Sharks Add Steve Spot, Bring Back Frazer McLaren

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks announced today that they have named Steve Spott as an assistant coach and signed Frazer McLaren.  Both spent last season with the Toronto Maples Leafs organization. Spott was an assistant coach last season, and the organization’s AHL head coach the season before. From the Sharks press release:

“I’m excited to work with Steve again,” said DeBoer. “We have a great relationship and he has grown significantly as a coach in the seven years since we last worked together. We are very fortunate he was available.”

A native of Toronto, Ont., Spott spent two seasons with the Maple Leafs organization, serving as the head coach of the Maple Leafs American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Toronto Marlies in 2013-14. He led the team to a record of 45-25-2-4, winning the North Division title and earning a spot in the Western Conference Final, where the Marlies fell in seven games to the eventual Calder Cup-winning Texas Stars.

Spott has an extensive history with Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. He spent eleven seasons as an assistant under DeBoer with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers and Kitchener Rangers. Spott became Kitchener’s head coach and general manager in 2008, where he remained for five seasons. During that time, his team went to the playoffs four times and twice to the Western Conference Final.

Spott played 121  games as a forward for Colgate University and 20 AHL games before finishing his playing career with the Netherlands’ Heerenveen.

As reported by Curtis Pashelka and others last May, the Sharks obtained permission from the Toronto Maple Leafs to talk to Spott about an assistant coaching position early this summer.

The Sharks also signed forward Frazer McLaren to a one year contract. McLaren was drafted by the Sharks in the 7th round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He spent almost six seasons with the organization before being claimed off of waivers by the Maple Leafs in 2013. He spent three seasons with Toronto, playing 62 games with the Maple Leafs and 28 games with their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. His NHL career totals include four goals, seven assists and 261 penalty minutes.  As a Worcester Shark, he was the team’s all time leader in penalty minutes, and has 678 penalty minutes to his credit.

Playoffs Over For Sharks, World Championships Underway

By Mary Walsh

The dust has settled around the Sharks’ 2014-15 season, Todd McLellan will be choosing another team to coach, Doug Wilson will continue as San Jose general manager. Brent Burns was named a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award, for his work with Defending the Blue Line. The Sharks are negotiating an extension with the City of San Jose, so rumors that the team plans to leave town should die down.

The Worcester Sharks played their final game on Friday against the Hershey Bears. The Sharks lost in fairly spectacular fashion, giving up ten goals to the Bears while scoring four. Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, Daniil Tarasov, Brian Lerg and Chris Tierney were all on the playoff roster for Worcester. In the series, Tierney had a goal and two assists, Tarasov had three assists, and Goodrow and Lerg each had one assist. Rookie goaltender Aaron Dell started three of the four games, while Troy Grosenick started one. It was a regrettable final appearance for the Worcester Sharks. Next season, they move to San Jose to play at SAP Center as the San Jose Barracuda.

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner published a statement of confidence in his GM, in which he addressed the fans directly. Plattner also expressed disappointment with the team’s recent failures. The letter came soon after Doug Wilson’s press conference, where he was asked if Plattner would be available to the media. Someone did suggest Plattner might address fans directly, maybe the letter was a response to that. In any case, Plattner continues to have little interest in discussing his decisions with the press.

Offseason changes that Sharks fans can expect will probably include a new starting goaltender. That Niemi was not resigned before the end of the season is strong evidence of that. Hardly any Sharks veteran gets this close to free agency and returns to the team.

In the choice of a new coach, Wilson has said that he will take the time he needs. It is odd that he did not even suggest he would like a new coach before the draft. He might not necessarily need his head coach’s input for drafting prospects. What one would expect the coach to participate in would be trade activity that happens around the draft. Perhaps Wilson has no intention of making any trades for players. Some might consider that an ill omen for next season.

