San Jose Barracuda Sunday post game wrap: Cuda wrap up conference title in overtime 2-1 over Stockton photo: San Jose Barracuda celebrate on their bench as they defeat the Stockton Heat 2-1 in overtime on Sunday afternoon at SAP Center

By Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Barracuda clinched the Western Conference, wrapping up their 12-game season series against the Stockton Heat with a 2-1 overtime victory at SAP Center Sunday.

After a quick stop in Stockton Saturday night, the Barracuda returned to San Jose to open a three-game homestand, starting with the Heat.

Following a brief fight, Zack Stortini received a slashing penalty while Jamie Devane sat in the box for cross-checking.

“It’s two teams that compete hard against each other,” Stortini commented. “We’re both playing for something and we’re very competitive so those kinds of games are very fun to play in.”

Andrew Mangiapane was called for high-sticking with 9:22 left in the period. The Barracuda got into another fight with the rival Heat. This time, it was over a questionable call made by the officials. Julius Bergman’s shot bounced off the end boards and Ryan Carpenter tried to slam the puck into the net, but the call stood. No goal for San Jose.

The Barracuda opened the scoring with just 51.5 seconds left on the clock. Garnet Hathaway went to the box for holding the stick. Tim Heed sent a pass to Danny O’Regan, who blasted it into the net, beating David Rittich for a power-play goal — his 22nd of the season.

The Barracuda led the Heat 1-0 after 20 minutes. Shots were 20-7 in favor of San Jose.

Things remained chippy in the second period as Mirco Mueller dropped the gloves with Ryan Lomberg for a fight at 13:08. As a result, both players served two-minute minors for roughing.

The Barracuda held a 1-0 lead over the Heat after 40 minutes. San Jose outshot Stockton 36-14.

The action ensued in the third period. Buddy Robinson dropped the gloves with Austin Carroll for an intense fight just 2:03 into the period. Consequently, both players served 10-minute misconducts and two-minute roughing minors.

Jacob Middleton was called for tripping at 14:07. Mike Angelidis then finished a tic-tac-toe play from Mangiapane and Mark Jankowski for a power-play goal — his seventh goal of the season — tying the game 1-1 at 13:39.

The game headed into overtime after the Barracuda and Heat remained in a 1-1 deadlock after 60 minutes. Troy Grosenick made a notable save, stopping the puck with his glove to prevent a potential game-tying goal from a Heat forward.

Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal — his 25th of the season — to lift the Barracuda to a 2-1 win at 2:48 of the overtime period.

The Barracuda (43-15-2-5) edged the Heat (33-25-5-2) in a 2-1 overtime victory. Grosenick finished with 20 saves for San Jose.

“I was a little bit bored there,” Grosenick said when asked about how he shot the puck back and forth with Rittich. “So I wanted to play pass with somebody and I passed it to him. Then he took a shot on that and I wasn’t happy with that.”

Rittich made 47 saves in a losing effort for Stockton.

When asked about the melee between both teams, Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer didn’t have much to say.

“I don’t know man,” Sommer responded. “It was kind of just a heat of the moment thing…I don’t remember what he said. It was just one of those things and it’s kind of a team thing. They get under your skin and into your mind and shame on me, I guess.”

Notes Sommer received a misconduct — his second of the season — after attempting to discuss a call with the Heat bench. He now has 20 penalty minutes, zero goals and zero assists.

O’Regan was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team Wednesday.

Grosenick and Heed were selected to the AHL First and Second All-Star Team Thursday.

Up Next The Barracuda continue their homestand Tuesday when they host the Tuscon Roadrunners (26-31-8-0) at 7:00 p.m. PST on AHL Live and AM 1220 KDOW

San Jose Barracuda Saturday post game wrap: Barracuda offense chips away at Moose to take two game set 6-3 photo: San Jose Barracuda forward John McCarthy (17) puts some follow through into his swing against the Manitoba Moose on Saturday night at SAP in AHL action

by Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Barracuda swept the back-to-back series with a 6-3 victory over the Manitoba Moose at SAP Center Saturday.

