Clowe has no plans to play for Bulls ... yet


Clowe has no plans to play for Bulls ... yet

DALY CITY Sharks forward Ryane Clowe has done everything in his power to stay active during the NHL lockout, which is now in its eighth week.

Hes been to Vail, Colorado, to train and play with a group that included and was organized by Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Later, that assemblage changed locales and convened in Dallas, Texas for some more intense practices and scrimmages. In between, Clowe has been at Sharks Ice, skating with the few remaining Sharks teammates of his that are still within driving distance as opposed to some far-off country.

Now, hes an official member of the ECHLs San Francisco Bulls, but wont suit up for either of their games this weekend at the Cow Palace. Instead, hes practicing with the first-year squad, hoping to stay in tip-top shape should the NHL and its players association strike a deal for a shortened season.

RELATED: Clowe officially signs with Bulls

Just being in the practices is nice, getting a good team and organized skate is something youre looking for, Clowe said on Thursday. Skating on your own kind of gets old, so Im happy they let me come up.

Still, Clowe said, I honestly cant say that I hope to play in two weeks, or that I have a date. I just really have no plans on playing.

Its not out of the question at some point, though. While the league and players association have met for three straight days, theres still a very real chance that talks could break down again, putting the season in jeopardy. Clowe is optimistic that the lockout will end shortly, but also mentioned he never expected the NHL to cancel the Winter Classic last Friday, so his feelings may not be much of a barometer.

NEWS: More talks scheduled for Friday

Both sides are showing they want to get something done when youre hammering it out like that, Clowe said of the meetings, which will resume on Friday in New York. But, anything can turn in those meetings. When it comes down to the main details, like guys getting their guaranteed contracts and the whole make whole thing, when it comes down to those things, thats where youve got to make some ground.

Clowe could use the opportunity with the Bulls to get back into game shape, if a shortened NHL season becomes more likely over the next few days or weeks.

If things start to progress, it might be an opportunity where I could think about playing, because you want to get a couple games in before you get back. That was just an option that I thought about, nothing serious, but Id probably lean more that way if it goes long.

Clowes reasons for not playing just yet are numerous, not the least of which is the 30-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Considering his aggressive nature, in-your-face style of play, a concussion suffered last season, and the possibility that a hulking, low-level minor leaguer might want to target an established NHL forward, and Clowe may be better served watching from the press box.

Or, he could be behind the bench to help out the coaching staff, which includes Bulls owner, president and head coach Pat Curcio.

Its like having another coach, another player and another captain, Curcio said. I cant even tell you how much we like having him around. A guy to lean on, talk to hes been awesome. What hes done for the players already, its leadership you just cant find at this level, so its great.

As Curcio alluded to, Clowe can help the Bulls as much as theyre helping him. One of the veteran leaders in the Sharks locker room, Clowe is more than willing to mentor the young players on the Bulls in any way he can.

The guys are great. Theyre like sponges and like to learn. They are hard workers, and it seems like a good team vibe here. I like being around the guys, Clowe said.

Ive told the guys, ask me if youve got any questions and Ill try to help out. I love to see young guys who want to learn, its great to see.

Still, Clowe would preferably be back in his black and teal sweater, earning what was supposed to be the final year of a four-year, 14.5 million contract. Hes closely monitoring this weeks collective bargaining talks, which could eventually lead to an agreement and even a 60-70 game NHL season. In the last three days, representatives from the NHL and NHLPA have been in the same room for about 18 hours, after not meeting at all since Oct. 18.

Any time you lock two people in a room to try and hammer it out for close to 20 hours, that means guys are bouncing stuff back and forth and people are listening and ears are open, Clowe said. Thats a lot better than what was going on before that.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.