Todd McLellan is currently in the Czech Republic coaching Team Canada at the world championships, with Brent Burns on his roster. For those wondering, Burns is listed as a defenseman for Canada. Canada has played two games so far, winning 6-1 against Latvia and 10-0 against Germany. Burns had an assist in the game against Latvia, and against Germany.

Tomas Hertl and Ben Smith are there too, playing for the Czech Republic and the USA respectively. The Czechs lost 6-5 to Sweden and defeated Latvia 4-2. Hertl had a goal in the game against Sweden.  The USA has won their two games, beating Finland 5-1 and Norway 2-1.

Sharks prospect Nikita Jevpalov was named to the roster for Latvia. Poor Latvia has not won yet, losing to the Czechs and the Canadians as listed above. Jevpalov has not played yet.

Sharks and Others Moving AHL Teams West

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The American Hockey League will be moving five teams into California beginning next season. This AHLien invasion was the result of extensive planning and negotiations between the NHL, the AHL, and five NHL franchises. For west coast hockey fans, and California fans in particular, it is goods news. For some AHL fans, it is a sad day.

On January 21st, Mark Purdy of the Mercury News reported that the Sharks’ AHL team will play next season at the SAP Center. Thursday, the AHL and the NHL added to this news by confirming that the Anaheim Ducks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings will also be moving their AHL teams to California.

The Oilers’ AHL franchise will play in Bakersfield, the Flames’ AHL team will move to Stockton, and the Kings’ AHL team will be in Ontario. As for the ECHL teams currently playing in those locations, Luc Robitaille of the LA Kings said that their Ontario ECHL team will be moving to Manchester to fill the void left by the Monarchs’ departure. How may others will follow that pattern has not been announced. The Ducks’ AHL team will move to San Diego.

During a press conference held at SAP Center, officials from the above NHL teams, as well as the NHL and the AHL spoke to the media about the moves. Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner and David Andrews, AHL President and CEO joined the Flames’ Brad Treliving, the Oilers’ Kevin Lowe, the Kings’ Luc Robitaille, the Sharks’ Doug Wilson and John Tortora, and the Ducks’ Bob Murray and Michael Schulman.

AHL President and CEO David Andrews opened the press conference, giving the audience a rundown of the development relationship between the AHL and the NHL. He thanked the fans of the teams being relocated for their support. Earlier this week, the Ducks purchased their AHL franchise, putting them in the same group as the Oilers, the Kings, the Flames, and the Sharks, as AHL team owners.

Sharks COO John Tortora spoke next, mentioning that the San Jose AHL team will need a new name that should be chosen in the next few weeks. He lauded the growth of hockey in California over the past decades. He then summarized the development advantages of having AHL Sharks train and play so close to the NHL Sharks. The fans will get to see the AHL players before they reach the NHL, expanding interest in the organization. The management and coaching staff will have greater access to prospects, and players will be better prepared for the NHL environment by living and working in it. On the decision to locate the team in San Jose, Tortora emphasized the organization’s desire to make the AHL franchise beneficial to the community, in terms of added jobs and opportunities in San Jose.

Tortora also thanked Worcester for being a supportive market:

We spent ten incredible years in Worcester, it is an incredible hockey market and should have a new hockey team in the near future. This relocation is not a reflection on the Worcester market, rather it is one where we look forward to ending our last season in Worcester making it a very successful one and then building the program here in San Jose.

After the presentation, Tortora answered a few more questions about the new venture. Tickets to the AHL games will be on a par with other AHL prices, making professional hockey more accessible to a new audience.

Having the AHL team play at SAP Center may not be a long-term arrangement but there are no plans at this time to move it elsewhere. I asked if the plans to expand the Sharks Ice facility were still in the works. Shark Ice is the Sharks’ practice facility that also has rinks for public use. A major expansion looks unlikely at this point, from Tortora’s answer:

We’ve looked at expanding Sharks Ice by two sheets of ice over the last three or four years, but the timing wasn’t right for us to do that. But we’re still looking to add more ice, in the Bay Area.