The Barracuda and Moose wrapped up their four-game season series this weekend. San Jose entered the second game of a back-to-back with the AHL’s best home winning percentage (.776) while Manitoba ranks 21st in road winning percentage (.429).

The Barracuda controlled the tempo for a little over half of the opening period as they had the first eight shots until the 9:06 mark. The Moose committed two penalties when Brian Strait went to the box for tripping at 13:38 and Kevin Czuczman was called for delay of game less than two minutes later. San Jose then broke a scoreless deadlock as Buddy Robinson cleaned up the rebound of Adam Helewka’s shot and put it into the net, beating Jamie Phillips for his 14th goal of the season.

“Absolutely,” Robinson said when asked about his thoughts on home-ice advantage. “Home-ice advantage is important in the playoffs and I think anyone who you talk to is going to say the same thing…The (Barracuda) fans out here have been great and this team has been hot so the fans have been coming out to show their support and we love it…It’s easier to play at home (SAP Center) because you have the same routine everyday…The more home ice we get, the more better we’ll be.”

Ryan Carpenter made it a 2-0 game with just six seconds left in the period. Carpenter collected a pass from John McCarthy and stuffed the puck through traffic, which went over Phillips’ pads for his 13th goal of the season.

The time on the clock winded down and the Barracuda held a 2-0 lead over the Moose after 20 minutes. Shots were 21-6 in favor of San Jose.

The Moose cut the Barracuda’s lead in half early in the second period. Patrice Cormier’s shot from the point deflected off of Jacob Middleton. Czuczman tipped in the deflection to beat Clarke Saunders top-shelf for his eighth goal of the season.

Peter Stoykewych was called for tripping at 13:52. The Barracuda went on the power play and capitalized with the man advantage. Joakim Ryan collected a pass from Tim Heed and fired it into the net for his 10th goal of the season, giving his team a 3-1 lead 21 seconds later.

The Moose scored another power-play goal to pull within one at the 14-minute mark. Mirco Mueller was called for cross-checking. Dan DeSalvo then collected a pass from Scott Kosmachuk and beat Saunders for his 16th of the season.

The Barracuda outshot the Moose 31-23 and brought a 3-2 lead to the locker room after 40 minutes.

Zach Stortini scored his third goal of the season early in the third period, expanding the Barracuda’s lead to 4-2. Stortini’s scoring attempt worked despite crashing the net for a goal and then crashing into the net himself. However, San Jose’s comfortable cushion was short-lived as the Moose went on the power play after Barclay Goodrow was assessed a slashing penalty at 15:59. Kyle Connor put home the rebound to make it a one-goal game 16 seconds later.

The Barracuda scored an insurance goal for a 5-3 lead over the Moose with a little over three minutes left in regulation. Helewka sent a pass to Rourke Chartier, who fired a long-range shot past Phillips short-side for his 17th of the season. McCarthy capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal — his 18th of the season — with 51.7 seconds left in regulation.

“We’re all kind of on the same page,” McCarthy said. “It’s a nice feeling.”

The Barracuda (41-14-2-5) beat the Moose (25-36-4-5) by a score of 6-3. Saunders stopped 32 of 35 shots in his first appearance in San Jose. Phillips made 36 saves in a losing effort for Manitoba.

“It was an unbelievable way to start,” Saunders gushed. “And it kind of let me ease my way into it. I just want to thank them (Barracuda) for working their butts off tonight.”

The Barracuda are 4-0 against the Moose and won seven straight games against Central Division teams.

“It’s kind of unusual,” Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer recalled. “But they (Moose) had 3-for-5 or something like that. We were pretty much right on, but we had some rebounds and stuff like that. Overall, the game we had was alright.”

Carpenter played in his 200th AHL game.

Up Next
The Barracuda host the Ontario Reign (33-19-10-0) Wednesday to conclude a three-game homestand. You can tune into the game on AHL Live and AM 1220 KDOW.

