The Sharks have been at training camp for all of two days now, and David Pollak of Working The Corners has been doing a bang up job of covering the practice sessions.
Tonight I'd like to select a few bits and pieces from his articles and give some thoughts on them. I'm culling this information from these two pieces, and I fully suggest you read them all in full before continuing on-- there's a load of good information here, and Pollak has got that prodigious prose all of the ladies love.
McLellan has said he is sticking with the foundation of puck-possession, fire-away-from-the-blueline hockey that he brought with him three years ago, though tweaks certainly occur each season...
...As for the tweaks, "there’ll be evolution in our game. It’s just not going to happen in day one, two or three," McLellan said. "It’s going to happen once our group gets together a little bit more and we have a familiar set of faces on a daily basis."
I think you're going to see a lot of tweaks throughout the year in respect to this gameplan, unless the Sharks go out and bring in an offensive defenseman via trade. The loss of Rob Blake to retirement means the loss of the team's biggest shot from the point, which is definitely going to hurt the offensive production from the backend-- Blake had seven goals last year, second on the defense behind only Dan Boyle (who had 15).
The purpose of "firing away from the blueline" is threefold-- first, to immediately score goals. That much is obvious. The second is to draw forwards up to cover the point, which opens up some space in front of the net for the forwards to work with. The third is to generate rebounds off low and hard shots which the forwards can subsequently cash in on.
Right now the Sharks have two legitimate offensive defenseman-- Dan Boyle and Jason Demers. Neither have what I would classify as a "bomb" from the backend, but they're definitely well-versed on putting the puck on net. Niclas Wallin, Douglas Murray, Jay Leach, Andreas Lilja (contingent upon him making the team) and Kent Huskins aren't going to scare anybody when they tee one up, and although Marc-Edouard Vlasic has always had the promise of offensive ability running through his veins, it remains to be seen if he will ever truly wrangle that.
Essentially, I think you're going to see the Sharks begin to work the puck down a lot more as the year goes on-- if I'm opposing teams coaching staff, I try to keep the puck off the stick of the likes of Thornton/Pavelski/Marleau for as much possible. Challenging the point less aggressively and focusing on blocking shots (forcing the below average shooters that populate the San Jose blueline to try and jam the puck through traffic) is the route I definitely would take.
The practice was fairly uptempo and had a bit of intensity to it at times. At one point, for example, goalie prospect Alex Stalock used his stick to whack Jason Demers on the ankle when the defenseman crowded him in the crease.
Thank god it wasn't Niclas Wallin crowding Stalock's crease eh?
Anyways, funny stuff, and a perfect opportunity to plug our interview with Stalock last season as well as throw down some Paul Simon:
The two favored candidates for the captaincy (at least favored by those of us NOT involved in the decision) had similar reactions when asked about the fact this is the second consecutive season that a new captain will be chosen, and that their names were getting a lot of attention.
Frankly, don't care about this but it's relevant to our discussion here. As I've stated for a long while now, I believe the Captaincy is strictly a locker room issue, and a facet of the team that we (as fans) don't have a very good handle on. Talking to officials, rallying the troops before a big period, speaking to the media after games-- there are so many responsibilities that extend upon what we see on the ice. Pretending like we can extrapolate the data available to us (goals scored, interviews) and make a decision as to what's right for the team doesn't make much sense to me.
So yeah. There ya go.
And I think it will be Boyle.
And here’s the rundown on goaltending, if I’m reading a slightly confusing stat sheet correctly. Antti Niemi started the game for Team B and stopped 14 of 16 shots; he was succeeded in nets by Thomas Griess, who gave up the game-winner. At the other end of the ice, Harri Sateri started and gave up two goals on seven shots while Antero Niittymaki stopped all 14 shots he faced.
Although I was obviously in opposition to the Niemi signing, I couldn't be more ecstatic for a situation in San Jose where the goaltenders will have to perform in order to earn their minutes (something that Greiss would have provided as well, but I digress). Nabokov's 70+ games between the pipes was a point of contention for me all of last season, especially when one considers how similar his statistics were to his backups during his entire ten year run here.
Evgeni Nabokov vs. Counterparts (00-01 to Present Day)
|Year ||GP ||Win %||SA
The loss of a .922 SV% last season is most definitely going to hurt (something I plan on covering later this week), but it's very nice to know there will be equal opportunity for McLellan to be able to ride the hot hand-- Nabokov dictated his starts during his most recent history here, something that the Sharks won't have to be concerned about going forward.
That's a wrap for tonight. I must say, the fact that hockey is just around the corner has me doing naked cartwheels in public places all over town. Wave if you see me!