The Summer knows – Training Camp eve

One last caress
It’s time to dress
For Fall…

Recapping off season ponderings:

And it’s here!  Training camp. First on ice session will be Friday morning.

New coach DeBoer promises a clean slate, which is both good and bad.  If you had a bad season, new reasons to play your best.  If you’ve been at the top of the game, you have to prove yourself again.  And the new players to the organization have to show the coaching staff their abilities and how they’ll fit in.

So, where are we, what might the NHL roster look like at the start of the season?  Who’ll be in the AHL?  Or who won’t be playing pro with the Sharks?

To start, realize that the organization prides itself on merit promotions.  IOW, how you play will rank you in the depth chart, get you ice time and a NHL roster spot.

But if you’re an experienced NHL player on a one-way contract, what might that mean for your future with the organization if you’ve dropped down the depth chart?  The organization must consider the roster count (max 23), NHL contract count (max 50+CHL slideable) and the cap implications of any move. The cap for the upcoming season is $71.4m. This season, a player on a one-way contract gets a $925k cap exemption if assigned to the AHL; for example, if a player had a $1m contract, and was assigned to the AHL, there would be a residual $75k hit against the NHL cap; if the cap hit was $600k, there would be no residual NHL cap implications. And if a player has to be assigned to the AHL, is he exempt from waivers, or might he be picked up by another NHL team?

Here are some cap numbers from General Fanager.  And here is my determination of players’ waiver exemption status.

Another wrinkle is the handful of CHL-eligible players who will turn 20 by the end of the calendar year. They can be signed by the NHL Sharks, and play in either the NHL or AHL.  Or their rights will be retained until at least next spring if unsigned and returned to their respective CHL teams, as an “over ager”. These include F Helewka (’15 draftee), F Labanc (’14 draftee), F Schoenborn (’14 draftee) and D Vanier (’14 draftee).  (Update:  All but Helewka returned to their respective junior team 9/17. Sharks retain their rights until June 1, 2016; so if the organization decides to sign them it will be by then.)

There are also two signed draftees, Chartier and Meier, than can only play in the NHL or have to return to the CHL (and their contracts slide).

The organization has indicated that players in the NHL will play.  So, that if a young player isn’t getting a lot of ice time if on the NHL roster, he may end up in the AHL for playing time.

So, who “will” make the NHL squad?  Who “might” make the NHL roster?

My guess?

Goalies: Jones, Stalock
Unless Grosenick vastly outplays Stalock, this should be the season starting pair.

Defense: Braun, Burns, Dillon, Martin, Mueller, Tennyson, Vlasic  Mueller (still on ELS) has multiple years of waiver exemption remaining.  Tennyson would have to clear waivers to play in AHL. DeMelo is mentioned as someone who might make the team.

Forwards: Brown, Couture, Goodrow, Hertl, Karlsson, Marleau, Nieto, Pavelski, Smith, Thornton, Tierney, Torres, Ward, Wingels
Hertl, Karlsson and Nieto are nearly out of waiver exemption. Goodrow and Tierney have some waiver years left. A few of the 3rd/4th liners might end up plying their trade elsewhere (potentially Brown, Nieto, Smith, Torres).  Donskoi has been a revelation and I believe will unseat someone in the depth chart. Goldobin seems to be penciled in for the NHL roster.

Definitely a year where the competition will be fierce for a NHL roster spot.  And well worth keeping an eye on what’s happening at training camp.

The Summer Knows – Training Camp Preparation

Recapping off season ponderings (to date)

(The Summer Knows….)
Lets you see

The wonder of it all
And if you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell

The time for summer roster tweaks is coming to an end.  Training camp preparation in full swing. But nothing is in concrete – still pencil.

It’s less than a month until NHL training camp opens; just four weeks until rookie scrimmages between the Sharks and Ducks; and five and a half weeks until the first preseason game.  (Plus the work is nearing completion at Sharks Ice San Jose for the new AHL Barracuda locker room, with direct access to the East Rink, which will be the AHLers main practice rink.  Construction disruptions adding to the work for the equipment managers as they get their season equipment orders arriving, and organized.)

