Cuda Corner: John McCarthy’s “5 guys in”
The Barracuda head coach wants a unit of five on the ice. How do his players interpret this message?
While the San Jose Sharks are in Europe for the 2022 NHL Global Series, the work doesn’t end at home. The club’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, are just now starting their training camp in preparation for their preseason, which starts tomorrow, Oct. 7, in Bakersfield, California.
The team identity was one of the first things established during development camp, constructed to create cohesion between the pair of clubs.
“Same as the Sharks: hard-working, competitive, hard to play against — I think those are the three biggest things. We want other teams to know when they’re playing the Barracuda, as do the Sharks as well,” said Barracuda head coach John McCarthy following the start of development camp.
When it comes to the details of the game itself, McCarthy prioritizes possession of the puck simply because “it’s frustrating when you play a team that possesses the puck the whole game — as a player, that was always hard to play against.”
However, among all the narratives regarding team identity floating around the Sharks organization this summer, coach McCarthy has one clear message for the players coming to his team: to play as a unit of five on the ice — that is, to play as a cohesive team and not simply five individuals who just so happen to be on the ice at the same time.
Instilling this mindset in the players started during the Rookie Faceoff and the brief training camp leading into it. Skaters looking for a roster spot had only a few days to make a good impression, and that started with working with their teammates together on the ice during exhibition games.
“It’s more of a team mentality — the sooner you start that culture of ‘We’re going to play as five and be a united front,’ the better off you’ll be,” said McCarthy.
While it’s undoubtedly important to agree with your coach’s vision and message for the team, what can matter even more is how the players interpret those words. Scott Reedy, one of the players who served as an alternate captain during the Rookie Faceoff, took McCarthy’s words deeper than simply setting an example.
“It’s just about showing the younger guys the ropes, leading by example effort-wise on the ice and listening to what the coaches have to say,” said Reedy. “The big message is playing as a unit of five and that’s just an effort thing — everyone being on the same page, everyone showing up on every shift.”
For an up-and-coming player like Tristen Robins, it meant having a good sense of character up and down the line-up. “Just to play as a unit whether we’re down or we’re up, not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. You just kind of have to play even keel, and play — it’s cliché, but just play Sharks hockey.”
As for players like Dillon Hamaliuk — who has a season of Barracuda hockey under his belt — it meant embodying the definition of a team: “It just means we all have to stick together. If there’s a battle in the corner and there’s a bit of a scrum, all five guys are going — nobody’s left to hang by themselves. That, and just being a team, always working together. There are no individuals, everybody’s a conjoined group, and that’s exactly what we have to be.”
Training camp is brief — and preseason even more so — but John McCarthy has instilled values in his players that will undoubtedly permeate through the Barracuda as the team moves into the regular season.