Marleau and others missed camp but haven’t missed a beat

Peter DeBoer should have known better.

He heard the stories of how Patrick Marleau and longtime Sharks teammate Joe Thornton trained in the offseason well before he got to San Jose. Still, he was amazed at how the 40-year-old Marleau jumped back on to the ice after no training camp and scored twice in his first game.

”I know what an athlete he is and how great of shape he keeps himself in,” DeBoer said. ”It still is an amazing feat.”

Marleau is one of a handful of NHL players who missed camp and exhibition games but haven’t missed a beat early in the season. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen were restricted free agents who didn’t sign until late September and they are also off to hot starts.

Laine has 12 points in 10 games for the Jets, and Point is a point-a-game guy in his first five games this season with the Lightning. Rantanen was tied with Avalanche linemate Nathan MacKinnon for the team lead with 12 points in nine games, a big reason Colorado won seven of its first nine. Rantanen left Monday’s game against St. Louis with a lower-body injury.

Rantanen practiced with a team in his native Finland in the weeks before signing a $55.5 million, six-year contract with Colorado. That intensity of training gave coach Jared Bednar confidence to hand Rantanen big minutes right away.

”(Getting) a couple weeks with a team and skating and do practices drills and 5-on-5 drills, I think that kept him sharp and he was able to come back in and pick up right where he left off,” Bednar said.

Laine followed a similar path, skating with a Swiss team to stay in shape before negotiations culminated with a $13.5 million, two-year contract. The Finn has nine assists to go along with three goals as he rounds out his offensive game.

Rantanen has five goals and seven assists and looked like his old self before the scary injury in St. Louis.

Things clicked right away for Marleau, who after two seasons in Toronto returned to the place he played his first 19 years in the NHL. He has three points in four games, and the Sharks are 3-1 since Marleau came back.

”I’m focusing on trying to get up to speed and help my teammates out, help my linemates out as much as possible,” Marleau said. ”I got off to a good start, got a good couple wins. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

The Sharks needed a boost after a handful of injuries compounded the problem of rushing young players into big roles. Marleau isn’t in his prime, but he is a familiar face and a skilled forward who knows DeBoer’s system.

”It allowed you to plug a guy in in your top six that the players in your top six are happy to play with,” DeBoer said. ”Good players want to play with good players, and good players want to play with guys that they know they can rely on and trust and understand where they’re supposed to be on the ice at what time of the game. It’s made a big difference.”

Marleau still isn’t sure he’s in a regular-season rhythm yet, but it’s no accident he was able to make a difference right away. Despite not having a contract after being traded from Toronto to Carolina and bought out, Marleau skated at the Sharks’ practice facility and a rink in San Mateo, California, and worked with Sharks strength coach Mike Potenza in case a team came calling for his services.

If Marleau plays in 77 games this season, he will pass Jaromir Jagr for the most in league history.

Unlike Laine, Point and Rantanen, who were going to sign eventually, Marleau had no way of knowing if his career was over, making the strong start to his 22nd season all the more impressive.

”It was a battle, for sure,” Marleau said. ”I haven’t missed a training camp in I don’t know how long. It was uncharted territory for myself, so I have to thank my family, my wife and kids for putting up with me. There’s a lot of highs and lows. Going through that, you’re just trying to focus on what I can control and one of the things I could do was work out and stay in shape and just mentally try and be ready for when that call does come.”

As the Sharks try again for their first Stanley Cup championship, DeBoer isn’t easing Marleau in and expects the veteran forward to be a substantial piece for San Jose yet again.

”He’s got a great brain for the game, he’s right on top of things,” DeBoer said. ”I think the expectation is he comes in and what he told me is he’s going to give us whatever he’s got in whatever role we give him. Early that’s been a pretty big role. I don’t see that probably changing.”

Report: Sabres’ Bogosian requests trade

Zach Bogosian Trade Request
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With the Buffalo Sabres dealing with a logjam of defenseman, the team has been active in NHL trade rumors as general Jason Botterill tries to make a move to help address the team’s depth at forward.

It is not hard to connect the dots and assume a defenseman could be the player eventually on the move. And it seems veteran Zach Bogosian might be making the decision on which one to trade a little easier. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Bogosian has reportedly requested a trade out of Buffalo.

He is also not in the lineup for their game against the Nashville Predators and will be a healthy scratch as the team dresses seven defenseman, including second-year standout Rasmus Dahlin.

Dahlin will be making his return to the lineup after missing the past eight games due to a concussion.

As for Bogosian, he has been limited to just 10 games this season while injuries have been a constant issue for him throughout his career. That has been especially true during his Sabres tenure where he has never played more than 65 games in a season. He is in the final year of his current contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Sabres have 12 defensemen in the organization with NHL experience and are currently carrying eight on the roster.

As far as a potential return is concerned, expectations should be kept within reason given his contract status and inability to stay in the lineup over the past few years. It might be worth noting the Sabres have been rumored to be one of the teams interested in Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk as he continues to struggle to fit in with his new team.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sharks on fixing issues under Boughner: ‘It’s on all of us in this room’

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As with many coaches, after some time, the effect your voice has on your players wears off and new blood is needed. That’s been Peter DeBoer’s experience since becoming an NHL head coach in 2008.

Three seasons with the Panthers was followed by three-and-a-half yeah with the Devils, which brings us to his four-and-a-half season tenure with the Sharks, which ended Wednesday night with his firing. Each stop of his coaching journey has seen improvement, with his most successful job done in San Jose where the team made the Stanley Cup Final in his first season and reached the playoffs in his four full seasons in the Bay Area.