Barracuda Defeat Reign For First Home Win

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Barracuda defeated the Ontario Reign 4-2 for their first home win of the season. San Jose goals were scored by John McCarthy, Mirco Mueller, Jeremy Langlois and Nikolay Goldobin. After a long break between games, the Barracuda were very well-rested. The last time San Jose played was October 24, and that was a 3-0 loss to the Reign in Ontario. The break gave them a chance to practice and made the win all the more important. After the game, Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer said: “It’s big for us. The mood of the practices, everything’s going to be upbeat, their Halloween party’s tonight. So they can go have some fun, we have a day off tomorrow so it fits in good.”

Of the time between games, Sommer said that they had made good use of it: “I thought they had a good week of practice… I thought they went hard and everything was about going to the net and that’s where our goals were from tonight.”

The Reign were far from well-rested. Sunday’s game was their third in three days. The fatigue factor was something the Barracuda knew they should take advantage of. After the game, San Jose forward John McCarthy said:

They had a tough weekend, a lot of travel and we talked about kind of taking advantage of that in the first period, coming out… Because we know how it feels to be that team on the road. You come in after a long road trip and when a team’s all over you right away, it messes with your head.

Aaron Dell was in net for the Barracuda, with Peter Budaj at the other end for the Reign. Ontario has opted to use veteran goaltenders this season, with NHL veterans Budaj and Ray Emery playing as a tandem.

John McCarthy started the scoring for San Jose, 2:45 into the first period. Three Barracuda entered the Reign zone, with just two Ontario players defending. McCarthy went to the net and Trevor Parkes got the puck to him with a pass from the boards. Assists went to Parkes and Nikolay Goldobin.

The Barracuda also got the first power play, 7:44 into the period. Michael Mersch, Ontario’s leading goal scorer, went to the box for tripping. Just before that penalty expired, Nikita Jevpalovs went to the box for high-sticking. With 30 seconds left in the penalty, Mersch tied it up for the Reign. Assists went to Sean Backman (the Reign’s points leader) and Valentin Zykov.

Jevpalovs also took the Barracuda’s second penalty, this time it was hooking at 12:47.

The Barracuda were trailing by three shots at the end of the first period, and by the middle of the second they had only added four. The second period was far from shot-heavy, with the Reign only taking three by the ten minute mark. No penalties were called until the fourteen minute mark. The call was for holding and it went to Ontario’s Vincent LoVerde.

It only took Mirco Mueller four seconds to put a shot on net from the blue line. His shot went between two Barracuda skaters as they passed in front of the net and gave the Barracuda the lead. An assist went to Scott Timmins. It was the first goal from a Barracuda defenseman.

The Reign took the goal right back. Justin Auger won the puck behind the net and tried to wrap it around with a backhand. When that did not work, Ryan Horvat picked up the rebound and tossed the puck between Dell’s shoulder and the post. Dell’s vision was obstructed by his own defender and also Auger so he really did not have a chance. Assists went to Auger and Jonny Brodzinski.

The Barracuda had another power play chance at 15:34, when MacDermid went to the box for cross-checking. Nothing came of that, and the Barracuda shortly found themselves on the penalty kill when Patrick McNally went for hooking. That Reign power play did not last long, because Nic Dowd shoved Timmins face first into the glass. That evened the numbers up and put Dowd in the box for boarding.

The period closed with the teams tied at 2, and the Reign leading in shots 22-19.

The third period started with the teams playing four on four for a minute and one second. A 32 second power play for San Jose followed but did not produce a goal.

One of the Barracuda’s better chances came when Karl Stollery found himself in the slot with a clear view of the net. Unfortunately for him, his stick broke and the shot went wide. Seven minutes in and the Barracuda were keeping the Reign on their heels but Budaj was alert and preserved the tie with several saves.

The Barracuda were back on the power play at 9:38 to go, when Ontario’s LoVerde went for hooking. The resulting power play did not start especially well. The Barracuda spent several seconds chasing down the puck in their own zone and keeping it away from attacking penalty killers. The rest of the power play was broken up by stoppages and clears that limited scoring chances.

