Although NHL labor talks appear stalled once again, there is still a decent possibility the league will open its doors again in December, provided an agreement is made within the next 10 days or so (go ahead and debate the likelihood of that amongst yourselves).
NEWS: No progress made
The Sharks have eight players playing competitively overseas -- Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Antti Niemi, Jason Demers, TJ Galiardi, Douglas Murray, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski; and two more, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus, that are practicing with professional clubs. In fact, only the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins have more players (nine) in leagues in Europe.
Logic would dictate that those teams will have a competitive advantage once the season starts, since training camp isnt going to be more than a week to 10 days if things ever get going.
I asked Clowe if that could help the Sharks out of the gate in a potential shortened season.
It will help. Ive talked to a guy like Demers, and hes playing a lot and playing well over there (in Finland). Thats great for him, especially at this stage of his career. Same with a guy like Galiardi.
All around the league is going to be the same. Youre going to get guys that have been playing, guys that havent played in awhile, guys that are just practicing like I am. Youre going to get these guys at different stages. Its going to take awhile to feel guys out, but I dont feel any team really has an edge.
As expected, Clowe didnt suit up for either of the San Francisco Bulls two home games over the weekend after officially signing with the ECHL club one week ago. Instead, the 30-year-old veteran served as an assistant coach in the Bulls 4-1 win over Stockton on Friday, which ended a seven-game losing streak, and a 7-0 loss to Ontario on Saturday.
Bulls defenseman Theo Peckham, an NHL defenseman with the Edmonton Oilers, made his home debut on Friday while former Shark Devin Setoguchi potted a pair of goals for Ontario on Saturday. The match made some news across the blogosphere for reasons other than what happened on the ice, though, as the Zamboni broke down in the second intermission, requiring the players to help push it off the ice (via Puck Daddy).
Minor league hockey, baby.
While the Bulls have struggled on the ice with just a 3-8-0-2 mark, last in the 23-team league with a .308 percentage, they are drawing respectable crowds. Through their first three games, 18,818 fans have witnessed Bulls hockey in the renovated Cow Palace.
After a visit to Ontario on Wednesday, the Bulls return home for three home games in three nights, beginning on Friday.
Sharks assistant general manager Wayne Thomas has been lending his support to the Bulls during the lockout, appearing at practice a handful of times to work with goaltenders Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson. Thomas, a former goaltender himself, also works with the Sharks netminders during the season.
Thomas was present on Thursday at the Cow Palace when Clowe had his first official skate with the Bulls. Its an interesting dynamic in that during the lockout, team representatives arent allowed to have any contact with current players. That means that Thomas really isnt allowed to interact with Clowe in any capacity.
When I asked Clowe about it, he quickly stated, Wayne and I arent talking. But, I never talk to him anyway. He was, of course, joking about that last part.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has spent some time in Worcester checking out the organizations prospects in the American Hockey League. The coaching staff and team management are taking turns flying across the country to monitor and get a close-up look at the players that could soon be a part of the NHL roster.
For McLellan, it offered him a chance to reflect on his own career, which was cut short due to injury.
I was in the minors in Springfield, Mass., and I remember driving away from the rink the day my career was over basically, McLellan told NHL.com. I just went back to the Springfield arena this past September and I looked at the parking spot where I was parked. It was such a reflection time.
Dan Rosen went on to ask McLellan if he still considered the Sharks a Stanley Cup contender.
"I'd like to think we are. I believe we can be. But we're at a point where we need to look each other in the eye coming back from the lockout -- and we're going to have to decide if we are going to be a Cup contender. With the personnel and the type of game we want to play, I think we can be, but collectively we need to make that decision and make it quickly."