Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

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Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

SAN JOSE – The sights, the sounds, and the smells were all very familiar to Ryane Clowe. The view, though, was just a little bit different.

Clowe, the locked-out Sharks forward who is currently acting as an assistant coach for the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, saw his new team drop a 6-4 decision to the Stockton Thunder in front of nearly 13,000 fans at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Despite the loss, it was a pleasant experience for the guy who would have been in a Vancouver hotel getting ready for a game against the rival Canucks rather than standing behind the bench, had the NHL season started as scheduled.

“It was pretty weird, actually. I think more than anything, I just miss being out there,” Clowe said.

But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. The 30-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons has enjoyed his time mentoring the young minor-leaguers, a small percentage of whom will graduate to the American Hockey League or higher, but many of whom will have to find work outside of hockey when their brief careers are over.

The Bulls’ experience of suiting up in the Sharks’ locker room, taking the ice in an NHL arena, and hearing so many thousands of fans cheering them on is something that most ECHL’ers never get to do. In fact, it had been more than 10 years since an ECHL team played a game in a pro arena, and that arena (Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh) isn’t even standing anymore.

For Clowe, he could see the enthusiasm on his players’ faces.

“That was the best part for me, just watching those guys and how excited they were. Especially that we got to use [the Sharks’] dressing room, they were pretty stoked about that,” he said.

“It was awesome. It’s probably one of the biggest stages that a lot of guys have played on, and they treated us really well here,” Bulls winger Kris Belan said. “We walked in and got the whole show, so it was pretty cool.”

Clowe even had a special message for defenseman Mikael Tam, who had just arrived on a flight from Worcester after playing for San Jose’s AHL affiliate over the weekend. Tam got changed in Clowe’s regular space.

“He was sitting in my stall and I said, ‘you’ve got to score tonight.’”

Tam opened the scoring at 9:21 of the first period.

Clowe wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, some of which were wearing Bulls orange but the majority of which had on their black and teal. The official announced crowd was 12,881 (all free), and by all appearances, that number was not at all inflated.

“They were obviously craving hockey, and I obviously feel bad for them that they’re not getting it right now,” Clowe said. “It sucks, but they were great tonight. I told the guys to be ready, because these fans get loud.”

Clowe signed with the Bulls on Nov. 7 and continues to practice with them, but he still has no plans to play for the team while the NHL lockout enters its fourth month. Despite the lockout moving from the meeting room to the courtroom with the latest legal filings by the NHL and players’ association, Clowe is hopeful that he’ll get to return to his regular job of bruising NHL agitator very shortly.

“Being back here, I think it’s really made me, more than anything, miss it.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.