As thrilled as I was to write about the lockout’s end Sunday, I never want to write a post like that again. The NFL gave us a lockout scare in 2011, the NBA canceled games last year due to a work stoppage and this year it was the NHL doing its best to stay off of the ice.
To usher in hockey’s return, I gathered some of the best Sharks writers around to get everyone back in the mood. It’s been a while, but the Sharks have plenty of unanswered questions and unfinished business lingering from last year’s disappointing finish. While I’ve been distracting myself with the 49ers’ playoff push, Giants’ World Series victory and Stanford’s Rose Bowl win, these hockey nuts have been waiting (impatiently, I’m sure) for the owners and players to kiss and make up.
Brodie Brazil is the Sharks sideline reporter for Comcast SportsNet California, as well as one of CSN’s Sharks insiders. His forte may be hockey, but he’s a jack of all trades, often anchoring SportsNet Central on CSN Bay Area and co-hosting on 95.7 The Game. You can follow him on Twitter @brodiebrazilCSN and find his writings on CSNBayArea.com.
Kevin Kurz is a Sharks insider for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Before coming to the Bay Area to focus on the Sharks, Kurz spent two years as a digital content producer at Comcast Sports Group’s Philadelphia affiliate and served in several different capacities for PhiladelphiaFlyers.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KKurzCSN and find his writings on CSNBayArea.com.
Derek T is the managing editor of Fear the Fin, SBNation’s hub for everything San Jose Sharks. He runs FTF’s twitter handle with objectivity and snark rivaled by no one, and his knowledge on the team in teal runs deep. You can follow him on Twitter @Fearthefin and he writes as “The Neutral” on Fearthefin.com.
In today’s round table, we take a look at how the Sharks will adjust now that the lockout is over and the season is fast approaching…
Training camp for the Sharks is going to come and go quickly and obviously there won’t be a preseason. Are we going to see a drop-off in performance because there were no offseason activities?
Brodie: At the time of writing this, we do not know precisely when camp and/or games will begin. I’m of the belief there is room for a geographically favorable preseason game, provided there are at least 9 days of camp. I think even one dress rehearsal would go a long, long way to benefit the chemistry and timing of teams that all need a hot start. That being said… there were a lot of “offseason” activities for individual players. For example: Logan Couture almost planned it out perfectly, playing 25 games in Switzerland, then home for the holidays, now in San Jose ready to begin the season. Others like Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle have been doing their best to keep high energy skates going at Sharks Ice, but their recent experience at a high “compete level” is not there. However… I’m not suspecting a letdown in performance from players with their backgrounds, who have been in the league for years and know precisely what is expected of them.
Kevin: No team is going to be at its best with such a short camp, but the Sharks might be in better shape than most right off of the bat because so many of them spent time playing overseas. They had 11 players playing competitively somewhere for at least some stretch of time during the lockout, and that more than most NHL teams. Injuries could also be a factor, too.
Derek: The majority of the roster signed with teams in Europe including Joe Pavelski who headed to Russia, Antti Niemi, Jason Demers and Justin Braun who all played in Finland, and T.J. Galiardi and Thomas Greiss, who plied their trade in Germany. Most of the players should be in fairly good shape, including ones like Patrick Marleau and Brad Stuart who stayed in the Bay Area but skated on a regular basis. The only real concern in my mind could be Dan Boyle, who wasn’t able to get into any game action during the work stoppage and will enter the season as a 36-year-old.
Ryane Clowe coaching the San Francisco Bulls was big news during the lockout, along with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture playing in Switzerland. What were the other Sharks players doing to keep active during the lockout?
Brodie: Those are the most publicized stories… but we shouldn’t forget Joe Pavelski who dabbled in Russia’s KHL, or Doug Murray who briefly played back in his homeland of Sweden, and Antti Niemi who went back to the creases in his native Finland. It was fascinating to watch how players chose the paths and options they thought would best suit their own needs.
Kevin: Most of them were skating somewhere, or back in their hometowns skating. Several stayed in the area, like Boyle, Marleau and Stuart. Most hockey players across the league figured the season would start at some point, so most have stayed active.
Derek: Again, for the most part, the Sharks’ key players were able to find teams in European leagues to play for while a group of them stayed in San Jose to train at Sharks Ice.
The Sharks are apparently pretty beaten up on the blue line, with Justin Braun’s broken hand, Jason Demers’ wrist injury and Brent Burns recovering from sports hernia surgery. Are there any other injuries that Sharks fans should be concerned about?
Brodie: Not that I’m aware of. And in all honesty, not that the Sharks are aware of, either. The team has had literally ZERO contact with the players during the lockout, including firsthand injury status or exams by team doctors. As I type this it’s Sunday night, but very soon I should know a lot more details straight from the players themselves.
Kevin: Not at the moment, but injuries are sure to crop up across the league with not much of a training camp.
Derek: Martin Havlat is seemingly a perpetual injury liability but, apart from him and those defensemen, there shouldn’t be much in the way of injury trouble afflicting the team at least to start the season. However, a three-month sprint to 48 games is bound to cause unforeseen issues league-wide that might perhaps disproportionately affect the Sharks given the number of elder statesmen on the roster.
Special thanks to Brodie Brazil, Kevin Kurz and Derek T. for their generous contributions to this round table. Stay tuned for the next installment, where we take aim at the hot seats and who will be occupying them this season!