Colin White settling in with Sharks


Colin White settling in with Sharks

SAN JOSE If theres been one benefit to the Sharks missing two defensemen with broken hands, as they are with Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer, its that it has allowed Colin White to settle in and play his best hockey of the season.

At least, thats how coach Todd McLellan recently categorized Whites play.

Sometimes, somebodys misfortune is somebody elses good fortune, and when both Vandermeer and Murray went down with injuries, it allowed him to get in a groove and play. I know he feels better about himself, and that pair. We feel really good about putting him in, in important situations.

Its like anything, its new and its getting used to different partners and systems. Just fitting in, said White, after Thursdays practice at Sharks Ice.

Prior to the injuries to Murray and Vandermeer in early December, McLellan was doing everything he could to keep his eight healthy defensemen fresh. If White and partner Justin Braun had a good game, that didnt necessarily mean they would be in the next night. Several times this season, the Sharks coach swapped out an entirely new third defense pair regardless of if the team had won its previous game.

White has played in the last seven Sharks games, his longest streak of the season in the lineup, and has been an even or plus player in 13 of his last 14 games overall.

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He knew he was going to be in every night, and he got into a rhythm and started to play really well, said McLellan. Without the injuries, do we put him in every night when were juggling eight? I dont know. Now, hes really settled in and hes done a good job.

As a professional and an athlete, you want to be in. Everybody does, said White. There are guys in the minors that want to be up here, and theres pressure every day to be your best.

Like any player on a new team, it took White some time to get adjusted to the Sharks after he was signed by the club following a buy-out by the New Jersey Devils. White spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career with the Devils, and after his services were no longer wanted in New Jersey, signed a one-year, 1 million contract with San Jose this summer.

The middle of the summer rolled around and he was still a Devil, and all of a sudden his world changed. It really changed, said McLellan. Hes not waking up around his kids every day, and there are lots of adjustments to his world.

Braun, too, has been thriving since he was recalled from Worcester for the second time this season at the beginning of the month. Hes played more than 20 minutes in three of the last five games, something he hadnt done at all in his first 13 games with the Sharks.

He enjoys playing with the veteran White.

Hes seen it all, won Cups, and its calming, said Braun. You dont get too riled up. You make a bad play? Just keep going. Theres a lot of game left. Its good to have him around.

Braun admits that being in the lineup on a night-in night-out basis has its benefits.

There are always other guys biting at your heels for spots so youve got to play well every night, but its a good feeling playing a lot in a row. You get used to games and dont want to lose that feeling, he said.

Murray and Vandermeer are getting closer to a return, though, as both have been skating with the team this week. Although they will probably not be ready against the Kings on Friday night, they could both be taken off of injured reserve at some point next week.

When that happens, it will be decision time for McLellan again.

Its really good for us to have eight quality NHL defensemen that we can play and were comfortable with that. Thats something we created and had a desire for, said the coach. In the same breath, its also hard for them because they know that two bodies around going to be in on most nights when theyre all healthy.

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.

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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.