Sharks go to Arizona early for some team building

Sharks go to Arizona early for some team building

Team building in NHL hockey takes many forms. 

Prior to training camp or at some point in the first few weeks of the season, it’s common for players to get together in an official capacity, such as a sponsored golf tournament, or unofficially, like when the Sharks went to Lake Tahoe a couple years ago, to hang out and/or blow off a little steam.

The Sharks’ early five-game road trip afforded them a chance to all spend time together as a group for what was really the first time away from any distractions at home, as many of them were late to camp due to the World Cup. That was a difficult trip hockey-wise, though, with five games in eight days. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to think about anything other than the next game, and to prepare accordingly. Any extra-curricular activities would have to wait.

Even when they stayed over in Detroit at the conclusion of that trip, a decision by coach Pete DeBoer that went against standard protocol, it wasn’t really a great time to let loose. “There’s not much to do in downtown Detroit,” joked Tommy Wingels.

There’s a little more going on in Scottsdale, though. 

The Sharks flew to Arizona on Sunday, a day earlier than usual for a Tuesday meeting with the Coyotes, to have a team dinner and do…well, whatever comes after that. It’s an annual tradition for every NHL team to have at least one such night together to do a little carousing. With a practice day set for Monday, there’s plenty of time for them to, shall we say, recover in time for the game.

“It’s huge for guys to get together and have some team bonding a little bit,” Joel Ward said. “You get to know some guys you may not, and especially some new guys coming in.”

The Sharks’ roster isn’t much different than last season, with the only additions being Mikkel Boedker, David Schlemko and Aaron Dell.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “Guys in here know each other really well. I don’t know if we can get any closer than where we are right now. But, [when] you have some new faces, it’s always fun to have a night [with] just the 23 guys on the team.”

DeBoer, for his part, is receptive to the group making such plans. He obviously had to sign off on going to Arizona a day early, and last season he allowed the Sharks to remain in Nashville the night after a game on April 2 when they didn’t play in Minnesota until April 5. (There’s more going on at night in Nashville than there is in Detroit, too, by the way.)

“[DeBoer has] been good with that. He just says give me a heads up of when you guys want to do something, and we’ll talk about it and make plans accordingly,” Vlasic said. “He’s been great this year, last year, and for the Phoenix trip to allow us to spend some time together.”

It’s clear, too, that there’s a level of trust that’s been built between the coaching staff and the players. The Sharks beat the Bruins 5-4 on Nov. 17, 2015, following their annual dinner last season, and blanked the Wild 3-0 on April 5 after spending that extra night in Nashville.

“Guys here are smart. They’ve been around long enough,” Wingels said. “This is a fun group, but this group is here for one reason, and we know what that reason is. … The most fun we have here is playing in the playoffs. That’s what we’ll look to do.”

Ward said: “[Our group] is not just a good hockey team, but we have a lot of great people, and I think that carries a lot of weight in our locker room and on the ice.”

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

Erik Karlsson did not play for the Sharks in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to suit up. 

Karlsson took the ice in front of the fans at SAP Center as a Shark for the first time, all while wearing San Jose's newest uniform. He officially unveiled a black alternate jersey that the Sharks will wear in 13 home games this season. 

Teal is the only prominent accent color aside from some orange in the shark's eye. It looks like Martin Jones' new mask design offered a bit of a thematic preview of the Sharks' new look.  

The "Stealth" jersey also features a black-and-teal version of San Jose's original secondary logo, a cool nod to the franchise's history. Sharks co-president John Tortora told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in February that the logo would "start showing back up again."

In all, it's the third black jersey in the club's history, and the team's first alternate uniform since Adidas took over as the NHL's jersey manufacturer last season. 

The Sharks will wear the jersey in every Thursday night and Friday night home game -- as well as one Saturday. The full schedule for the uniform is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. Columbus
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. Philadelphia
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
  • Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver
  • Thursday, Dec. 13 vs. Dallas
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Anaheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. Washington
  • Friday, March 1 vs. Colorado
  • Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
  • Thursday, March 14 vs. Florida
  • Thursday, March 28 vs. Chicago

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

SAN JOSE -- Since Peter DeBoer took over as Sharks coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, defenseman Brenden Dillon has played with plenty of partners. Seven defensive pairings have played 500 minutes of five-on-five hockey together in the regular season and playoffs during that stretch, according to Corsica Hockey, and Dillon has played for four. 

He’ll likely join a fifth this season. Dillon’s most regular partner over the last three seasons, Dylan DeMelo, now is in Ottawa after being traded to the Senators in the massive deal that brought two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week. 

Dillon, like the rest of the Sharks' defensive corps, doesn’t know who he’ll skate with to start the season. But, he said, his experience regularly playing alongside many different players will prove beneficial when he does.

“I think it’ll be to my advantage for sure,” Dillon said Friday at the Sharks' practice facility. “I’m definitely excited. We don’t really know what the lineups are going to kind of shake out as exactly. I think even during the regular season in past years, too, you might start out with a certain guy and finish the game having played with all five guys. … There’s so many different variables.”

Dillon skated with defensive prospect Jeremy Roy on Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Karlsson for the third consecutive practice. Justin Braun, Vlasic’s regular partner to the tune of nearly 3800 regular-season and playoff minutes over the last three years, skated with Burns. 

At least in the Braun and Burns’ case, that was due to availability. Burns’ most common defensive partner last season, Joakim Ryan, played in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks, and thus skated in the second session. 

Still, it’s possible Braun will regularly play with someone other than Vlasic for the first time in years. The eight-year veteran last played with someone else for more than 500 five-on-five minutes during the 2013-14 season, when he logged just under 505 such minutes with now-retired defenseman Brad Stuart. 

Braun said there won’t be a big learning curve if he plays with someone other than Vlasic, since he’s played spot minutes with just about everyone else (other than Karlsson). Braun said he’d hope to play a couple preseason games with a new partner, but that practice might be an ideal time to learn their tendencies and develop chemistry. 

“You can learn anywhere,” Braun said. “There’s drills set up where there’s a lot of forechecking. You might chip [the puck], and he’s not there, and you kind of talk about it after. That might be the best place since they’re not scoring goals on you where it counts.”

It might be awhile before DeBoer provides a glimpse into his potential pairings. Karlsson will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights at SAP Center, and the Sharks will not cut camp down to one group of up to 26 players (five forward lines, four defensive pairs, and three goaltenders) until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Saturday, San Jose will play three more preseason games before hosting Anaheim in the regular-season opener Oct. 3. Who Karlsson, and the rest of the defense, play with then is still to be determined, according to DeBoer. 

“We’ll see,” DeBoer said when asked if he envisioned Karlsson and Vlasic as a long-term possibility. “We’ve had a couple practices, but honestly I’ve got a bunch of different things rolling around in my head. The nice thing about getting [Karlsson] now is that it’s not a trade deadline where you’ve basically got six weeks to figure it out.”

DeBoer added that he hopes his pairings that open the season will stick together stick throughout the season, but he knows the nature of a long schedule will require changes. As Braun and Dillon both noted, that can happen during the ebb and flow of an individual game, too.

No matter who plays with whom, Dillon said he’s confident any new-look pairings will be able to become comfortable. 

“I think that’s just going to come with time,” Dillon said. “But, for us as a group, I think we can all cover for each other if we’re struggling a bit. At the same time, I think when we’re all going well, it’s going to be a tough group to beat.”