Nolan weighs in on lockout

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Nolan weighs in on lockout

SAN JOSE Owen Nolan is fortunate that there isnt a strict dress code for the informal team lockout skates at Sharks Ice.

Nolan, the former Sharks captain, has joined the few remaining Sharks players in the area for their practices. On Monday, he was spotted wearing the blue pants of the Toronto Maple Leafs, green-and-red gloves of the Minnesota Wild, a helmet with a bright red C of the Calgary Flames, and a black-on-white NHLPA jersey.

Im just trying to survive, said Nolan, 40, after skating for about an hour with Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Marty Havlat and several extras. The body doesnt want to keep up as much as it used to, but Im having fun out here.

The skates are probably more fun for the retired Nolan than the players who should be earning their NHL paychecks at the moment.

One of the most popular Sharks to ever don a black and teal sweater, Nolan spent 18 years in the National Hockey League, from his rookie year of 1990-91 with the Quebec Nordiques through his final year with Minnesota in 2009-10. During that time, which includes eight seasons with the Sharks, he experienced a hat trick of work stoppages the players strike of 1992 which postponed 30 games; the 1994-95 lockout that resulted in a shortened season, and the lost year of 2004-05.

Now that his long and storied career is over, Nolan considers himself a fan, and is disappointed the NHL and players association hasnt yet reached a deal as the lockout approaches three months in length.

I havent been watching it too closely enough to stay informed, but its never good for anybody, Nolan said. It doesnt matter which side it is. Its just a matter of, how quick can you get it done? As an ex-player and more of a fan now, you want to see it back. It affects everybody the little guy, the parking guys, the communities. Its not just players and owners that get affected, its the fans and the people that rely on the hockey to make a living.

Nolan seems to suggest that both sides are a little too set in their ways at present, as negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday with a select group of players and owners but without head honchos Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr.

I think theres got to be a give-and-take on both sides. In the long run it doesnt benefit anybody. Players are going to lose out on money and theyre never going to make back. These owners have other businesses other than hockey, so theyre still going to make their income. Theres got to be give-and-take. Both sides are never going to get what they want, so youve got to find that common ground thats going to make it work.

A number of players that have since hung up their skates are on record as saying that the cancelled season of 2004-05 wasnt worth it in the end. Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano and Mark Recchi have all stated in some way or another that the players should find a way to get a deal done as soon as possible so as to avoid missing out on money theyll never see again. Current players have missed four of 13 paychecks this season, and games are cancelled through Dec. 14.

Nolan understands that side of it, but doesnt completely concur. Instead, he points out that the reason NHL salaries are as high they are today is due to the work that the players fought for when he was still a member of the association. NHL players averaged 2.4 million last season, up from 1.4 million eight years ago.

Its not only for yourself, its for future generations that youre fighting for, he said. Do you want to be a part of it? No, you dont want to be a part of it, but youve got to fight for what you believe in and make sure that when youre long retired, the guys that are still playing understand what happened years before. I think thats the same situation thats going on now.

Ive been through a couple of them, and I dont think if we went on those battles early on in my career, that guys would be making the same salaries theyre making now.

At the same time, he points out that not everyone in the players association is on equal footing, and a cancelled season would affect some players much more than others.

The guys that are making 5 million-plus on long-term deals are not going to be as affected as the guy thats maybe in the league for three years, making less than 1 million. Theres a lot of those guys in there that will have to find jobs after hockey.

I understand why theyre fighting tooth and nail to get everything they can, but at the same time, if the season goes by and youre not getting paid, thats another year off your contract and career. Theres a lot of different angles youve got to look at.

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”