‘Not our party’ – Sharks plan to skip Kings’ banner ceremony

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When you give up a 3-0 series lead against hated rivals, you’re bound to hear about it over and over again.

The San Jose Sharks are pretty much certain to absorb questions and barbs about their first-round collapse against the Los Angeles Kings well beyond the point of sickness. There is one painful ritual the Sharks will opt to skip, however; San Jose will stay in the visitors locker room while the Kings raise their 2014 Stanley Cup banner, according to the Mercury News’ David Pollak.

“It’s not our party, it’s theirs,” Head coach Todd McLellan said.

That’s … probably for the best.

That said, while cameras won’t capture their awkward on-ice reactions to a ceremony that will likely pour salt in still-fresh wounds, San Jose won’t be able to avoid memories of a series that slipped away. CSNBayArea.com depicts what’s likely to be a repetitive stream of recollections regarding the Sharks’ agonizing defeat and the very awkward offseason that followed:

Wednesday won’t be the last time the Sharks are reminded of what happened, as the NHL has firmly recognized that their rivalry with Los Angeles is one of the best going right now. A behind-the-scenes reality show will lead into the Sharks-Kings outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 21, and all five meetings between the clubs will be broadcast nationally in the United States.

Even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a press conference last Thursday that the Sharks and Kings meeting on opening night in front of a national audience was no accident.

Naturally, the Sharks are putting a “make the best of it” spin on the situation, and it’s not as if there’s zero precedent to a team bouncing back from such a crushing failure. The Boston Bruins memorably bounced back from coughing up a 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia in 2010 to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.

It’s obviously easier said than done, but it sounds like the Sharks are eager to prove that the Kings didn’t break their spirits.

“You just have to go out and prove it,” Logan Couture told CSNBayArea.com. “There’s nothing you can sit here and say. Your actions speak louder than words and we just have to go out and prove people wrong.”

Here’s some more from Joe Pavelski:

Sharks’ McLellan: Couture isn’t carrying ‘baggage’ after difficult last season

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A nagging hand injury that required surgery mid-season, being left off Canada’s gold-medal winning Olympic hockey team and a devastating team loss in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There were plenty of difficult times – individually and on a team basis – for San Jose Sharks’ forward Logan Couture during the 2013-14 season.

It began to unravel somewhat in January for the 25-year-old Couture, who scored 23 goals and 54 points but only appeared in 65 regular season games.

News of the hand injury came on the eve of Canada’s Olympic hockey team announcement. He wasn’t named to the team, which he felt he should’ve been. And the season came to a bitter end when the Sharks coughed up a 3-0 series lead and lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings.

Couture, obviously very disappointed with the way the season ended, seems to have moved on, according to his head coach in San Jose, Todd McLellan.

“It piled on, but I don’t think he is carrying that baggage with him at all at this point. I haven’t sensed it,” McLellan told CSN Bay Area.

“He hasn’t expressed to me at all that that’s the case. We look at a pretty refreshed young man that’s ready to play.”

PHT Morning Skate: Preseason scratches get new jobs in Anaheim

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

So you’re on the Anaheim Ducks’ roster and you’re not suiting up for a preseason game, what do you do? Players got behind the counter at a recent preseason game to work the concession stands at the Honda Center. (Bar Down)

There seems to be a common theme with respect to injuries in the NHL over the last 48 hours or so. Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal suffered a broken bone in his leg during an odd collision on Tuesday night. Rangers forward Derek Stepan is also sidelined with a fracutured fibula. The latest comes from Nashville where team mascot Gnash has been placed on “injured reserve” with a broken leg suffered during training. (Predators website)

Teams across the hockey world are known to have various items players wear as player of the game – usually handed out by teammates following a victory. The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League have gone one step further. Check out Nick Betz of the Otters modelling their player of the game outfit (via Craig Button):

Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau is looking to put last season behind him. After winning the Calder Trophy in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Huberdeau scored just nine goals and 19 assists in 69 games in 2013-14. (theScore)

