Sommer overseeing dominant stretch for Sharks' primary affiliate

Sommer overseeing dominant stretch for Sharks' primary affiliate

SAN JOSE – Roy Sommer’s Barracuda have been the talk of the American Hockey League in recent weeks. 

The Sharks’ primary affiliate had a 14-game winning streak snapped in overtime on Wednesday, and still hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Jan. 21. Headed into the weekend, the Barracuda sit atop the AHL standings with a 33-11-1-4 mark.

The recent loss, and losing key scorer Nikolay Goldobin in a trade to Vancouver hasn’t dampened spirits, Sommer said on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast.

“They’re still into it,” Sommer said. “We had a good practice [Thursday], and you don’t want to see those things go by the wayside, but now we’ve got to start another one.”

Sommer is in his 19th season behind the bench of the Sharks’ top affiliate, which is in its second season in San Jose. Previously, the club had been in Lexington, KY, Cleveland, OH and Worcester, MA.

The benefits of finally being in close proximity to the parent club have been immeasurable, general manager Doug Wilson has frequently said. Sommer echoed that notion.

“I think it’s made our team stronger just in the fact that guys always know that someone’s around watching. If you play good, you’re given an opportunity,” said the AHL’s all-time wins leader.

Having a deep AHL club so close can also put the NHL guys on notice, too. That’s a good thing.

“That’s the beauty of depth and guys looking over their shoulder,” Sommer said. “I’m sure there are some guys up in San Jose going like, ‘man, there are some guys down there biting at our heels ready to take our job.’”

Sommer touched on a number of different prospects in the Sharks’ system, including Marcus Sorensen, who scored his first NHL goal in Thursday’s win over Vancouver.

Sorensen took some time to adjust to the pro game after coming over from Sweden. Now, though, it looks like the Sharks may have something in the 24-year-old.

“When we first saw him I was going, ‘wow.’ … I was expecting him to light it up at the start [of the AHL season], and he didn’t,” Sommer said. “But, I knew he had something because he’s got that engine that goes 100 miles an hour, he plays inside, he plays hard, he’s got a pretty good head for the game.”

Sommer also gave us his thoughts on guys like leading scorer Danny O’Regan, defenseman Mirco Mueller, and former ninth overall pick Timo Meier; what it was like seeing a young Joe Pavelski join the organization, and what it would mean to him to see the Sharks win the Stanley Cup after he's been in the organization for 21 seasons.

To listen to the podcast in its entirety, click here.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

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Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.

'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

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'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

Vodka, violence and victory.

“Red Penguins,” a documentary released by Universal for streaming On Demand on Tuesday, chronicles the brief foray by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins into ownership of a Russian professional hockey team. The film features plenty of vodka and violence, although victory proved to be elusive.

Penguins owners Tom Ruta and Steven Baldwin made the decision to invest in the struggling club HC CSKA Moscow, which previously had been controlled by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. Steven Warshaw, then the Penguins' vice president for sales and marketing, was the man tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations on the ground in Moscow, and guides you through all of the unbelievable twists and turns that came with bringing American ideals of organizational structure and capitalism into a society that was amid a transition from decades of communism.

An in-arena strip club, live bears serving beer and a near nine-figure partnership with Disney are just part of what came to define the Penguins’ wild reign behind the Iron Curtain.

Director Gabe Polsky utilizes Warshaw and his enigmatic personality to tell the majority of the story, but also includes interviews from Russia with the team’s former mascot and broadcaster in Moscow, as well as former Red Army manager Valery Gushin, who developed a unique relationship with Warshaw that was both friendly and contentious.

The crew had to traverse some dangerous ground in collecting the interviews, and even had one interview interrupted by KGB officials.

“This overweight man was just sort of standing behind us for like, way more longer than comfortable,” Polsky said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area last week. “Within a couple minutes, the police show up and you hear it, and start saying ‘get the hell out of here,’ and basically they thought there was a bomb nearby.”

Equal parts hilarious and chilling, “Red Penguins” showcases the wildest aspects of running a professional sports franchise in Russia while detailing the danger and sadness that can be a consequence of doing business parallel to an organized crime syndicate.

Polsky, who is the son of Soviet immigrants to the United States, believes American hockey fans and sports fans in general can get a unique look at the complicated relationship between the two world superpowers, and how that dynamic both brought the Penguins immense popularity in Russia and led to their downfall.

“Almost no films out there, that are English-speaking, that take the audience into Russia,” Polsky said. “Seeing the people, understand the psychology, mentality, up against the American mentality, and you see it even more clearly.

“There’s a lot to kind of unpack and understand in this film.”

Whether you’re a Sharks fan, a general sports fan or even just someone who enjoys a compelling story involving international relations, “Red Penguins” will have you glued to your screen.