SAN JOSE -– It wasn’t a very enjoyable year for anyone in the Sharks organization last season, but that’s especially true for Mike Brown. The agitating winger was able to suit up for just 12 games, hurting his left hand in the home opener and then breaking a bone in his leg soon after his return in December.
He worked hard to get back in late in the year, playing in four of the final five games, but by then it was evident that there would be no postseason in San Jose.
“This was a long summer and it’s something we didn’t want, but it gave me time to recuperate and get healthy and kind of think about the new year and cross out last year for me and the team,” Brown said.
It’s difficult to determine where Brown fits in with the Sharks now (on Thursday, he was skating with Ben Smith and Frazer McLaren in practice). Although he brings an aggressive energy that was missing in spades last season, he’s not exactly a guy that’s going to light up the scoreboard, and Pete DeBoer has already revealed that he would prefer to ice a fourth line that can contribute offensively. Brown has 31 points in 349 career NHL games.
Still, the new Sharks coach was complimentary of Brown on Thursday.
“Mike is one of those guys that for me, can combine the toughness of being able to take on heavyweights if he has to, but you can also play him,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s the new tough guy in the NHL, because it’s a four-line league now. … The teams that have the toughness, that you can actually play eight or 10 minutes a night, are the ones that have success. I think he’s one of those types of guys.”
There are a number of young players pushing for roster spots, though, so it’s fair to wonder if Brown is a guy that will remain for the whole season. At 30 years old, he’s in the final year of a one-way contract that will earn him $1.2 million.
He’s not taking anything for granted, especially now that there’s a new coaching regime in town.
“You have to establish yourself as a player. No one’s guaranteed anything with ice time or any of that,” Brown said.
“Every camp I’ve been to in my years in the NHL, you have guys competing for spots. There’s nothing different for me, regardless of if you’ve got that one-way contract or not. I’m going to come in and be competitive, play the same way, and I’ve been told don’t change anything. That’s what’s gotten me to this point.”
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Melker Karlsson has yet to participate in a full practice due to an undisclosed injury, but he joined some of his teammates on Thursday as the skate was winding down. Karlsson is unlikely to play in either of the upcoming home preseason games on Friday or Saturday, per DeBoer.
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Here is how the Sharks forwards lined up for practice on Thursday. The team is still split up into two groups.
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Matt Nieto – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels
Frazer McLaren/Nikolay Goldobin – Ben Smith – Mike Brown
Barclay Goodrow – Bryan Lerg – Joonas Donskoi
Timo Meier – John McCarthy – Ryan Carpenter
Extras: Raffi Torres, Micheal Haley
On defense, the top four remains Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Justin Braun, and Paul Martin with Brent Burns.