- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.
Believe it or not, I’ve still got thoughts about new San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn’s introductory press conference yesterday.
That’s after Lizz Child and I churned out four articles on it yesterday – these are my cutting room floor thoughts, but if I may say, I think there’s plenty of good stuff here.
We know GM Mike Grier is the head of hockey operations for the San Jose Sharks – can Joe Will be considered his right-hand man now?
Sorry, the Sharks aren’t tanking.
Why do I think it’s wild to judge an Erik Karlsson by the same standard as a Ryan Merkley?
Why might a Mario Ferraro deal take a while?
I’m a little more bullish on Kevin Labanc than most of you – here’s why.
I was wrong about Quinn’s handling of Thomas Bordeleau at the World Championships.
Some insight into what David Oliver or Ryan Warsofsky could bring to the San Jose Sharks.
And away we go…
“He had two terrific interviews with Joe and myself.” (Grier)
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask Doug Wilson and Tim Burke. (laughs) Close enough that I met with them in-person.” (Quinn)
Takeaway: Was it just Mike Grier and assistant general manager Joe Will interviewing coaching candidates? What about advisor Doug Weight and AGM Tim Burke? We didn’t clarify with Grier on this point, but are Grier and Will the dominant hockey ops voices now, like Doug Wilson and Burke once were? The Quinn quote is about how far he got into the interview process to be the Sharks head coach in 2015. Anyway, this power dynamic is something to watch.
“We’ll just kind of see where we land as far as the conference — it’s a tough conference, there are a lot of good teams out there. We’re going to push to try to make the playoffs. If we don’t, we know we’ll have been competitive all season long in every game and the team put in an effort that we can be proud of. If we’re not quite there yet, we’re not quite there yet. The goal is to win every night if we can, and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.” (Grier)
Takeaway: The San Jose Sharks aren’t falling hard for Connor Bedard. That’s not my read on Grier’s moves this summer – I don’t believe he’s “tanking,” as some of you have speculated. I think he’s built the deepest team that he could with the Sharks’ severe cap limitations, a team that should be genuinely hard to play against, led by a coach that he’s lockstep in philosophy with.
If some high-ceiling bets – I wouldn’t bet on this, by the way – hit, like Erik Karlsson and William Eklund, the Sharks might have something this season, even without minutes-muncher Brent Burns.
I do wonder, however, if this is a prelude to a Sharks’ rebuild, a rebuild that they’ll finally admit to. Remember, at the Draft, a source told San Jose Hockey Now, “I’m hearing ownership wants to try and win still before tearing down. Like try it for a year with Grier.”
The Sharks really haven’t locked themselves into any significant commitments so far this summer, so they have some flexibility if they’re well out of it at the Trade Deadline.
“I think it’s whether you’re an 18-year-old kid in the league or you’re a veteran 35-year-old, accountability is for everyone. When you’re in the dressing room as a player, you know when someone’s not being held to the same standard as everyone else.” (Grier)
Takeaway: I heard from a lot of you this past season, wondering, in effect, why Ryan Merkley would get punished for an on-ice mistake that Brent Burns (or Erik Karlsson) would get away with it? Honestly, I don’t believe everybody in a locker room should be treated the same. Vets like Karlsson have earned a little more rope because there’s a good chance that after he makes mistake, he’ll make up for it. His career track record suggests as much. A Merkley, for example, isn’t close to have earned that. A good locker room, in my mind, has a clear pecking order – where your leaders and stars are your hardest workers and can walk the walk, so they’re not begrudged a little favoritism and rope. I’ll like to hear more from Grier about this.
“For my end of it, one of the things we want to be is a tenacious, fast team that plays on top of people — taking away time and space, a structured team that plays with freedom…No coach I’ve ever heard of wants to play slow, so we certainly want to play an up-tempo style, a tenacious style, one that makes us an aggressive and ultra-competitive team.” (Quinn)
Everybody says “tenacious” and “up tempo” – the difference with this San Jose Sharks team, Mike Grier has added player after player who fits the profile. I think, in comparison, Doug Wilson’s attempts at roster construction in the last three off-seasons were a little more scattershot. Besides the few veterans that he added, Wilson always seemed to hope that a Sharks prospect would emerge as a credible NHL forward, with less regard to fit or playing style. So youngsters like Rudolfs Balcers, Noah Gregor, Jonathan Dahlen, among others, got longer looks than maybe they would have on a deeper NHL team.
Grier is forgoing that, with the additions of young veterans Oskar Lindblom, Luke Kunin, Nico Sturm, and Steven Lorentz. The profile is clear here: They’re relatively young, all around their mid-20’s, but they’re also experienced, so they’re a good blend of knowing what to do out there and fresh legs. They’re all players who have proven to be hard to play against in recent years too.
I wrote this recently here: “Ironically, I think Boughner would’ve loved the additions that Grier has made to the team. Boughner helped make this past season’s Sharks squad harder to play against, but he surely would’ve liked a harder to play against team to begin with.”