That leaves the question wide open: where in the Bay Area? How much? As much ice as a pro hockey venue? Bay Area communities can wonder and hope, but nothing has been decided yet.

“This is an unbelievable day for hockey in California,” began Ducks GM Bob Murray. He spoke to the importance of the AHL to the Ducks, pointing out that there are only two players on their current roster who did not play in the AHL at some point.

Kevin Lowe, Oilers President of Hockey Operations & Vice Chair OEG spoke next. The Oilers will not have their team close enough to drive to, but it will reduce travel time to games and allow for more practice time.

Flames GM Brad Treliving spoke next, re-emphasizing the value of the AHL to NHL player development. He praised Glens Falls as a hockey market, but came back to the disadvantage of cross-country travel for call-ups and management. He thanked the fans and others in Glens Falls, acknowledging that these moves mean some fans will lose their hockey teams.

Kings’ President of Business Operations, Luc Robitaille spoke next, saying how impressive it was that these five teams could work together for this move. He thanked Manchester too, and said that Manchester will be getting another team. As mentioned above, that team will be the one currently playing in Ontario.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spoke next. “It’s a great day for hockey, it’s a great day for the NHL.” He thanked Andrews for his efforts to coordinate the move, and thanked the five NHL clubs for their willingness to negotiate and get this done.”They presented a united front, and as a result we were able to get this done.”

A Quick Look at the Worcester Sharks’ Record

By Mary Walsh

Tyler Kennedy and Tommy Wingels are back in the lineup, so the San Jose Sharks aren’t quite so reliant on the recently arrived or inexperienced players they turned to back in Nashville.  More players should return soon, but it speaks volumes for the organization that they could weather this rash of injuries to key players at all.

At second intermission of the Nashville game, Joe Pavelski talked about the younger players suddenly so numerous in the Sharks lineup:

Obviously they’re excited to be here playing, and you … give them a tip or two here or there. You know they’re good players, they’re here for a reason and they’ll learn on the job and, you know, just get out there and do it.

Those young players did bring a lot to the game. Freddie Hamilton played well, despite the quick round trip off and back on the roster. Matt Nieto showed outstanding composure in the last minutes of the game, puck-handling in the offensive zone and ultimately finding Patrick Marleau for a last-minute goal.

It is important not to think of the guys who came out from Worcester as anything but professional hockey players. As Pavelski points out, they shouldn’t need a lot of prep, and in theory the coaching staff in Worcester has taught them the fundamentals of the Sharks’ systems.

Saturday, the Worcester Sharks won 5-1 against the Norfolk Admirals.  Friday, they won 3-1 over the Hartford Wolf Pack. The wins stand out because the Worcester Sharks have had a lot of trouble scoring goals this season. They have scored more (8 back on December 6) but mostly not.

Right now, their 81 goals have them tied for last in goal scoring in the AHL. Last season, they finished ahead of three teams in goals. The season before that, in 2011-12, five teams had fewer goals. In 2010-11, three did. Back in 2009-10,  only one team in the AHL scored more than the Sharks’ 275 goals.

Wait, what? There were a lot of familiar names on that roster: Logan Couture scored 20 of those 225 goals. John McCarthy scored 15, Andrew Desjardins 19. Jamie McGinn was also on that team, as were Jason Demers and Justin Braun. Well, Braun only played three games that season, but he came away with 3 assists. You get the picture.  It was one heck of an AHL roster. Since then, scoring goals hasn’t been so much what the Sharks’ AHL team does.

What about defensively? This season, nine teams have given up fewer than the Worcester Sharks’ 97. Last season, 23 teams gave up fewer goals than Worcester.  Oddly, only three gave up more goals, as Worcester was one of three to give up 228. In the short view, that is a significant improvement.

In 2011-12, 17 teams gave up fewer than Worcester’s 218. In 2010-11: 18 gave up fewer than the Sharks’ 245 goals against. 2009-10: 17 gave up fewer. So it is safe to say that this years’ Sharks are better defensively than the team has been in a while. Maybe the goaltenders are to blame for those bad seasons?