More four on four play commenced at 12:02 when Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Julius Bergman sat for two minutes. Samuels-Thomas was sent away for embellishment, while Bergman did time for tripping. Neither team profited from the penalties.

Back at even strength, San Jose’s Joakim Ryan escaped an attacking Ontario player in the Barracuda zone, then took the puck all the way to Reign territory. With Ontario defenders closing on him, he used a backhand pass to give the puck to Jeremy Langlois. Langlois carried it around behind the net before scoring with a wrap around.

Another four on four session began when Mirco Mueller and Ryan Horvat were confined with matching roughing minors. Neither team scored.

The Reign pulled their goalie in the final two minutes and it took the Barracuda nearly a minute to clear the puck out. Nikolay Goldobin followed it out and scored an empty-netter. Assists went to McCarthy and Peter Emanuelsson. With that goal and his assist, Goldobin had his first two points of the season in one game.

Final score: 4-2 Barracuda.

No Barracuda had more than three shots, but four had three: McCarthy, Ryan Carpenter, Patrick McNally and Goldobin. For Ontario, Mersch led in shots with six. San Jose’s Aaron Dell made 32 saves on 34 shots, while Peter Budaj made 25 saves on 28 shots.

The Barracuda next play on Saturday, November 7th against the San Diego Gulls in San Jose at 1:15 PT.

Sharks Win Preseason Game in Arizona

-By Mary Walsh

Friday night, the San Jose Sharks won a contentious preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes. Prospects Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Eriah Hayes and Mirco Mueller all played well, suggesting that any of them could end up starting the season in San Jose.

Goals from Matt Nieto, Tye McGinn and Tommy Wingels gave the Sharks their third win of the preseason. Alex Stalock was in goal and made 23 saves on 24 shots. Rob Klinkhammer scored for the Coyotes, and Mike Smith made 31 saves on 33 shots faced.

Matt Nieto opened the game with an early goal, in his line’s first shift. Couture’s backhand pass went right to Nieto for a goal at 1:08 of the first period.

A few minutes later, Couture was hit from behind by Kyle Chipchura. Justin Braun took issue with that and fought Chipchura. Couture made his way to the bench under his own steam. Braun was given a two minute penalty for boarding, a five minute major for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. Chipchura received five minutes for fighting, five minutes for boarding, and a ten minute game misconduct. It came out to two minutes of five on five, followed by three minutes of five on four for the Sharks.

More than ten minutes went by in the first period without the Coyotes getting credit for a shot. In the same time, the Sharks had five. The hit and the fight seemed to turn the tide for the Coyotes in the minutes before the power play started. They had a couple of good chances but the Sharks defense held them off.

Right at the end of the power play, Matt Irwin was also hit hard, by Joe Vitale. No penalty was called.

The second period started out more evenly, with the shot clock registering almost equal (3-2) for the first five minutes. A shot from Eriah Hayes in the sixth minute lead the way for a Sharks charge. Despite a lost faceoff, the fourth line stirred things up in the offensive zone. A penalty to Rob Klinkhammer for goaltender interference tilted the ice back in the Sharks’ direction. A simultaneous hit by Vitale on Braun went unmentioned by officials.

The power play did not pay off for the Sharks.

After the power play expired, Tye McGinn and B.J. Crombeen fought right after the faceoff. While the game was contentious, it is not clear whether any particular incident led to the bout.

By the thirteen minute mark, the shots for the period were up to 10-3 Sharks.

Eriah Hayes hit Keith Yandle in front of the Coyotes net, and then attempted to fight him but Yandle declined. This raised the ire of the Coyotes and after the scrum was dispersed, Hayes went to the penalty box. A roughing minor to John Scott and an embellishment minor to Yandle took them out of play for two minutes as well. The Sharks killed the penalty off.

The last five minutes of the period saw the Coyotes pushing to tie the game, and getting their shots to the net. The Sharks were saved by the bell as the period ended with a pile of bodies in front of Alex Stalock and the Coyotes nipping at the puck.

The shot count for the period ended 11-8 for the Sharks.

