Sharks mic up Dillon, offering glimpse into hockey's fighting culture

Sharks mic up Dillon, offering glimpse into hockey's fighting culture

SAN JOSE – Ask anyone in the league who’s been around the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon, and they’ll likely tell you that off the ice he’s one of the more gentlemanly players in the game today. That might surprise some outsiders, who have become accustomed to seeing the six-foot-four, 230-pounder drop the gloves and throw haymakers when he deems it necessary to stand up for one of his teammates.

But a video circulating on social media and talked about on The Today Show on Thursday morning, in which Dillon was mic’d up during a fight with Nashville’s Austin Watson, offered a glimpse into the 26-year-old’s personality. Immediately after exchanging blows with Watson in the second period of a game on March 11, Dillon and the Predators forward had a friendly chat from their respective penalty boxes that made it sound as if they were lifelong buddies.

In reality, Dillon didn’t recall ever even chatting with Watson in the past.

“People were asking, ‘is that your buddy?’ I literally have never met Watson before. I don’t know him at all,” Dillon said on Thursday.

For those that have seen the video, the “Joey” they were referring to was the Predators’ Ryan Johansen, whom Dillon said he knows “really well.”

That affable back-and-forth doesn’t happen after every fight, of course, but it’s not uncommon for hockey players in leagues that still permit fighting to be friends with one another, or to quickly move on from some rough stuff that has happened on the ice. It’s simply an accepted part of the culture and the game.

In this instance, Dillon was simply sticking up for Paul Martin, who was on the receiving end of a heavy hit from Watson.

“Some of [the fights], I for sure wouldn’t want to see the guy, talk to the guy, [or] touch the guy ever again in my life,” Dillon quipped. “There’s others where you’re able to joke around about it a bit. At the end of the day, you’re still going to go out and play hard, and finish your check on him the rest of the game whether you’re a good buddy or not.”

The Sharks have acquired players in recent years that had some run-ins with current guys already in the dressing room. Raffi Torres assimilated quickly into the dressing room when he was brought in four years ago, and Roman Polak was welcomed, too, despite pummeling Justin Braun in a playoff series while he was still with St. Louis in 2012. Most recently Jannik Hansen joined the team, and mentioned in his conference call with the local media just after the deal that he had fought Dillon once before.

Neither Hansen nor Dillon was worried about any discomfort, though, from a fight that had happened two years earlier.

“A guy like Jannik Hansen, three weeks ago is one of your worst enemies, and now you’re playing with him on the same team. You want nothing but the best for the guy,” Dillon said. “Last year when Polak came here, he [had] fought Brauner or something, and it was kind of like, is there going to be any awkwardness? I don’t think there ever was. You maybe joke around about it at first.”

“I think it’s something in the world of sports you respect one another, you respect what you do on a nightly basis. That’s kind of what hockey is. I think that’s something that separates it from football and baseball. You get a five-minute penalty for it, you come back out and play hard. There aren’t too many guys that will hold grudges. Obviously if there’s a bad hit there might be a little bit, but in certain instances like that one (with Watson), it just happened.”

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.