This season, their goaltenders are Harri Sateri and Troy Grosenick.
Sateri has played three full seasons with Worcester, 20 or more games in each season. His save percentage is down this season from the prior two, at .890.

Grosenick has played 15 games this season, with a save percentage of .920.

Alex Stalock played 30 or more games in 2010-11 and 2012-13, with save percentages of .907 and .912 respectively. He also played 61 games in the 2009-10 season, his first with the team. He had a save percentage of .908 that season.

Tyson Sexsmith played 34 games in 2011-12. His save percentage was .916.

Carter Hutton played 22 games with Worcester in 2010-11. His save percentage was .902.

Goaltending doesn’t jump out as the issue with the Sharks’ goals-against problem from 2011-13. Seems like too many shots were getting through.

This could be the Worcester Sharks’ best season defensively in quite a while. Offensively, the improvement isn’t there. Do the Sharks lack scoring depth? Or is the system in Worcester slanted for defense?

Either way, if the Sharks really want more offense from the NHL club, it probably won’t come from Worcester. Not this season anyway.

San Francisco Bulls announce Opening Day roster

Bulls

by Kahlil Najar

SAN FRANCISCO –

The San Francisco Bulls announced today their Opening Day Roster. The new roster consists of  two goaltenders (Tyler Beskorowany and J.P. Anderson), seven defensemen (Kyle Bigos, Andrew Eastman, Josh Kidd, Dylan King, Damon Kipp, Scott Langdon and Steven Tarasuk) and 11 forwards (Kris Belan, Chris Crane, Brett Findlay, Luke Judson, Mark Lee, Ryan McDonough, Dale Mitchell, Jordan Morrison, Christian Ouellet, Dean Ouellet and Brett Parnham).

There is some veteran leadership coming back as there are seven players returning for the Bulls: King, Langdon, Belan, Findlay, Morrison, C. Ouellet and D. Ouellet. Last years top goal scorer Peter Sivak is not on this years roster as he signed with the Alaska Aces this off-season and will face off against his former team in the first game of the season this Friday in Anchorage.

 

Sharks Should Decide Who’s on Fourth

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks are making a splendid start to the season. Despite having their lineup tinkered with by suspension and injury, they keep winning. The only voluntary lineup change they have made from game to game is to their fourth line. There the change has been regular and radical. Matt Pelech and John McCarthy are completely different quantities, one known for fighting and toughness, the other known for tenacity and scoring. Both reputations have been developed primarily in the AHL, over the course of multiple seasons. The Sharks organization knows both players well. Did Pelech move himself up the depth chart, securely ahead of McCarthy by scoring a goal? Possibly, but if anyone believes Pelech will keep doing that they are likely to be disappointed.

Pelech was assigned to the ECHL’s SF Bulls early this season. He was then quickly reassigned to Worcester. After McCarthy’s second NHL game this season, he also spent a day as a Bull before going back to Worcester, while Pelech was recalled. Assigning Pelech and McCarthy to the Sharks’ ECHL affiliate looks like an attempt to keep them nearby for easy recall, while minimizing disruption to the start of Worcester’s season. But so far, they haven’t stayed in San Francisco. They were both reassigned to Worcester anyway.

Todd McLellan has said in the past that he likes to keep options open, use different lineups for different opponents. Is tailoring the fourth line really more important than giving the line time to gel? Five games in to the season, with the other three lines performing so well, why not pick a fourth line and stick with it for a bit?

Did McLellan want Pelech for the game in Vancouver, to give the Canucks pause if they were considering paying special attention to Tomas Hertl? While Pelech’s presence didn’t stop anyone from hitting Hertl, he did score a goal. That is always a good thing to do. Pelech’s goal was timely for him in that respect. There might be more to him than meets the eye.

