First, some good news. It sounds as if Joe Thornton’s two-month-old son River, whose hospital trip forced Thornton to miss Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp, is doing well. The Sharks won’t comment on the situation publicly, but thankfully, indications are everything is fine.
The camp in Calgary ends on Thursday, and still features three current Sharks in forward Logan Couture and defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. None of the four Sharks players that garnered invites are considered locks to make the Canadian team, which will likely be the favorite in Sochi, Russia.
Sky-high insurance costs prevented the players from skating, but that doesn’t mean head coach Mike Babcock couldn’t go over some X’s and O’s. With the rink covered, the Canadians played some ball hockey as Babcock and his staff walked them through some drills on the bigger international rink.
Unlike the 2010 games in Vancouver, the Olympics in Russia will be played on the larger ice surface.
"I'm not worried about that," Boyle told the Canadian Press. "I think players at this level of caliber get to gel pretty quickly. As far as on-the-ice stuff, I'm actually kind of thrilled because we haven't been skating too hard yet."
Couture, incidentally, was “skating” on a line with John Tavares and Steven Stamkos, while Boyle and Vlasic were paired up in drills.
Boyle the elder statesman
At 37 years old, Boyle was the oldest defenseman invited to camp, and the second-oldest player among the 47 total behind Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis. According to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun, Boyle doesn’t want to hear about it.
LeBrun writes: "I’ve got a lot of D-men telling me that I was their favorite D-man growing up," Boyle chuckled Monday. "I’m sure I’ll be asked about my age from here on in. It bothers me, but what can you do? I play with guys who are 25 who are icing their backs. It’s not always about age. Look at Marty."
One thing I’ve learned about Boyle in my two years covering the Sharks is that he still carries a chip in his shoulder from not getting drafted. It’s an attribute that could help motivate him to make the 2014 Olympic squad.
“I’ve been doing this my whole career, being counted out forever. I’m probably not expected [to make it], but, obviously, I’d love to be part of it. I know what I can bring to this team."
Pavelski at Team USA camp
Among North Americans, Joe Pavelski could be considered the most likely Sharks player to make his country’s Olympic roster. He’s currently attending Team USA’s camp back east in Washington.
Pavelski, who was a part of the silver medal-winning American team in Vancouver, spoke with the NHL Network’s E.J. Hradek in a video posted on NHL.com.
“It’s nice the second time around. It’s a little easier, you know what to expect, familiar faces,” Pavelski said. “It’s a little easier to adjust.”
To many, Team USA overachieved in Vancouver in 2010. This time, the Americans could easily find themselves in the Gold Medal game once again. At least, that’s the plan.
“The [media] expectations were down a little bit [in 2010]. This year, coming into it, they’re high,” Pavelski said. “We expect to put in a good performance and we want to win gold. … Everyone feels it in the locker room, and those are the expectations.”
Couture in Top 50
The Hockey News recently released its list of the Top 50 players in the NHL, and Couture was the only Sharks representative, coming in at number 28.
According to the publication, Couture is “part of a group of young players who now must carry the torch on a San Jose team with an aging core,” and he’s ”poised to become a point-per-game player.”
The Sharks were predicted to secure a playoff spot in 2013-14 with a second place finish in the Pacific Division. The Kings were picked to win the division, while the St. Louis Blues were chosen to win it all, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.
Murray in Montreal
Former Sharks fan favorite Douglas Murray recently agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
Murray told the Montreal Gazette: “What you see is what you get. In order for me to be successful, I need to defend really well, number one, and (I need to) be a big, physical presence out there.
“I definitely have a (will) to win and I bring a lot of competitiveness. It’s nothing flashy; I don’t think anyone has ever used that word to describe me as a player. I’m a steady player and the excitement probably comes from the physicality department.”
The 33-year-old, who was traded to the Penguins just before last year’s trade deadline for a pair of second round picks, will return to the SAP Center on March 8 (the Sharks visit the Canadiens much earlier in the season, on Oct. 26).
Murray spent the first seven-plus years in the NHL with San Jose.