This 15-16-2 Sharks team should have been in the “Cup Contender” category nearly halfway through this season, but has turned out to be nothing but a disappointment. A five-game losing streak was the last straw for general manager Doug Wilson and it was time for a change.

“Probably, yeah,” said Joe Thornton when asked if a new voice was needed. “I love Pete. Pete’s a fantastic coach. He took this team to where it’s never been before. Nothing but heavy respect for Pete. But it might have been time for a new voice.”

The Sharks’ goaltending has been a huge issue since last season with a league-worst .892 even strength save percentage since the start of the 2018-19, per Natural Stat Trick. There’s also an issue of team defense. San Jose is tied with the Maple Leafs with 46 high-danger goals allowed, most in the NHL. It’s a baffling statistic given they also own the league’s best penalty kill at 88.3%. Systemically, there’s something wrong.

“We’ve talked about this since the beginning of the season,” Wilson said Thursday, “whether it’s focus, whether it’s attitude. Bob [Boughner] talked about when you’re killing penalties, it’s to prevent the other team from scoring, so you come back with urgency, even though you’re a man less. It’s positioning, sticks in the right lanes. I don’t like to use the word cheating, but you’re not hoping to go the other way. If you can apply that approach 5-on-5, you’d think you’d be very strong at it.

“If you can take the idea that it’s not just to prevent the other team from scoring, but now we want to get the puck back so we can attack offensively, that’s really the mindset you have to have. When we do that well, we’re a really good hockey team.”

Making a move to shake up this roster seems like a long-shot given the Sharks’ salary cap situation. The only notable move so far came in the way of bringing back Patrick Marleau, who has six goals and 11 points in 29 games.

The only change coming will be Bob Boughner moving from assistant to head coach and a new staff featuring San Jose’s AHL head coach Roy Sommer, and former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov.

“The players trust and believe in [Boughner],” Wilson said. “And I think he’ll bring that energy, juice and joy to the game I think our team is missing right now.”

We’ll see if Boughner learned from his two playoff-less seasons with the Panthers. Whatever new system and style he wants to institute will have to be executed by the players who have played their way into this situation.

“It’s on all of us in this room,” said Sharks captain Logan Couture. “When something like that happens, pro sports is such a what have you done for me lately business. As a player, when a coach loses their job, you feel you’re part of the reason why.”

“You put hockey aside. As a human being, you’re upset you’re not going to be able to work with that group anymore and see them every day,” Couture said. “I talked to most of them and just them that I had so much fun coming to the rink and playing for you guys.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tim Thomas details brain damage from hockey

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Former NHL goaltender Tim Thomas said Thursday that his post-concussion syndrome symptoms were so severe that he couldn’t make basic decisions and his brain wasn’t functioning well enough to even watch hockey.

In his first public appearance since walking away from the game, Thomas said a scan taken after he retired showed that two-thirds of his brain were getting less than 5% blood flow and the other third was getting less than 50%. The 45-year-old said it took significant time and help to even be able to communicate with former teammates and others.

He’s still not close to normal.

”I wake up every day and basically I have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done,” Thomas said before being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Thomas won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins and was named playoff MVP. He played parts of 10 NHL seasons before retiring in 2014 but said his experiences made him question if it was all worth it.

”It taught me a value for life and a value for my brain that I’ve never had before,” Thomas said. ”And I have appreciation for everything that I never had before. I don’t regret anything.”

Long considered reclusive, Thomas said he lived in the woods for a couple of years because he couldn’t handle human interaction. He got a chance to talk to some old teammates at a game Wednesday nights between the Bruins and Washington Capitals.

Losses pile up for Red Wings as Blashill’s seat gets hotter

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It’s pretty wild to think that it’s been a month since the Red Wings last won a game, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Ducks. It’s even wilder to realize that was their third straight win and that streak began by beating the Bruins and Golden Knights.

One month later and Detroit has gone 12 games without a win, five NHL teams have made coaching changes — with differing reasons, of course — and Jeff Blashill remains behind the bench.

The Red Wings are currently approaching the franchise record for consecutive losses (14) set back in 1982 and are five defeats away from tying the NHL record (17) held by the 1974-75 Capitals and 1992-92 Sharks.

“When things go bad, they’re really bad right now,” said Dylan Larkin. “We don’t have an answer for that right now. But we need to find it. It’s not even Christmas yet and this has happened too many times. It’s not acceptable.”

How bad it is? Their goal differential is currently a a league-worst minus-62. The Devils are right behind them at minus-37. They’re ranked 29th in team even strength save percentage at .896, per Natural Stat Trick, with their goaltenders allowing five or more goals in half of their 32 games. The offense is averaging a paltry 2.09 goals per game.

The expectations were low this season, so playoff hockey wasn’t a thought for the team. With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman and a young roster, it was all about development and taking steps forward. Blashill signed a two-year extension in April, but there’s been a lack of progress. There’s a natural replacement on the Red Wings’ bench in Dan Bylsma, but perhaps Yzerman has someone else in mind?

While his future remains unknown, Blashill is trying to focus on the present.

“For me, all I’m doing is what I always do and that’s be solution-based and worry about what we can control,” he said following Tuesday’s defeat. “What we can control right now is learning from this game and make sure we are helping our team get better. Find solutions. Come Thursday and worry just about that. That’s it.”

It’s hard to know Yzerman’s thinking on the situation given he hasn’t spoken publicly about Blashill since last month’s general manager meetings when he said he was “seeing good progress” with the Red Wings and there’s still a “long way to go.” But clearly something’s got to give in Hockeytown.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.