Sharks weigh in on NHL visor debate

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Sharks weigh in on NHL visor debate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Granted, hes not the most well liked player in San Jose. Seeing former Ducks defenseman and current Philadelphia Flyer Chris Pronger skate off the ice after a stick to the eye earlier this week, though, was one of those plays that no one ever wants to witness.

The Flyers say Pronger will miss two-to-three weeks, which, with an eye injury, is lucky. It brings up an often-debated question in professional hockey should visors be mandatory?

Some Sharks weighed in on the issue after practice on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville.

PROHOCKEYTALK: Doc tells Pronger "No visor, no play"

I think players have the right to choose, saidDan Boyle. Its a chance youre taking when you dont wear one. I definitely encourage guys to wear them, young guys especially. Theres nothing wrong with wearing them.

When Boyle broke into the league with the Florida Panthers in 1998, he didnt wear one at first. A couple of incidents just a few games apart, however, promptly changed his mind.

I actually got cross-checked in the face, and then three games later I got a slap shot, he said, although he couldnt recall who hit him or which team is was against. I had a temporary visor, and got a slap shot in the visor. Had I not had thatI dont know.

Once I got that shot in the temporary visor, thats when I went to it full time.

Defenseman Colin White has a personal experience when it comes to eye injuries. When he was still with the Devils, White took a puck to the face in practice causing him to miss two months, and still has slight vision impairment.

He now wears a visor for medical reasons, but even after the frightening injury, would rather be without.

If I had my choice Id still have none, he said. Its a comfort thing for the guys who wear them. Thats their choice. Its tough to see out of them, and sweat is always getting on them. I think it still should be a choice of the players.

Ryane Clowe, who doesnt wear one, saw the Pronger incident and was asked if that gave him pause to reconsider.

You know, you flinch and stuff when it happens. Especially a guy in my situation, obviously I fight a little bit and play a rugged game. I dont think a visor is part of my game, said Clowe.

As he mentioned, Clowe plays a more physical game than the average player. When he fights, its not usually predetermined. Rather, he drops the gloves to immediately stick up for teammates. His fights are spur of the moment.

Im not a guy thats going to pick my fights and take off my helmet, he said. If someone runs a guy, Im jumping in. Thats why I dont wear one.

While player safety is obviously the biggest benefit when it comes to visors, there is also the business aspect to consider. After all, when an organization is paying players millions of dollars to compete, the last thing that organization wants is for one of its key investments to have to miss some time or worse.

The Sharks put a guideline in place this year in training camp with their minor league players, according to Todd McLellan.

We had a policy in training camp that the American League players that came into our training camp were going to keep them on until we got to an NHL game, he explained. I would fully recommend that everybody puts them on, but some of the older players have a personal preference. You look at a former teammate like Manny Malhotra such an innocent play can turn into a disaster pretty quick.

Malhotra, of course, was injured last season while playing with the Vancouver Canucks when he was struck in the left eye by an errant puck. There was talk immediately following the injury that Malhotras career could be over, but he returned at the tail end of Vancouvers long Stanley Cup playoff run.

The NHL, to its credit, wants to mandate that every player wear a protective shield. The players association, though, hasnt agreed to it.

NHL spokeman Gary Meagher told Kevin Allen of the USA Today: "The league is in support of making visors mandatory and we have proposed a mandatory rule with grandfathering if players prefer," he said. "But it's not something the players have agreed to do and we aren't willing to move unilaterally in this area without the Players Association agreeing."

Clowe is open to the idea of a gradual implementation.

Im not against maybe grandfathering it in, as people come in. If youve been in the league awhile, you dont have to, he said.

I wouldnt want it to be mandated, but on the other end, its tough to see guys get hit in the eyes.

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.