Sharks

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

SAN JOSE - Fans might have been scratching their heads when it was announced ahead of training camp that the Sharks will have four alternate captains this season.

But as head coach Peter DeBoer explained when camp opened up, each player wearing an "A"-- Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson -- brings something different to the table. And their jobs will be just as important as that of newly-appointed captain Logan Couture

"For me, it's always about the people around the guy wearing the 'C,'" DeBoer said. "They're just as important, and we've got two former captains in there in Jumbo (Joe Thornton) and Erik Karlsson."

He has a point. San Jose's "A-team" boasts a resume of players with extensive leadership backgrounds. From Thornton's and Karlsson's experiences as being captains to Burns' run as being one of the loudest voices in the Sharks' dressing room. Couture himself said having a group like that around him is a plus.

"I'm lucky here in San Jose," Couture said on Friday, the first day of training camp. "There are a lot of guys who are leaders and a few guys who have been captains in the past. So we've got a great leadership group." 

The one alternate captain selection that has garnered the most attention thus far has been Tomas Hertl, who is wearing a letter for the first time in his professional career. Of course, anyone who has kept tabs on the Czech forward during his tenure in teal knows he has developed into a leader over the last couple of seasons, particularly last season when he took rookies Lukas Radil and Radim Simek -- both of whom are older than Hertl -- under his wing.

"I know we've got a lot of leaders here on the team and I'm really happy Pete picked me," Hertl said on Friday, adding that he wants to continue elevating his game after a successful 2018-19 campaign. "I want to prove it, you know? I think I proved it last year but now, it can't just be one year and then I slow down. I want to push myself harder and harder and help the other young guys coming in."

"He's elevated his game and his confidence in demanding and making other people around him better," DeBoer said of Hertl. "That's grown over the four years that I've been here. He was a young kid that was coming off of a couple of really tough injuries when I first got here. His development and growth have just been off the charts."

DeBoer also mentioned that San Jose's contingent of leaders backing up Couture expands beyond the four players wearing "A"s.

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"We've got a lot of other guys, even (more) than the group who are wearing the letters," DeBoer said, "who are going to be part of our leadership group, including Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane and other guys.

"I feel very fortunate here as a coach with what I've inherited in this organization. I think all of those guys will support Logan in his job."

Sharks' tough tests continue as team faces East-commanding Sabres

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USATSI

Sharks' tough tests continue as team faces East-commanding Sabres

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks might've tallied their third straight win on Wednesday night by beating a tough Carolina Hurricanes team. But their work against tough Eastern Conference competition has only begun.

Saturday night's contest marks the start of a six-game stretch against teams from the other side of the country, which starts with a home-and-home the Sharks will play against the conference-leading Buffalo Sabres.

That's right. The Sabres have command of the east at the moment. And the offensive weapons they'll bring to the next two games are sure to challenge some areas where San Jose has been at its weakest -- getting hemmed in their own zone and giving opponents too many chances.

Buffalo isn't leading the entire league with 13 points by accident. Through their first eight games of the 2019-20 season, they've outscored their opponents 29-18 and have a power play that has found the back of the net 11 times in 31 attempts so far.

Part of that success is because Victor Olofsson is tied for first in the league with six points per game on the young season. But the Sabres are also getting set-up help from Rasmus Dahlin, a ten-goal boost from captain Jack Eichel, and an offensive jolt from winger Jeff Skinner who continues to roll after posting a career-best 40 goals last season.

Add to it that netminder Carter Hutton is leading the league with a 1.39 goals-against average and .953 save percentage and you have the makings of a team on a red-hot start.

Not to mention one that will put the Sharks to the test.

The Sharks weren't completely satisfied with the effort they put on the ice last Wednesday against Carolina, especially in the first period when they were heavily pinned into their own end of the ice and got outshot 16-7. Despite scoring two power-play goals in that first frame San Jose knew that their penalty kill was the reason the Hurricanes weren't able to take the game over in the second stanza when the score was just 3-1. 

