Wingels primed to build on last season

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Wingels primed to build on last season

SAN JOSE There probably arent too many players in the league that are as frustrated as Sharks forward Tommy Wingels must be. For the first time in his career, the forward is assured of a place on the NHL club when training camp begins. Rather than getting ready for a slate of preseason games, though, the NHL's doors are currently closed for business, preventing Wingels and the rest of the team from the normal fall routine.

Wingels somewhat surprisingly made the opening night roster last year, but was quickly reassigned to Worcester after just five games. He returned in January, and scored his first career NHL goal on Jan. 15 against the Blackhawks in his home state. A pair of upper body injuries, including a shoulder, sidelined him for 15 games total in the second half of the season.

When he was in, though, Wingels showed the kind of reckless abandon that hockey management, coaches -- and fans -- love. The 6-foot, 195-pounder finished with 102 hits, fourth on the team, despite playing in just 33 games. He ended the year with three goals and six assists, and one assist in five playoff games against the Blues.

Hes now among a group of younger players on the Sharks that will be counted on to take that proverbial next step and contribute on one of the teams scoring lines.

Wingels knows it, and is looking forward to the challenge.

My last year was pretty good, but I personally feel like I can build on it. Like you said, I think theres that expectation from the team for me to do that, he said. Thats a challenge I have for myself. I think youre going to see a lot of guys, most of the guys here, build on what they did last year -- whether its guys who didnt do as well as they would have liked, guys who were injured, or guys who are just ready to take that next step.

Have a conversation with Wingels about the NHL lockout -- or anything, really -- and youd swear you were speaking with a longtime league veteran rather than a player who has yet to play even a full season in the pros.

But the 24-year-old Evanston, Illinois native, who was one of three Sharks to attend the NHLPA meetings in New York nearly two weeks ago, is supremely eloquent and thoughtful when describing the state of collective bargaining negotiations from his perspective.

You want to play as many years in this league as you can. In that sense, you want to be as informed as you can about the nature of the league and where its going; the shape it will be five or 10 years from now, Wingels said on Tuesday at Sharks Ice. Careers are short, so in one sense youve got to worry about now, but at the same time youve got to worry about future years and players that are coming up behind you.

As a young guy now, I try to ask a lot of questions, to guys who have been through it before and guys that are leading the charge now. The best thing you can do is stay as informed as you can. This is our livelihood here, so I dont see why guys wouldnt be informed.

NEWS: NHL, NHLPA returning to talks Friday

Although the uncertainty of the next CBA and salary cap limit played into the Sharks relatively dormant offseason, the expectation that players like Wingels will continue to improve and have a direct impact on the club has just as much to do with their lack of free agent activity.
That indirect vote of confidence from the Sharks' brass sits fine with Wingels.

As a younger player, thats what you want to see. Youve got confidence in your game, and when you play with great players, you expect a lot out of yourself. I know young guys like myself, TJ Galiardi, James Sheppard and guys that are newer in this league, the first couple years I think your development comes pretty quickly. There is a process of getting your feet wet and feeling out the league, and then your confidence and game takes over from there.

There are a number of factors that played into San Joses uneven regular season and first round ouster last season. A horrid penalty kill and untimely goals allowed by the goaltender are among them.

But, so was a lack of scoring from anyone other than the top two lines or the power play. After the club traded Jamie McGinn to Colorado on Feb. 27, the Sharks third and fourth lines rarely found the scoresheet. In the final 21 games of the season after that deal, the Sharks bottom six combined for just nine goals total while at even strength.

Wingels, who didnt score a goal himself in his final 21 combined regular season and playoff games, thinks he can help.

Id like to score some more goals, he said. Like you said, this team was missing that last year. If we could have found 20 or 30 goals collectively from a few guys, we would have been in a lot better shape. Thats something I want to contribute. At the same time, I think a lot of my game is played without the puck -- forechecking, being physical, playing well defensively. I think when I do all those things combined is when Im most effective, and the goals start coming.

For now, though, Wingels waits, along with the rest of the league. Hes considering going to Europe if the lockout drags on, but said he doesnt have a sense yet of which country he might end up in.

Its disappointing and frustrating, he said. You work all summer and prepare to start playing here, and you want to play games. We play this game because we love it, because the games are the most fun and best part about it. So, its disappointing, but theres an onus on you to stay and shape and be ready. Things can progress quickly, and I think thats what were all hoping.

When it does begin, Wingels wont take his assurance of a roster spot for granted.

You still have to have that chip on your shoulder, he said. Nothing is given to you, and ice time -- youve got to earn that. In that sense, my mentality wont change.

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
 
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
 
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
 
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
 
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
 
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
 
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
 
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
 
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
 
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
 
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
 
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
 
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
 
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

NASHVILLE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley could be in line for supplemental discipline from the league, after earning a match penalty in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Nashville.
 
After absorbing a borderline hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame, with the Sharks trailing 5-2 at the time.
 
Naturally, there were differing opinions from the two head coaches on the play.
 
Pete DeBoer said: “When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth.”
 
Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters: "It's an ugly play. This isn't the wild, wild west. I mean, Calle hit him. We took a penalty. If we start doing that, we're in trouble, so hopefully it gets looked at."
 
Any player who earns a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner has ruled on the issue,” according to league rules.
 
In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.
 
Jarnkrok did not return after the punch, but told reporters after the game he felt “OK.”
 
"I feel pretty good," Jarnkrok said. "Obviously, I saw him coming. There were a couple other guys coming, too. I didn't really know what to do. He got in a good punch on me.”