Sharks players express how coach Peter DeBoer's firing shocked them

Sharks players express how coach Peter DeBoer's firing shocked them

SAN JOSE -- It might have looked like business as usual on the surface when the Sharks took the ice for their morning skate Thursday to prepare for a bout against the New York Rangers.

But with a new coaching staff on the ice, things were definitely not the same.

"It's a little weird," Patrick Marleau admitted. "Obviously when there are changes, they seem different."

It had been less than 24 hours since Peter DeBoer and his coaching staff were relieved of their duties. Sharks players expressed feelings of shock and sadness -- and acknowledged the change sends them a message they need to be better.

"You're shocked and stunned and you feel for those guys," Logan Couture said. "You put hockey aside. As a human being, you're upset that you're not going to get to work with that group anymore and see them every day. I've talked to most of them and I told them how I had so much fun coming to the rink every day and playing for you guys. 

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to win as a group."

For most of the players in the room, especially for the younger set, this kind of mid-season change is a new experience. Tomas Hertl particularly was stunned, given that DeBoer gave him the opportunity last season to take over at center and take on a leadership role.

"It's never happened to me in my life, during the season," Hertl said. "It's for sure hard because we've played under Pete for four years and did a lot of really good things. We went to the Stanley Cup Final. Last year, we almost got to the Final again. Under Pete, I grew up.

"Last season I had one of my best seasons and he gave me the opportunity to play big minutes and be a top-six forward and I really appreciate it."

San Jose is getting a slightly new voice with Bob Boughner taking over as head coach. The team is familiar with Boughner, being that he has been on DeBoer's coaching staff twice since the 2015-16 season. That being said, practice looked a little different with Boughner and his new coaching staff -- which includes Roy Sommer, Mike Ricci, and Evgeni Nabokov -- shuffling up the lines and running things.

"We're going to shake some things up system-wise," Couture said. "Boughie talked to us this morning as a group, as a leadership group. He's a guy you want to play for and a guy you want to do well for."

[RELATED: What comes next for Sharks after decision to fire DeBoer?]

But the changes don't stop with Boughner and his staff coming in. As Couture previously mentioned, it's on the players now in the post-DeBoer era to right the ship. San Jose still hasn't won a game in December and the Sharks currently sit five points out of a playoff spot.

Whether there has been a coaching change or not, it's up to the players on the ice to take responsibility.

"It's on all of us in this room when something like that happens," Couture said. "Pro sports is such a 'what have you done for me lately' business. As a player, when a member of the coaching staff loses their job, you feel like you're part of the reason why." snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

USATSI snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s named a Game 7 ending 5-4 and involving a three-goal comeback, two division rivals and an overtime winner as the best game of the 2010s.

It just wasn't the one with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. and International staff members chose the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference first-round series during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the game of the decade. In a 9:18 span, the Bruins erased a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into the extra frame. 

An epic comeback in a game between two "Original Six" rivals is, on paper, worthy of the crown. But Sharks-Golden Knights is more deserving. 

For one, San Jose and Vegas were much closer in terms of quality than Boston and Toronto. Yes, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 2019 Western Conference first-round series and fewer standings points separated the Bruins and Maple Leafs (five) than the Sharks and Knights (eight). However, the 2013 Maple Leafs greatly benefited from the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule, making the playoffs despite being the NHL's worst puck-possession team.

The Sharks and Golden Knights, on the other hand, were both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Both finished the regular season in the NHL's top three in terms of shot share and shot quality. Had Vegas beaten San Jose, it's likely the expansion franchise would have played in a second Western Conference final in as many years. 

What unfolded on the ice in the third period in Boston doesn't hold a candle to the third period in San Jose last April. Then-captain Joe Pavelski's head bled as the result of a fluky collision with Golden Knights forwards Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin, leading to a highly disputed five-minute major penalty. The Sharks then matched an NHL record with four power-play goals on the non-releasable penalty, nearly blowing the roof off SAP Center. 

A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead, but the Sharks couldn't escape regulation with a win. Then-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and iced six forwards when Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds remaining in the third period. That set up an overtime that lasted nearly 20 minutes before Barclay Goodrow sent San Jose to the second round, and the Sharks' win left the Golden Knights with a summer of animosity that made Vegas' decision to replace Gallant with fired San Jose coach Peter DeBoer so much more shocking. 

[RELATED: How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip]

To recap: Game 7 of Sharks-Golden Knights included one of the most controversial (or worst, if you ask Golden Knights fans) calls in NHL history, a historic power play that sent the SAP Center crowd into delirium, a game-tying goal that silenced the same crowd not even six minutes later and nearly a full period of extra hockey. 

By comparison, the twists and turns of Bruins-Maple Leafs seem rather straightforward. 

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip


How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

That is not how the Sharks wanted to enter the All-Star break.

Coming off consecutive wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, San Jose had a chance to reach the unofficial midway point of the regular season riding a massive wave of momentum, perhaps large enough to carry the team back to the postseason. All that sat between the Sharks and that development was a crucial three-game road trip against Western Conference foes.

At the very least, San Jose needed to keep its head above water. Instead, the Sharks drowned in disaster.

Facing the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks -- all teams San Jose potentially would have to leapfrog to make the playoffs -- the Sharks reverted back to kind of performances that put them in such a deep hole in the first place.

San Jose was outscored 14-4 and outshot 117-73 over the course of the three games. Those two stats obviously are interconnected, but Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner pointed to another area of failure as a big reason for his team's struggles.

"The big difference this road trip is we've been horrible in the faceoff circle," Boughner said following the 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. "You're never starting with the puck. Even in the offensive zone, you're chasing, and you can't chase pucks all night. That limits your possessions and tires you out."

Boughner's correct. The Sharks were thoroughly dominated in the faceoff circle over the course of the road trip, which might have had something to do with them scoring only one goal over its final six periods of play. San Jose won only 45.1 percent of the draws against the Coyotes, 45.6 percent against the Avalanche and only 38.0 percent against the Canucks.

It's only the third time this season the Sharks have won fewer than 49.0 percent of the draws in three straight games, and the most recent instance also coincided with a three-game losing streak. Whether it's shooting, scoring or simply gaining possession of the puck, Boughner is hoping the All-Star break will provide the Sharks with the needed respite to address their shortcomings.

"This is probably a great break for everybody, mentally," Boughner said. "Recharge the batteries and come back and try to forget about this week of hockey and put a good week in as soon as we get back."

[RELATED: Report: Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline]

The Sharks' final week heading into the All-Star break was an unmitigated disaster. If they're still planning on qualifying for the postseason, they can't have any more like it.