (Plus former Junior Shark Igor Leonenko — invited to NHL St Louis Blues rookie camp, NJ Devil Jon Merrill; and former Sharks Daniel Winnik, Devin Setoguchi, Sena Acolaste.)

Rookie camps will open about September 15.  NHL (full) camps should be opening about September 22.

Time to make sure your jersey (or whatever your wear) to games is ready for the upcoming season.

Still, more time to wait until the puck drops (Vlasic sleeps until season opener).

Update: Hertl opted out of participation to further heal his knee.

RFAs re-signed – check

One of the items on General Manager Doug Wilson’s summer to-do list was re-signing his four Restricted Free Agents (RFAs).

And two weeks into the free agency period, that item can be checked off.

The four RFAs all re-signed for team-friendly, short term (max 2 years) deals.  (Hertl re-signed 6/29 for two years; DeMelo 7/11, two years; Carpenter 7/14, one year; Nieto 7/15, one year)

With the RFA signings, plus UFA signings of Schlemko, Boedekar and Kelly, the Sharks have 45 NHL deals signed (one slideable) and 5 AHL deals.

That may be enough to fill the NHL and AHL rosters for the season, with some extras in the ECHL.

But there’s still some possibility of additional signings, as well as some trades before the season opening rosters for the Sharks and Barracuda are set.

AHL Rule Changes for 2016-17

The AHL Board of Governors has announced a number of rule changes for 2016-17.  The most sweeping of which might be the change in how accumulating fighting majors may result in game suspensions.

Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”)

Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.

Eliminating (by threat of game misconduct) “staged” fights immediately after a faceoff, should reduce the number of fights. As may the automatic suspension after 10 or more fights.

The Barracuda are not riddled with returning players that fight.  Only one, Alex Gallant, accumulated double digits in fighting majors last season. I’ll just note that Gallant was at the development camp in July and working extra hard to be able to contribute more two-way play than just with his fists.

Another rule change is that after icing the offending team cannot call their timeout to rest players.  On the surface, this could result in additional goals being score.  Hopefully, it will not lead to more injuries from tired players.

And in a nod to the NHL and speeding up the game, there will not be a dry scrap (with Zambonis) before overtime.  (Just the ice crew with shovels.)  I never had a problem with the clock adding the dry scrape before OT; I felt it provided a better ice surface, free of snow.

So, all in all, these rule changes should not impact the Barracuda negatively this coming season.  But hopefully will result in more offense after icings.

Free Agent Frenzy – Day 1

(Post will be updated through the day as former Sharks get new deals and/or Sharks make a signing.)

Official NHL list of signings

Sharks sign David Schlemko to four year deal.

Sharks sign Mikkel Boedker to four year deal.

Sharks re-sign Aaron Dell to two year deal. (Think NHL backup this season and expansion draft dangle.)

Sharks re-sign Michael Haley to one year deal.

James Reimer signs with Florida Panthers; as does Jason Demers.

Jamie McGinn signs 3 year deal with Arizona Coyotes.

Alex Stalock signs with Minnesota Wild

Brian Campbell signs with Chicago Blackhawks; Brendan Mashinter re-signs with Chicago.

Carter Hutton signs 2 year deal with St Louis Blues

Jeremy Morin signs one year, two-way deal with Tampa Bay Lightning.

Karl Stollery signs with New Jersey Devils

Matt Irwin signs with Nashville Predators

Summer thoughts: the curious case of Patrick Marleau

How the mighty have fallen. Or is it just age?

For many years, Marleau, as the longest tenured Shark and a top offensive forward, was voted as the fan favorite each spring.  But in the last few seasons, he’s been surpassed by Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski in the fan voting.

His stats have been falling as well: from 70 points in 13-14 to less than 50 this past season (with his +/- going negative too). And he’s been moved from the top line(s) to the third line (but still on the top PP unit).

He is 36 today and has one more season left on a three-year $6,666,667 AAV contract.  The contract has a No Movement Clause (NMC), which means he cannot be traded nor demoted without his permission.

But there are many rumors swirling out there, and some fan dissatisfaction in his performance.  Not to mention the utter fall off in fan support for the entire team after losing to the Kings being up 3-0 in the opening round two years ago, and then missing the playoffs last year.

Now, I can argue that based on his past performance, the contract he signed THREE summers ago, and started two seasons ago, was justified.  But in the past two seasons, with the falling offensive production and two years of playoff flops/misses, today, he is not worth the contract he has.

And that’s probably one main reason for the fan dissatisfaction and rumors.  If he remained with good offensive numbers, or had a much (half?) smaller contract, there probably wouldn’t be such an outpouring of disappointment.  But if you have to focus displeasure on one player, Marleau might be the one guy who has disappointed the most.

There was a rumor last year that Marleau had asked to be traded.  It was never confirmed, but this year during the end of season interviews, Marleau expressed a desire to remain a Shark.

He still is producing, so a buyout probably isn’t worth it as you’d be down cap space and still have to replace his offense.

The problem with moving Marleau, NMC notwithstanding, is that the Sharks would probably have to add an asset (draft pick or prospect), and/or take back a “bad” contract, to move him. With the cap remaining somewhat flat this season, it makes it that much harder to do a deal.

So I think that Marleau will remain with the Sharks for the 2016-17 season.

The question then becomes: will he sign an extension and/or when might he retire?  That will be answered next summer.

Update: It’s been revealed that the Marleau family adopted “Jo Pawvelski” (and sister “Stanley”)