In today’s NHL, the presence of one known enforcer in your lineup won’t do much to keep anyone from taking a run at someone. It only makes sense that the team should want a fourth line that manages the puck well, executes plays, shoots with some conviction, and basically looks a lot like a third line. So which player, Pelech or McCarthy, fits that role best? They aren’t unknown quantities to the coaching staff. The argument that the season is still young and the coaches need to get to know the players does not apply here.

Perhaps the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does apply. An unfixed lineup could be what McLellan wants. After all, the team is winning.

Defenseman Steven Tarasuk Assigned by Worcester To SF Bulls

steve-tarasuk

By Kahlil Najar

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Bulls announced today that their AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, assigned defenseman Steven Tarasuk to the Bulls. He’s the first Sharks prospect to be assigned to San Francisco this season.

Tarasuk, 23, enters his fourth season as a professional having spent last year with the Lausitzer Foxes in Germany, totaling 32 points in 43 games. Tarasuk has skated in 135 games in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, Ontario Reign, and Idaho Steelheads, recording 63 points and has also played three games in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The Bulls seem to be on a roll of stacking up on big bodied Defensemen this off-season as they just added Andrew Eastman a few weeks ago. With this addition, the Bulls appear to be almost ready for the season to begin as they have already addressed their need for some solid forwards with some new signings and getting some veterans back in the mix.

Bulls and Sharks keep the love going, re-up affiliation

by Kahlil Najar and Phillip Torres

SAN FRANCISCO–

The San Francisco Bulls announced today that their affiliation with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and the AHL’s Worcester Sharks has been renewed. The Bulls will continue to serve as the Sharks’ exclusive ECHL developmental team.

The Bulls were the new kid at the table last year as they entered their inaugural season in the ECHL and when they announced their affiliation with the Sharks, they instantly became a the new belle of the ball. The Sharks provided seven players to the Bulls, including goaltenders Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson, defenseman Mikael Tam, and forwards Marek Viedensky, Daniil Tarasov, Yanni Gourde and Tommy Grant.

On the Bulls, Sharks Assistant GM Joe Will said “San Francisco provides a terrific option for us to place players in a situation where they can further develop themselves as hockey players. Bulls Head Coach Pat Curcio and his staff do a great job preparing the players to succeed and Daniil is a perfect example of that. He worked hard in San Francisco and Worcester and earned an NHL contract on the merit of his play.”

“We’re very excited to continue and further grow our partnership with the San Jose Sharks,” said SF Bulls President and Head Coach Pat Curcio. “We can’t thank Doug Wilson, Wayne Thomas, Joe Will and John Tortora enough for their support. Our first season created a mutually beneficial relationship. The Sharks provided us with high-quality players, who helped contribute to our team’s appearance in the playoffs. We are excited about the opportunity to develop Sharks prospects while putting a winning product on the ice. We also believe that our affiliation with the Sharks not only gives us quality prospects, it gives us an instant identity in a very large market, and we are very grateful to them for that.”

“We had an extremely positive relationship with the Bulls last season as a development vehicle for players within our system and we look forward to continuing that agreement,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson.

This affiliation with the Sharks helps solidify the Bulls home here in San Francisco. The proximity of the Cow Palace to the SAP Center is something that most ECHL and NHL teams do not share and no doubt had an influence in both teams decision to continue this successful partnership. The Bulls had tremendous reach into the community during the season as they had above average attendance to most home games and put their stamp on all facets of media including radio, TV and other out-of-home advertisements.

“It’s important for us as an organization to help grow the game of hockey at all levels in the Bay Area and the Bulls have done a great job putting a quality product on the ice,” said Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora. “The Sharks Bay Area journey began in the San Francisco area and this is another opportunity for us to connect and engage with our many fans and supporters in the North Bay, which is home to more than 15% of our season ticket base.”

The Bulls start their season this year with a preseason match up against the Bakersfield Condors on October 10th at 7:30pm at the historic Cow Palace