Stalock faced some pressure from Shane Doan early in the third period but he was ready for it.  The teams played a balanced game for the first five minutes, with some good chances but few sustained onslaughts from either side.

A handful of penalties came out of a mess along the boards at 6:55 of the second. Tommy Wingels went to the box for kneeing Michael Stone, while Brent Burns and Matt Smaby went with matching roughing minors.  That brought the power play count even with two per team. Stone did stay in the game after some attention from the Coyotes trainer.

Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney got involved with a number of Coyotes after a hit by Goodrow on Hodgman. Tierney caught a punch but after some discussion, no penalty was called.

Seconds after the next faceoff, Joe Pavelski spotted McGinn’s stick in front of the net. Mike Smith had just made an impressive save but lost his stick in the process. Pavelski and McGinn took advantage of the situation to put the Sharks up 2-0. Assists went to Pavelski and Brent Burns.

A defensive zone pass from Mueller to Nieto went awry when Nieto lost his footing. Rob Klinkhammer took advantage of that and put the Coyotes on the board.

The period was not the Sharks’ most dominant, with the Coyotes finally nosing ahead on the shot clock. The Coyotes pulled their goaltender late to try for the tying goal, but Tommy Wingels put the game away in the last thirty seconds. A pass from Justin Braun found Pavelski near center ice, and Pavelski found Wingels in position to shoot at the empty net.

The final shot count was 34-24 Sharks.

The absence of Nikolay Goldobin from the last two games suggests that he may not crack the roster to open the season. Still, his performance thus far suggests that he will be in the NHL sooner than later. His linemates, however, are looking more ready by the day. Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney were on a line with Tommy Wingels in the Arizona game, and one of them could very well push out a more seasoned player for the early part of the season. They have kept pace and made good plays in all of their preseason appearances.

Eriah Hayes used Friday’s game to make a good argument against him being pushed out. With hard work in the corners, four hits, and two blocked shots, he made the most of his spot on the fourth line with Adam Burish and John Scott.

At the start of camp, many expected Matt Tennyson to be kept in San Jose as the seventh defenseman. That did not come to fruition, and he has (for now) been assigned to the Sharks’ AHL team in Worcester. At the moment it looks like Mirco Mueller could well open the season in San Jose. The Sharks’ new radio team made particular mention of how Mueller knocked Rob Klinkhammer down, in a game that started off with a lot of physicality.  The 19 year old Mueller does not appear intimidated by the NHL preseason. He did make an error in the first period that had his goalie scrambling a bit but on balance he played a very smart game. He also acquitted himself well on the penalty kill.

It is still possible that Taylor Doherty of Taylor Fedun will stay, but Mueller is certainly making a good case for himself.

The Sharks’ lines were as follows in Arizona:
Forward lines: Goodrow-Wingels-Tierney/McGinn-Pavelski-Hertl/Marleau-Couture-Nieto/Hayes-Burish-Scott
Defensive pairs: Demers-Irwin /Braun-Vlasic /Mueller- Burns
Stalock in goal

The Sharks will play their final game of the preseason on Saturday, against the Ducks in Anaheim.

Win, Lose or Draw, Sharks Shoot First

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Friday’s game was the third of three preseason games that featured a gross shot advantage for the Sharks. It seems that no matter who is playing or how you line them up, Sharks will outshoot the other team. That does not mean they will win, but it certainly gives them a fighting chance. Friday the Sharks lost 2-1 to the Arizona Coyotes in a game that went to a shootout.

What goes in to these shot advantages? Defenseman Taylor Fedun, in his first training camp as a Shark, has had some time to learn something about the team’s playing style:

I think we have a pretty good shoot first mentality and it’s been working for us where we get pucks on net and then we’re able to retrieve them and it kinda gets defensive teams on their heels a little bit. It’s one of the ways to keep the game simple in the preseason here, where you’re not as sharp on the system as you will be a little bit later on in the season. So it keeps things simple, just throwing pucks on net and trying to outwork teams.