New coaches at the top: The Sharks have hired a couple of assistant coaches (Boughner, Hedburg) to help DeBoer out, with another rumored assistant coach to come. Status quo on the Barracuda coaching staff (Summer, Mougenel) for the coming season.  The new NHL coaching staff means that there will be a new playing system. DeBoer has emphasized “puck possession” when describing his system.  (Sounds like more of a refinement of McLellan’s system, rather than a total new playing style.)

As of August 14, the Sharks have 40+2 under contract (max 50+CHL 18/19 year olds), and the Barracuda have 2 signed contracts.

So there is room for a handful of contracts to be signed or acquired in trade/waivers to fill out the depth chart (or even sign some CHL prospects via camp try outs). (But, given the current estimated NHL roster below, there is not sufficient cap space to sign nor acquire via trade a “big” name, unless there is cap $$ going back. I am of the opinion that the season opening NHL roster members will come from those already in the organization, rather than expecting some new faces to emerge as try out players, or waiver/trade acquisitions.)

The Sharks organization has apparently (no formal announcement, yet, but it’s been as late as mid October for such) continued the ECHL affiliation with the Allen Americans (who have a goalie, three defensemen and one forward signed as of 8/14), so some depth/injury replacement may be coming from there (and/or extra signees assigned).  (Note, that only players on ELS contracts can be assigned to ECHL without their permission.)  NHL and ECHL teams have roster limits; the AHL does not; so “extra” bodies might be “stashed” in the AHL if healthy (but the Sharks organization usually attempts to run lean, filling in with AHL PTO call ups for injuries).  There is usually an agreement between NHL and ECHL affiliates as to the number and position of players the former will provide the latter (as well as help scout players for the organization); these ECHL players are often invited to NHL camp (and sometimes AHL camp).  My observation based on previous seasons is that the Sharks organization will provide one goalie, 1-3 D, and 3-6 F.

NHL Depth Chart guessitmate (23-man roster):

Goalie: Jones, Stalock

Defense: Vlasic-Braun, Burns-Martin, Dillon (and two of DeMelo, Mueller, Tennyson)

Forwards: Pavelski-Thornton-Karlsson; Marleau-Couture-Hertl; Nieto-Wingels-Ward; x-Tierney-Smith; (and three of Brown, Torres; Goldobin, Goodrow, Jevpalovs)

AHL/ECHL roster guesstimate: (~25 healthy bodies)

Goalie: Grosenick, Dell, Rumpel

Defense: Bergman, Cundari, McNally, Ryan, Stollery, Young (and one of DeMelo, Mueller, Tennyson); plus 1-2 more for AHL roster

Forwards: Carpenter, Crane, Donskoi, Emmanuelsson, Haley, Langlois, Lerg, McCarthy, Parkes (and two of Brown, Torres; Goldobin, Goodrow, Jevpalovs); plus 2-3 more for AHL roster

Rumored (from late June) invitees to Sharks Rookie camp include: Cavan Fitzgerald, Joey Ratelle

It looks like there will be some fierce competition for the last 3-4 forward and 2 defense NHL roster spots.  A number of players with NHL experience may be out played by the younger kids, and find themselves in the AHL or another organization.

Meier and Chartier, the two most likely NHL-ready draftees, are going to spend most of training camp with the NHL team, but will probably return to their respective CHL teams to play for the season.  Six other CHL draftees will be trying to make their mark starting with the rookie camp, and hoping to stay longer (and/or get a signed contract).

October is coming, and we’ll see the players challenging on the ice to put a roster together, naming a new NHL captain before the puck drops October 7.  Stay tuned to the weekly news or twitter for signing updates.

The Summer Knows – part 5: How well have the changes to the roster improved the Sharks?

And so she takes
Her Summertime
Tells the moon to wait
And the sun to linger
Twist the world
Round her summer finger

SJ Merc: Purdy: Have Sharks’ offseason moves made them a playoff team?