San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture is expected to resume skating Thursday after an awkward fall during the team’s preseason game in Vancouver. (San Jose Mercury News)

There have been rumours of a merger between the East Coast Hockey League and Central Hockey League. The latest comes from hockey agent Darryl Wolski. (via Twitter)

Every player who had a NHL contract during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season will receive a bonus check on Oct. 15 as the first of three “transition payments”.  This includes players such as Chris Pronger, who last played during the 2011-12 season. (Philadelphia Daily News)

Sharks explain moving Burns back to the blueline

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The San Jose Sharks made a lot of debatable statements this offseason, but they didn’t really blow things up like some feared (and others requested). One significant move involved a tweak from within, as the organization decided to move Brent Burns back to defense.

GM Doug Wilson explained the logic to the NHL.com on Friday.

We acquired him in a trade to be a stud defenseman,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “To find a guy at that size who can shoot and skate that’s played in this League and been an All-Star as a defenseman, we don’t think there’s going to be any issue there, and especially if you’re working with [associate coach] Larry Robinson and [assistant coach] Jim Johnson.”

Maybe just as importantly, the 29-year-old appears to prefer playing on defense. The fit seems reasonable enough with Dan Boyle fleeing to the New York Rangers.

The thing is, more than a few believe that Burns simply offers more as a barreling power forward as he does as a very nice defensive piece. Fear the Fin made a strong argument against moving him (albeit back in May):

But even harder to find is the kind of unrestrained physical force Brent Burns was as a power forward for the past season and a half. He was one of the most effective forecheckers in the league, excelled on the cycle and at protecting the puck along the wall in tandem with Joe Thornton and generated a boatload of scoring opportunities every time he stepped on the ice. Oh, and he scored. A ton. That might come as news to people who only look at the counting stats (Burns scored 31 goals and 37 assists in 92 games up front) but those undersell Burns’ true offensive contributions and his real impact in transforming the Sharks from a team that couldn’t buy a goal at even-strength for two and a half years into the 5th-best even-strength offense in the league.

On the bright side, the Sharks boast a quality player, whether they roll him out on the wing or the blueline.

Logan Couture’s simple statements to NHL.com might really say it the best.

“It’s weird when you think about Brent Burns and how good of a forward he was when he moved up front,” Couture said. “Then you remember he was an NHL All-Star as a defenseman and he scored almost 20 goals as a defenseman. I’m looking forward to it. He’s always entertaining when he’s on the ice.

He’s pretty entertaining at times off the ice, too.

(H/T to The Score.)

Tomas Hertl will be very important for San Jose next season

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When Tomas Hertl showed up last season for the San Jose Sharks, he was a breath of fresh air.

His youthful exuberance and ability to score highlight-reel goals gave the already potent Sharks offense another weapon. A knee injury at the hands (read: knees) of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown cut his season short, but with 15 goals in 37 games he provided the kind of impact that helps a team feel good about the future.

The Sharks had enough confidence in Hertl’s game to buy out Martin Havlat, move Brent Burns back to defense from forward, and to not really sign anyone to replace either of them up front. While Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture help make up an offensively frightening top-six with the forwards, it’s Hertl who figures to be the key.

Sound crazy? Not so much.

Hertl, while he was in the lineup, spent most of his time on a line with Thornton and Burns and was a dominant possession player (only Thornton and Pavelski were better amongst forwards). Keeping the puck and scoring a bunch of goals makes him invaluable.

With Burns now back on the blue line, Sharks coach Todd McLellan could create a Corsi nightmare for opponents by assembling a top line with Hertl, Thornton, and Pavelski together. Regardless of whether that happens or not, it’s Hertl that makes things happen for Thornton the set-up man.

With the Sharks offensive options thin outside of the top-six, having Hertl recreate what he did last season is vital for balance between the top two lines. If the goals evaporate, opponents will load up against Couture and Marleau’s line. Giving other teams fits defensively is what’s made the Sharks so good in the past and having Hertl pick up where he left off will only help that out further.