This is something the Sharks consistently do,  well into the season. It has been their style for a while now, it will probably continue to be what they do. How do they do it, even with players new to the team or even the league? Fedun said:

It’s something that’s touched on by the coaching staff that we want to get the puck on net as often as we can, try and generate second and third opportunities in doing so.

No surprise there. It is an old idea: you have to shoot to score. So the real question is: why doesn’t everyone do this? Or, do the Sharks just do it better than most?

Shooting a lot is not new for the Sharks, and neither is talking about simplifying their game. It is a style that happens to suit the Sharks’ new and young recruits. Of Fedun and Mirco Mueller, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said:

I thought he and Mirco both did some really good things on the rink, heightened our awareness, both of them and improved their status amongst the club. We’ll have some decisions to make. We often think about just keeping one, but maybe two of them, or three of them could push the veterans out. When I look at the game in Vancouver, we had a couple of players who were sub-par and if we have to make those changes we will, if the young D continue to play the way they do.

We should know after Saturday’s game how many will stay in San Jose to push the veterans.

Friday’s game was well attended, particularly for a preseason game.

The Sharks’ Tye McGinn started with an early penalty, which lead to the Coyotes’ first goal on their only shot for the first 13 or so minutes. That goal was Justin Hodgman’s, with assists to Max Domi and Michael Stone. McGinn tried to make up for it a few minutes later with a beautiful breakaway up the middle of the ice but his shot went awry. His game on Friday was a portrait of energy and hard work with communication gaps. The same could be said of the rest of the team, not surprising for a preseason game. It was the second game for most of the players, but they were not playing with the same group as they played with on Tuesday.

For Antti Niemi, it was the first game of the preseason. That, combined with the sad shortage of shots coming at him, did not show him at his best. He gave up a goal on the first Coyotes shot, but he did stop the rest until the shootout.

Arizona’s one goal lead persisted through the middle of the second period. The Coyotes steadily gained on the Sharks’ shot lead.By the seven minute mark, Antti Niemi had made a seven saves. At the other end, Devan Dubnyk made nine in the first period, and another 13 in the second.

The one he did not make was a power play goal from Joe Pavelski at 7:15 of the second period. The assist went to Brent Burns. Pavelski’s shot came from the blue line and blew right by Arizona’s new backup goaltender.

By the end of the second period, the Sharks had run off with the shot clock again, Niemi had done very little for several minutes.

In the final 19 seconds of the period, Nikolay Goldobin had the honor of being tripped by veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Goldobin was tripped while making a very impressive dash for the net. He didn’t get the shot he wanted, and his team did not score on the resulting power play.

By the end of regulation, the shots stood at 38-16 Sharks with the score tied at 1. There was a symmetry to this result, as the Sharks already had one loss and one win under their belt. Seemed only natural they should have an overtime game.

A little over a minute into overtime, Michalek went to the box for tripping Joe Pavelski. The first power play unit included Goldobin, and the second included Mueller. Mueller wound up for a great big shot at the top of the slot… but he was only faking. He passed it. Neither power play unit scored. Neither team scored, the game went to a shoot out.

Joe Pavelski shot first, and scored. Justin Hodgman shot next, for Arizona. He scored too. Goldobin made one too make moves and lost his balance on the third shot. He did not score by accident either. Lucas Lessio, shooting third for Arizona, did not lose his balance and he scored. Joe Thornton did not score.

Mueller continues to play well, most of the time the puck goes where he is sending it. He perhaps could be more reckless, send the puck to the net more, or not send it anywhere at all. At one point, he executed a very pretty pass to a teammate in the neutral zone, sort of a hand off between players going in opposite directions. The problem with it was that there were two Coyotes in hot pursuit of that other player and Mueller might have accomplished more just by hanging on to the puck or even dumping it in. With time, his decision-making should catch up with his skating and puck handling skills.

Mike Brown made some good plays, including one breakaway that didn’t work out but looked dangerous. He also made a defensive zone pass that got some tired Sharks out of trouble. As he has shown before, he can be helpful in the right situation.

Sharks and prospects will play again Saturday against Anaheim Ducks and prospects. The game will be at SAP Center in San Jose at 5:00.

