The San Jose Barracuda improbably sneaked into the playoffs this season, and while their run was short, based on most of their regular season, it probably shouldn’t have even happened. But there’s a lot to look back on in hindsight for the ‘Cuda.
The first blow was the loss of six crucial players to the San Jose Sharks in the beginning of the season, which saw the Barracuda needing to dig deep into their depth. Three Allen Americans players were signed to AHL deals: Bryan Moore, David Makowski, and Spencer Asuchak. Coinciding with these signings, Colby McAuley and Alex Schoenborn were reassigned to Allen.
Following an injury that kept him out of the playoffs and the first few weeks of the regular season, Rourke Chartier made his return to the Barracuda locker room and only played a few games before a freight train by the name of Mason Geertsen came and delivered a hit that gave Chartier yet another concussion and keeping him out of the lineup.
Jeremy Roy seemed to be clicking on the point, racking up 10 points in 20 games he played, until he tore his ACL and was ruled out for the year, thus opening the door for a lot of professional try-out agreements.
Not including breakout Emerson Clark, the Barracuda used eight PTOs on players from the ECHL this year. Among them was original Barracuda cast member Gus Young, who had been playing for the Florida Everblades after spending a year in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Many of these players on PTOs did not stick around for long. All but three played less than ten games before being released.
While a tremendous honor for the entire San Jose Barracuda organization, the loss of captain John McCarthy was another huge blow for the Barracuda. They were only able to win one game without his presence.
The Barracuda had a good 1A and 1B goalie tandem going with Troy Grosenick and Antoine Bibeau, until Grosenick, along with Brandon Bollig, were traded to the Nashville Predators. This solidified Bibeau as the starting goalie, but the backup situation was very cloudy. For one, former Army goaltender Parker Gahagen’s ATO had already expired. The Barracuda originally inked Jeremy Brodeur (yes, of those Brodeurs) to a PTO, but he saw no playing time. About a week later, Brodeur was sent back to Allen, and Stephon Williams became the backup for the rest of the year.
In the midst of their improbable winning streak that got them into the playoffs, Antoine Bibeau was suddenly called up to the Sharks, leaving the Barracuda scrambling for an emergency backup. They found one not five miles down the road: Nick Cafrelli, a San Jose Jr. Sharks goalie coach. Stephon Williams dealt with the pressure tremendously and backstopped the Barracuda to a huge win.
Whereas injuries can be huge news in the NHL, injuries in the AHL aren’t necessarily made public. There might have been a lot more injuries than previously thought for this team. Filip Sandberg and Cavan Fitzgerald were examples of this. The injuries were unknown, but whatever they were, it was enough to keep both of them out for the rest of the regular season. Jon Martin also sat out a good portion of the last two weeks. Having five players on injured reserve isn’t exactly a good way to build cohesiveness.
Among the roster chaos, the Barracuda were still the youngest team in the AHL. In fact, the only player over 30 was John McCarthy. Some players that were added, for example, Sasha Chmelevski and Ivan Chekhovich, are still teenagers.
This team most certainly had its problems, but once healthy and with some of San Jose’s youth joining their ranks, they showed so much promise down the stretch. They’ve proved that they deserve attention over the past few years. Yes, it was certainly hard for them to follow up on their record-breaking season last year, but the Barracuda still shined bright.
And you know what?
The best may be yet to come.