Most perennial playoff teams have their pieces in place by training camp, but the San Jose Sharks head into their first full week with many things up in the air. That may have been the reason for the spirited practice reported by CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz Sunday, Sept. 21.
That could be the most significant of the pictured stories coming out of San Jose’s training camp, summed in the captions but examined further below. Fans can hope a feistier team is more prepared for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If the Sharks have a 10-player scrum and their two biggest players drop the gloves and grapple (no punches thrown) on the second day of practices (with the roster split into two teams), what will it be like when the 2014-15 NHL season starts? Especially given they start with the Pacific Division rival, Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings that made them the fifth team in major sports history to blow a 3-0 playoff series lead.
San Jose has lacked killer instinct if not intensity in every Stanley Cup playoff series loss (and some wins), so it is not a bad thing if this team starts with a chip on its shoulder. Saturday night’s column covered how that particularly holds true for Joe Thornton, but it has been fitting for this team since before he was captain.
Kurz also addressed the subject of who would replace Raffi Torres on the ice, noting in the first link above the potential of Daniil Tarasov or even Nikolay Goldobin earning a roster spot. However, he also devoted an entire article to Tye McGinn having the inside track. He will not strike fear into skaters as well, but the Sharks are hoping John Scott can do that anyway.
Torres was capable of contributing secondary scoring sorely lacking in the past few Stanley Cup playoff losses, and McGinn has shown a little of that with seven goals in his first 36 NHL games. Tarasov, Goldobin and Freddie Hamilton (22 goals in 64 games with the AHL Worcester Sharks last season) could all provide that, too.
Another huge thing to keep an eye on during San Jose’s training camp is the transition of Brent Burns back to the blue line. He said he is focused on his new/old position, but ex-captains Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were not sold. Openly questioning moves on a situational or long-term basis is something new to this dressing room, and coach Todd McLellan stated the team’s “commitment right now” to the move after being informed his veterans wondered if it was permanent.
Finally, the matter of captain remains a story because it has yet to be settled. The Sharks are the only NHL team with no players penciled in with any letters, and distributing them correctly will take some time to decide. Stay tuned, because stronger leadership could determine a new outcome in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs and beyond.