There was so much talk in the offseason about whether or not a culture change would take place in the San Jose Sharks locker room during the 2014-2015 campaign.
Once regular season play started our focus turned more toward what was going on out on the ice, and not so much on what we could speculate was happening behind doors.
However there was a glimmer, a slight hint on Thursday night that maybe there really is a shift taking place in Team Teal’s all-around attitude — a shift for the better, as a matter of a fact. It started with the postgame scrums after the Sharks’ deflating 5-4 loss.
In my young tenure of sticking a recorder in hockey players’ faces, Joe Thornton was always the first Shark available for comment after a game when the dressing room doors opened to the media. Even after a tough loss the then-captain usually didn’t show much in the way of aggression when he answered questions on behalf of himself and his team. After a win, he pointed out positives. After a loss, he acknowledged the loss but pointed out things that the team had done well. He was always cordial and said “thank you” when he was done answering questions. But Thornton wasn’t the guy to show that there was any tension or anger among the team after letting an early lead slip away or after a crushing loss — except when the LA Kings booted the Sharks from last year’s playoffs. That time, Jumbo Joe looked like he was pushing back tears.
This season has started out a bit differently. With no defined leader in the room, you don’t really know what player is going to be the first to speak on behalf of the team, or what the general vibe is going to be.
After Thursday night’s late-game loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, rotating alternate captain Joe Pavelski was the first player available to answer questions. Number 8’s post game demeanor is usually that of someone who wants to answer questions as painlessly as possible so he can shower and call it a workday. But on Thursday he was incredibly direct and noticeably angry. First words out of his mouth were: “We haven’t been good enough.” His words had bite when he addressed the Sharks continuing pattern of jumping out to early leads and then letting the opposition creep up and take the lead.
There was no semi-positive look at the four goals that San Jose had scored — two of them being Pavelski’s. Instead his comments were that “it sucks losing”and that “no one in here’s happy.” He addressed entering the second frame of that game with a 2-0 lead and then heading into the second intermission behind Columbus 3-2, punctuating his criticism with: “It’s got to be better, it’s got to change.”
The same attitude was exuded by Logan Couture who took questions next. “Two mistakes that end up in the back of our net. It’s as simple as that,” he divulged. “The mistakes we’ve made are things we’ve gone over for years. A lot of us have been here for many years, and these are mistakes that we shouldn’t be making.”
Before we jump to any severe conclusion: No, this does not mean that Pavelski is for sure going to be sporting a felt “C” on his sweater by the end of the season, or that Thornton’s postgame commentary was the sole reason the Sharks lost games, or that the team has made an overnight attitude adjustment. (Even if there was an immediate change, the Sharks certainly wouldn’t let that be known to us writer folk with our laptops and iPhone recorders.) But it shows that there is, possibly, hopefully, the start of a change in the way San Jose attacks its problems. A more collectively aggressive way of improving themselves.
“There’s definitely a different feeling in the locker room today,” Pavelski verbalized. “We’re going to get through it, and I think guys know that. We’ll stay together. We’ll get it right. It’s just about getting it done.”
It’s no complete revamp, but it’s a start.