Hello Fear The Fin readers, my name is Ian Reid and I will be doing my best to give you the best coverage of the San Jose Barracuda and more. Since we just finished the All-Star Break in the AHL I thought it would be a good time to give my thoughts on some of the players that are key parts of not only the team today but potentially a part of the future on the San Jose Sharks.
Troy Grosenick: During the inaugural season with the Barracuda, Grosenick saw his stock drop considerably. Many at one time considered him the heir apparent to the backup role with the Sharks but that was derailed when he finished the year with his goals-against average of 3.13 and a save percentage of .894 combined with a record of 11-10-4 where he would lose his job to Aaron Dell. Dell backstopped the team to a first-round elimination at the hands of the Ontario Reign.
Over the summer Grosenick worked out with goaltender guru Adam Fancilia to try and gain back his game that earned him the one-way deal he is currently on. It's hard to argue with the results as Grosenick so far has a 12-9-1 record with a goals-against average of 2.10 and a .929 save percentage and was a participant in this year's AHL All-Star Game. While the window for Grosenick to secure an NHL job has probably passed him as he is 27 years old his turnaround has been a key part of the Barracuda's success.
Mantas Armalis: Armalis is playing his first year of North American hockey and it shows. The goalie who has been dubbed by many as Teal Steel has had some excellent games and some absolute stinkers. The biggest problem with Armalis is that you're never sure what kind of night it's going to be for him. As time has gone on though this season you can tell that he has been putting in the work with Evgeni Nabokov, his movement and angle work has improved although his rebound control does leave something to be desired.
So far he has a record of 10-3-2, he has a goals-against average of 2.77 and he has an .899 save percentage, the win-loss record is a little deceiving. Still, at the age of 24 I would probably re-sign him for another run with the Barracuda should he want to return unless the Sharks wish to move Jamie Murray up from the ECHL.
Tim Heed: If Tim Heed can find his way to the NHL on a regular basis next year it might be one of Doug Wilson's best low-risk signings ever. Heed is one of the most important parts of the Barracuda offense, and his work on the defensive end of the puck is strong as well. His rocket from the point has helped the Barracuda achieve a 22.4 percent efficiency on the power play, good for 6th in the AHL.
Despite only playing 33 games Heed is tied for second in the AHL for points by a defenseman with 36 points, 25 of which are primary points (goals and primary assists). Many of the primary assists are from his booming shot that is deflected by a Barracuda forward in front of the net.
Joakim Ryan: I'm ashamed to admit that for a long time I didn't really get what others saw in Joakim Ryan. However, he has changed my mind this year. Ryan just may be the most complete defender on the Barracuda roster today. Generally playing with Tim Heed I'm comfortable saying they compliment each other very well and neither one is carrying their partner.
The biggest knock against Ryan is his size and I don't know if it can translate to the NHL level but he should get the shot to do so. In my opinion, Ryan should be called up instead of Mirco Mueller every time until his play proves otherwise. Ryan has 5 goals and 18 assists this year for the barracuda, just five points away from a career high in only 37 games.
Mirco Mueller: Mueller is a frustrating player to watch at times. I don't think he is as terrible as he is made out to be by some, he's not as far along as you would like from someone with his draft pedigree. This is fine because as it stands the Sharks do not need Mueller right now so this extra time to develop is a blessing in disguise. What we need to remember is Mueller is only 21 and still has time to grow. I also feel he has improved on some of his fundamentals. While I think my expectations of what Mueller's ceiling actually is at this point have dropped I have not completely written Mueller off just yet. Muller has nine assists on the year for the Barracuda.
Julius Bergman: Bergman is one of the most improved players on the Barracuda this year. I think he was rushed to the pro game and would have benefited from playing another year with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. That being said the 21-year-old has made great strides this year and while I certainly would not rush out to get your San Jose Sharks Bergman sweater tomorrow I could easily see him ending up as a potential middle pair defenceman in the NHL at some point where I had totally soured on him last year. Bergman has 2 goals and 15 assists in 35 games this season.