“Coaches are always trying to get better, so one of the things that you’ll learn is managing personalities — when to stay on top of people, when to back off. I think every coach goes through that in this league — any league, any level. To me, the number one responsibility I have as a coach here is managing our players and putting them in a position to have the most success they possibly can, making them the best players they can possibly be. I think you’re always trying to find that balance as a coach — sometimes you have to be hard on them, sometimes you lay off of them.” (Quinn)
That’s an interesting comment, considering Rangers insider Vince Mercogliano told San Jose Hockey Now: “My impression, especially with some of the veteran, more established guys, they felt like he would micromanage a little bit too much. Maybe not give them enough of a leash to play free.”
“Especially at this level, everyone asked me what the biggest difference was between college hockey and the NHL, but it really wasn’t the coaching, it’s the amount of people who are involved in the organization. I’m a very collaborative person — I want opinions, I want input from people. Sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming and you start getting away from your personality and doing the things you’d normally do. That’s one of the things I learned in New York: balancing the information, balancing the opinions you get from people and really coaching to your personality. Doing that has put me in a position to get where I am today, and I think that’s important for anybody, no matter what you’re doing.” (Quinn)
Takeaway: Quinn alluded to this on the Rinkwise podcast, saying that his biggest regret from his time in New York was getting away from himself in the end.
“The beauty of our situation is after John McCarthy, our coach, played for me at Boston University when I was the associate coach from 2004-2009, John and I had continued our relationship after that.” (Quinn)
Takeaway: Are GM Mike Grier, head coach David Quinn, and AHL head coach John McCarthy the first trio in league history to hold these titles and all hail from the same alma mater?
“I think we’ll be able to get it done. We’ve had good talks with his agent, and Mario’s here working out, so I’ve seen him a couple of times. So I think it’ll get done. Sometimes, especially when you don’t have arbitration and things like that, it’s gonna take a little bit longer, but I think we’ll be able to work something out here and get him into camp.” (Grier)
Takeaway: My feeling is this may not get wrapped up quick. My guess is that Ferraro would like a long-term commitment and the San Jose Sharks aren’t so sure, whether it’s because of their tight cap situation or Ferraro’s up-and-down campaign this past year. A deal is almost certain to happen – Ferraro has little leverage without arbitration rights. But when?
“I haven’t had any conversations with [Simek’s] agent yet, so I’m not sure how he feels. I know I’ve read the stuff before I got the job, how he wasn’t happy with how his season went and how he was handled, but I’m looking forward to talking to him when he gets into camp. If his agent has any things he wants to discuss, he certainly knows where I am.” (Grier)
Takeaway: This is an example of a pecking order, right? Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier both got calls from Grier – Simek gets to wait until he gets to, I presume, San Jose. If he makes it there, that is.
“It’s good just to see him healthy. He’s in the gym here every day. He’s skating three times a week. I’ve seen him out on the ice. He seems to be in a good space mentally. Physically, he’s healthy. He’s shooting the puck and doing everything our strength coaches are asking him to do, so it looks like he’s 100 percent ready to go for camp. I’m looking forward to seeing him healthy and playing again.” (Grier)
Takeaway: I wonder if we’re writing Kevin Labanc off too quickly? I don’t think Grier is looking for 12 versions of himself. So while Labanc may not look like a Grier-type of player, the Sharks still need to sprinkle some skill onto their scoring lines. It could be a good mix of styles, Labanc playing on a line with forwards who will create space and hunt down the puck for him, freeing him offensively. Anyway, as many of you have mentioned, there’s no sense trading Labanc now when he’s coming off an injury-plagued season. Instead, let him rebuild his value, and he actually could bring some solid assets back during the Trade Deadline or next off-season.
“I think we had nine candidates. Then we went down to three and then down to two. I have to say that everyone we interviewed, interviewed very well. They were all impressive and it was tough. It was very tough to even cut it down the nine to three, it was very fine margins. I think we’re happy with the list of people we interviewed. At the end of the day, Quinny just was the best fit for everything we were looking for.” (Quinn)
Takeaway: We know, along with Quinn, that Spencer Carbery, Ryan Warsofsky, Joe Sacco, and Mike Vellucci also interviewed for the San Jose Sharks head coaching job. Jeff Halpern was floated too, but we don’t know if he and the Sharks actually talked. I know Rob Zettler didn’t interview. I wonder if Dominque Ducharme, Kevin Dineen, or Rick Tocchet spoke with Grier too?
“Bordeleau is very talented. He got hurt halfway through it, so he [didn’t play a lot] the last few games.” (Quinn)
Takeaway: I wrote here, “Quinn, who helmed Team USA at the most recent World Championships, wasn’t in love with Bordeleau there, playing him just 3:51 a night in the medal round.”
I was under the impression that he was healthy scratched, so I was wrong.
“I’m anticipating here the next week, we’ll certainly narrow things down [with assistant coaches].” (Quinn)
Takeaway: A head coach will often have a right-hand man, I wonder if David Oliver is Quinn’s? Quinn worked with OIiver in the Colorado Avalanche organization and brought him to New York
My understanding is Oliver ran the Rangers power play and did a lot of player development.
It’s been reported that Ryan Warsofsky will interview for this position too, and my understanding is his likely focus would be penalty kill and defense.
Thanks to Maddie Dutra for her transcription help.