NHL: “If They Can Take The Job…”

-By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks did not make any moves this week, they did not even turn up in the rumor mill. For better or worse, it does look like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau be in teal next season. As I have said before, I think that is for the best.

Listening to a radio interview with the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock, I was reminded of Doug Wilson’s comments about the role he expects younger players to take this coming season.

Back in May, Wilson described part of his plan for the team. He was talking about Al Stalock’s chances of taking the starter’s role:

Every one of our young players will be given the chance to take whatever role they want. That includes him. When you go through this you have guys who are aching and begging for that opportunity. If they can come in and do it they can take it.

In an interview with Detroit Sports 105.1 on July 17, Mike Babcock said something very similar:

We’re gonna play the best players. So just like we did last year- it’s always a hard thing when a veteran on a one way contract doesn’t make the lineup, but that’s life- we’re committed to the growth of this team. Most franchises to get back on top have to get bad for ten years. That’s not our plan. We’ve scrounged to get in the playoffs the last two years in a row. I think we did a real good job, had a real good run against Chicago. I didn’t like us in the playoffs last year against Boston, but we like what we have coming. And we like our kids, so the biggest thing is not to rush them. We could really use some puck-moving D. Well we just happen to have some puck-moving D in the minors, big guys who can skate. When are they ready? We’re sure not going to rush them but if they’re capable of taking jobs they’re gettin’ the jobs.

There are some differences there, the focus on giving players time is something that Wilson has put less emphasis on lately. The last part, about giving the young players a chance to take jobs if they are capable, this sends up some red flags for me. My confusion stems from how you get from the first sentence (“We’re gonna play the best players.”) to the last one (“We’re sure not going to rush them but if they’re capable of taking jobs they’re gettin’ the jobs.”).

If these guys are the best players you have, why in the world would they NOT, under any and all circumstances, get the job?

Maybe I am misreading the “taking jobs” part. Do they simply mean “if they are capable of doing the job, since we don’t have anyone better, we will let them play instead of going out and finding someone older”? Shouldn’t they also mean “if they are better than the older players we have, we will use them”? Shouldn’t they always mean that?

It certainly seems like the Sharks have not followed that last rule. Yes, Matt Irwin lacked experience, but all signs pointed to him being a better option in many games last season than Brad Stuart or Scott Hannan. Given the ice time to develop his game, won’t he be a quicker, higher return asset than those two were last season? If he doesn’t play he won’t develop, but that is true of any young player. The team followed the same pattern with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun and to a lesser extent Jason Demers: using older veterans again and again while the young players seemed ready and in need of ice time.

This notion that a younger player with more upside will be benched to let a veteran play is insane. Yes, the veteran might represent a lower short-term risk but if a younger player is capable of taking the job, doesn’t that mean he is not a higher risk long term? Doesn’t that mean he is capable of taking the job from the veteran? To say a younger player will get to play if he is capable of taking the job sounds like the team had previously given far to much consideration to veteran status. This is not just a matter of fairness and meritocracy, it is the difference between winning and losing.

On the other hand, it can be risky to put too much on a younger player. Eric Gilmore published a piece on suggesting that Mirco Mueller could crack the Sharks lineup this coming season. Doug Wilson has suggested as much in the past. Tomas Hertl cracked the lineup last season, in his first year in North America. Couldn’t Mueller make the big club early too? Other defensemen have done it but comparing Hertl’s role to Mueller’s is clearly comparing apples to oranges. A defenseman’s job is much more complicated, traditionally defensemen take longer to develop their professional game. To move any player up to the NHL too soon can have a negative impact on his game, and with defensemen that impact can be that much worse.

So, as eager as fans might be to see Mueller make the jump, it seems unlikely that such a move would be a good thing for the Sharks or Mueller.

It might just be noise. Hannan is returning, Thornton and Marleau very probably are too. The team will have no shortage of veterans to fall back on. If their humiliation as group at the end of last season stung them as much as they claim, less roster turnover is better than more.