After the win, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer gave a lot of credit to Martin Jones in helping keep the Canes from taking the game over, especially with their power play. "Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," he said. "(Jones) was really solid. I thought in that first period [the score] could've been 3-3."

But the Sharks don't just need another big performance in the net on Saturday. They'll need to find a way to take the ice away from the Sabres and minimize their chances.

Needless to say, San Jose has to find a way to get more zone time against in their first period against the Sabres than they did in their first 20 against the Hurricanes. With an average 30.6 shots per game, Buffalo is winning games whether they outshoot their opponents or not -- not to mention being 6-1-0 when they score the first goal. San Jose might've caught a break in their last game by having a rough first period overshadowed by Evander Kane's hat trick and some killer saves on Jones' end, but they'll have to work harder to get out of their zone against a Buffalo team that's finding the back of the net early and often.

[RELATED: Sharks credit penalty kill in win over Canes]

This isn't to say it's all doom and gloom for the Sharks. They've cleaned a lot of things up over their last three games, getting big contributions from their special teams as well as from their goaltending. 

Getting positive contributions from all of those areas when they face off against the red-hot Sabres is really going to be the key.

Sharks' Brent Burns appreciates connection to STEM programs in schools

Sharks' Brent Burns appreciates connection to STEM programs in schools

SAN JOSE — When the average 5th-grade Sharks fan watches a Brent Burns’ slap shot beeline towards the goal, he or she is probably just worried about whether the puck hits the back of the net or not. The angle of Burns’ shot or the goalie’s save percentage probably isn’t even a blip on their radar.

But SAP’s “Digital Scholars” program is aiming to show students there are math and technology-based jobs in sports too -- ones that look at things like how many goals-against can hurt a netminder's average or how changing the price of merchandise in a team's store can impact sales.

In a hands-on session with students at Baldwin Elementary School in the South Bay, Burns himself had the opportunity to interact with students who are using the program to learn about the different sides of the sports industry, from analytics to jersey sales and more. 

The Norris Trophy winner told NBC Sports California he was impressed -- especially with how quickly the students could make their way through the math-based tasks the program sets up for them.

"It wouldn't be easy for me to do that stuff," Burns laughed after he had watched several students maneuver through the program. 

The initiative's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education platform features a hands-on way of learning, with it's "Data Champions" module that has a focus on football, basketball, and, of course, hockey. Plans for the STEM program to be used in schools emerged in the spring of 2019, with hopes to use the "gamified" program in select schools in seven U.S. states along with Ontario and British Columbia in Canada.

But the laptop-compatible program is more than a video game with a few math-based trivia questions popping up along the way. Although, to be fair, a few questions from the program posed at Thursday's event were hard for even the adults in the room to answer. All in all, it teaches students about some of the detail that goes into jobs surrounding a team -- not just being the star athlete,

So while one task includes moving a puck-scorer to different areas of the offensive zone to get the best shot at a goal, it's also teaching students about turning their interests in this program into future jobs thanks to its "career-pathing" focus, which makes the program more of a job-creating tool and less of a video game.

Something Burns, who spent nearly an hour talking to students about what they were learning from the program, liked about the STEM education overall.

"It was pretty cool to see how it was steering them based on their interests and what they're doing on certain things and what they can look into doing later in life," Burns said. "It's really cool to see that these programs can start tracking based on their interests and what they're clicking on. Just to let them know 'Hey, you might want to look into this.'"

That's high praise from a father of three.

[RELATED: Sharks credit penalty kill in clinching win vs. Hurricanes]

Burns' biggest takeaway was that the program made learning about the different aspects of sports accessible to any student -- whether they're a future athlete or bound to be a stellar statistician. 

"It's all relatable and that's the biggest thing with school," Burns said. "All of this was relatable and it was helping them steer to the future."