NHL roster departures:  Antii Niemi, Scott Hannan, Matt Irwin, John Scott

NHL roster additions:  Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Joel Ward

Is all of that going to be enough for a major boost in the standings? One of The Hockey News’ numerical meat grinders performed some calculations using the WAR (wins-against-replacement) statistic and declared that as a team, the Sharks have so far had the NHL’s second-best offseason in terms of boosting their victory expectations.

By the WAR metric, the Sharks have added 3.3 wins to their roster compared with a year ago. Only the Buffalo Sabres did better, with an addition of 4.4 wins.

And even with an additional 3.3 wins purely by these personnel changes, the Sharks still would not have made the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, being 10 points out (so needing those 6 WAR points AND at least five more from somewhere).

What needs to happen for the Sharks to return to the playoffs?  And is that enough to be a realistic contender for the Stanley Cup?

The Sharks will have to improve from within or upgrade the players further, plus get their mojo and fans back, to accomplish either.  (Or multiple teams ahead of them in the standings will have to fall back.)

First, the WAR metric does not address the issues of no captain and a new coach.

At the Sharks STH town hall (and reiterated in 7/23 radio interview), new head coach Peter DeBoer indicated the team will have a captain before the start of the season. So any issues with fractured leadership should be a thing of the past.  (But from the outside, I don’t think that leadership by committee was that big a deficit.) However, a single leader will allow the team to focus on supporting and following one man, and stop the speculation and distraction from not having one.  Very hard to discern the difference this will make.

A new coach and staff will bring new ideas to the team and play on the ice. The Sharks defensive play and PK are two areas that need to provide improve. (There are rumors that one or more additional assistant coaches will be added to the mix, so until that is finalized, and each coach’s responsibilities know, it’s just a guess as to what the team can accomplish with the new staff.)

Second, the WAR metric does not address the issue of a healthy Raffi Torres.

Torres may help the team draw more penalties with his abrasive style. In 2014-15, the Sharks drew 852 minutes of penalties, and had an efficacy rate 6th in the league at 21.6%.  In 2013-14, the Sharks drew 921 minutes of penalties, but only had an efficacy 20th in the league at 17.2%. So, in 14-15, even though they drew less penalties than the previous season, they got more results.  But with a healthy, Torres, they could increase the number of man advantage opportunities, and if they improve PP% further, they could add goals, leading to more wins.

In 14-15, Sharks had 31 one-goal games, including 9 regulation losses, and 15 that needed extra time. In 13-14, the Sharks had 43 one-goal games, 9 regulation losses, and 22 that needed extra time. So, those extra goals can help with those one-goal game deficits.

Third, the WAR metric does not address the mindset (and culture) of the team.

After their 2014 playoff fall out, some pundits have speculated that the malaise that precipitated it continued into the new season.  The team’s confidence definitely took a drop this past season.

Having clear leadership with a new captain, and a new voice and style from the coaching staff, may be exactly what is needed to revitalize and reinvigorate the psyches of the players and restore and renew the confidence that deteriorated.

Update 7/25: Couture mentions that he and other players will be motivated after a playoff miss.

Fourth, the WAR metric does not address the impact of fan support of the team.

The Sharks are known for a big home rink advantage, but 2014-15 definitely did not have it. Way before their February 2015 swoon, when the Sharks had no home wins for the month, their fan support was waning.

In 2014-15, the Sharks were tied for 10th with 18 home ROWs (regulation, overtime wins) and had one SOW (shoot out win).  In 2013-14, the Sharks were tied for 4th with 24 home ROWs, plus had five SOWs.

In 2014-15, the Sharks had only 24 sell outs. In 2013-14, they sold out their full season.

And what fans were there for home games in the 2015 calendar year, often voiced their displeasure at the home team based on the on-ice results (regardless of who was to blame: players, coaches, GM, owner, etc., which is beyond the scope of this article). Excluding some diehards, the arena often was half empty or more by the end of a losing game.

Thousands of season ticket holders did not renew their seats for the upcoming season (based on observed available seats at the select-a-seat event). Especially with the INCREASE in Sharks STH pricing.  The team has not announced (that I recall seeing) the STH retention %, nor the number of new STH.

