(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
“Meeting at 12:30.”
It was a small thing, a nothing really, another day at Sharks training camp. It was just a reminder repeated by several players to other players, responded to with a nod or some affirmative phrase.
As players came off the ice, sat down, went away again, they were tagged with this message: “meeting at 12:30.” It was a perfectly normal thing, open, direct, unguarded. It did not sound urgent, just matter of fact. Everyone wanted to make sure everyone would be at the meeting.
Maybe I have never paid close enough attention, but it sounded new to me. Not the words, just the way they sounded, spoken by so many players. I probably only heard it four or five times, but that sounded like a lot. It sounded like many people talking, taking an interest, taking responsibility for each other.
Later that same morning, head coach Todd McLellan was asked if he has sensed any change in the room from seasons past. He answered:
I think they’ve got together and talked about a lot of things, which is a real positive, especially for the group as a whole. That can only help but move them forward.
Was this camp any different from prior camps? Was there any peculiar tension, with the reassignment of the captaincy? Was this camp different in any way?
No one would say it was really different, or any more different than any camp has been. There is always something buzzing around, trying to distract from the work people are doing.
If it isn’t the captaincy or trades or lack thereof, it might be something truly disruptive. The KHL has a team in the Ukraine. Their arena was damaged last season, all their playoff games were played on the road. As distractions go, that is probably pretty trivial in cases of armed conflict. That did not happen during training camp, I believe it was late in the season. I only mention it to put things in perspective.
The 2014 preseason is over. The Sharks played as long as they could, finishing in overtime in their last game. Their preseason results were not spectacular, but they seem to have found what they need to start the season.
With Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres unavailable due to injury, the team will need to rely on some of these new faces. It looks like those faces will belong to one or more of Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, and Eriah Hayes.
On defense, there is no specific gap per se, but the team can use a boost there, someone more than an eighth defenseman. Can Mirco Mueller do it? Did Saturday’s game in Anaheim expose some holes in his game? Should the Sharks go back to someone with a little more mileage?
The preseason is such a deceptive spectacle. Half the players are auditioning, half are rehearsing for opening night. The only thing to take away from the games is who got to play and who did not. Mueller and Goodrow and Tierney got to play a lot.
Which means either they are staying or the coaches just wanted a better look at them. We will know which in the next couple of days.
In other Northern California hockey news, the Stockton Thunder are up for sale. Apparently there is no mad rush to get the deal done. According to the Sharks’ Chief Operating Officer John Tortora, the Sharks are paying attention to that:
We’re paying attention to what goes on from a hockey standpoint. It’s no secret that the NHL clubs who are based on the West Coast, particularly the three California clubs, are looking to move our minor league Eastern-based teams to the West Coast. We’re working with the AHL to figure that out. Nothing’s been set in stone yet.
One of the things NHL teams have to figure out is where to put the AHL teams. Many locations are being considered by the Sharks.