Regardless of the changes made to date, I still get the sense that many fans are not happy that the ownership retained the GM, much less the ticket price increase.

Even with the lure of the 25th anniversary season, it may be that the team does not sell out at home and get the full support of the fans behind them until they  prove themselves on the ice.

(It won’t help attendance that the newly relocated AHL Barracuda will be sharing the arena and may be the focus of some Sharks fans on the future “stars” of the NHL team, rather than many of the aging stars of the current NHL roster that has not produced. This hockey option will be a much more affordable one compared to the NHL ticket pricing.)


Expectations from those external to the organization may be lessened with most pundits thinking there’s no way the Sharks can return to the playoffs after just a handful of player and coaching moves.

Internal expectations and goals are still high (that the team will be able to make the playoffs AND go far).

What the reality will be won’t be known until the “opening night” roster is set and the puck drops on a new season.

But there is hope that the 25th Anniversary season 2015-2016 could be the best yet.

(And GM Wilson’s oft repeated mantra: he’s always looking to improve the team. And he’ll work on the 2015-16 roster until the trade deadline.)

The Summer Knows – part 3 defense

The summer knows
The summer’s wise

While the goalie may be the last line of defense, the defenders of the blue line are important to prevent the puck from getting too close to the net (and a helping hand in offense).

(Note – depth chart position does NOT necessarily denote pair combinations.)

Depth chart:

  • Vlasic
  • Braun
  • Burns
  • Tennyson
  • Mueller
  • DeMelo
  • Bergman
  • Ryan

Defensive pending RFAs: Abeltshauser, Dillon, Doherty; pending UFAs: Fedun, Hannan, Irwin, Stollery; pending AHL UFAs: Bigos, Jones, Taormina, Young

Still lots of options for expanding depth chart, including re-signing some key players (and/or upgrading AHLers to NHL deals), which have been on hold waiting for the future of the hockey operations of the Sharks to be solidified.

The Summer Knows – part 1 take three (GM staying)

In a letter to fans, majority owner Hasso Plattner talks about the “good job” that GM Wilson and COO Tortora are doing.

So, there won’t be any change coming there.

And some news stories on the letter:

Merc: Sharks owner Hasso Plattner acknowledges disappointment, reaffirms commitment to rebuild

Chronicle: Source: Wilson’s job is “100-percent safe”

CSN: Source: Wilson safe as Sharks GM after Plattner statement

AP: Sharks owner: GM Doug Wilson did a good job

The Summer Knows – intro

The Summer Knows

The summer smiles
The summer knows
And unashamed
She sheds her clothes
The summer smoothes
The restless sky
And lovingly
She warms the sand
On which you lie
The summer knows
The summer’s wise
She sees the doubts
Within your eyes
And so she takes
Her Summertime
Tells the moon to wait
And the sun to linger
Twist the world
Round her summer finger
Lets you see
The wonder of it all
And if you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell
One last caress
It’s time to dress
For fall…
And if you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell
One last caress
It’s time to dress
For Fall…
Words by Marilyn and Alan Bergman
Music by Michel Legrand
Benjamin Franklin said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While I don’t disagree, I will say that change also is certain.
And change will be coming to the San Jose Sharks this season.
Not just because the team could not break through the 90 point barrier and missed the post season. Not just because the team had one of their worst home records ever.
So what will summer teach us?
We already know that Larry Robinson won’t be behind the bench next season (just working as a development coach). But what about the rest of the coaching staff? The general manager?
What players won’t be coming back? What new players will be coming in?  Already Demers, Burish, McGinn, Sheppard, Desjardins, and Kennedy who started the 2014-15 season on the NHL roster, have ended up elsewhere.  And with 33 NHL and AHL contracts expiring, and a handful of drafted prospects that “need” to be signed (or their rights lost), there’s a lot of room for change in the organizational depth chart.
In this series of blog entries, I’ll address a number of areas in turn, looking at the Sharks, the Barracudas, and more.
Check back for more.