What new Sharks broadcaster Kendall Coyne Schofield thinks of team's chances

Brandon Magnus/San Jose Sharks

What new Sharks broadcaster Kendall Coyne Schofield thinks of team's chances

Kendall Coyne Schofield’s list of hockey accomplishments is long.

She scored more points (249) than anyone who has suited up for Northeastern University’s women’s -- or men’s -- ice hockey programs, and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top collegiate women’s player in 2016. She won an Isobel Cup as an NWHL champion in March. She also has one Olympic and six IIHF World Championships gold medals to her name, captaining the United States of America to its latest title in April.

Yet becoming the first woman to compete in the skills competition during NHL All-Star Weekend is right up there. 

“[It’s] definitely a top-three moment in my career,” Coyne Schofield said in a phone interview Wednesday. “ … Winning an Olympic gold medal, I think, will top the chart always. Being able to get a college education and play college hockey at Northeastern is No. 2, and then that All-Star moment is right there at No. 3.”

That January weekend in San Jose also made an impression on her, and she said she felt a strong connection with Sharks fans from the jump. That built when Coyne Schofield served as a studio analyst for NBC Sports California during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and she is excited to see it continue this season.

Coyne Schofield will head to the booth as a color commentator during select Sharks game broadcasts this season.

“I've always felt a part of the San Jose family since I left that moment,” Coyne Schofield said, “and everyone's been so supportive, and the outreach from the San Jose community just to me as a hockey player has been unbelievable. So, I'm really excited to transition that into the broadcasting realm.”

The Sharks will look very different from the last time Coyne Schofield saw them play. 

Defenseman Justin Braun was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in June, and wingers Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist signed with the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, on the first day of free agency. Longtime captain Joe Pavelski also signed elsewhere on July 1, leaving the Sharks to join the Dallas Stars. 

Game 5 of the Sharks’ second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche was the first Coyne Schofield covered in San Jose last spring, and she saw firsthand the emotional lift the then-injured captain provided the crowd and his teammates. Pavelski’s departure leaves big skates to fill, but Coyne Schofield believes the remaining Sharks will rise to the occasion.

“That energy he brought to the fans is the same energy he brought to the team,” Coyne Schofield said. “It's easy to say that he's irreplaceable. However, I do think he's replaceable in the sense that this is an opportunity for guys to step up, for someone else to lead in the way that they might have learned from him over their time with him as a teammate. It's an optimistic moment for a lot of guys to step up and take charge in that room."

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The Sharks will have a new captain and a new-look forward corps by the time the puck drops on the regular season on Oct. 2. Yet Coyne Schofield expects the feeling of last spring’s Western Conference finals defeat to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to be fresh in the Sharks’ minds, and she's especially keen on seeing how that manifests in the first half of San Jose’s season. 

She related the experience to her own losing the gold medal to Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, before winning gold four years later. Coyne Schofield said it was important to remember that feeling but not to let it linger.  

“You can't sulk on the past, otherwise you're never going to progress to the future,” she said. “But I think in the Sharks' situation, they had such a phenomenal year and there are so many values that they can take away from last season and bring into this season. And one of those values is defeat."

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Erik Karlsson is arguably the best player on the Sharks. According to NHL Network, San Jose's defenseman is the 24th-best player in the league.

In counting down the best players in the current NHL, the league's network placed Karlsson in between 25th-ranked David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, and 23rd-rank Mark Giordano, the Flames' reigning Norris Trophy winner.

"We know that he can put the puck just about anywhere, he can skate himself out of trouble, he can pass himself out of trouble, he can do just about anything," NHL Network's Brian Lawton said of Karlsson. "For a defenseman in today's game that played on one leg basically last year … he did have 16 points in 19 playoff games and it wasn't quite enough, but it was pretty darn heroic if you ask me."

Karlsson totaled 45 points in 53 regular-season games with the Sharks after arriving in San Jose at the start of training camp last year. The Sharks had their best stretch of the season once he found his groove in early December, and if not for a troublesome groin injury, there's no telling how far San Jose could have gone.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner still managed to appear in the All-Star Game, and signed a lucrative eight-year extension with San Jose at the start of free agency. He tallied at least 62 points in each of the previous five seasons, and his 563 points since making his NHL debut are the most among all NHL defenseman, ahead of fellow Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (532).

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Karlsson will be an alternate captain in his second season with the franchise, and one would naturally expect him to benefit from having played a year in the system. He ranked sixth among NHL defensemen in points per game (0.85) last year, and with the departures San Jose suffered in free agency, it wouldn't be surprising to see that rate increase in the season ahead, particularly considering Karlsson says he feels "back to normal" after offseason surgery to address the injury that hampered him a year ago.

Assuming Karlsson stays healthy this coming season, you can expect him to be ranked even higher a year from now.

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Whether or not Joe Thornton is a national treasure is debatable, but he's certainly a regional one.

The future Hall of Famer was mic'd up at a recent Sharks' practice, and he put that quality on display. The 40-year-old didn't appear as if his age has caught up to him, as he was quite talkative and involved throughout.

Just watch for yourself:

Whether it was chasing on the forecheck or missing an empty net, the eldest member of the Sharks looked anything but. Enjoying his first healthy offseason in recent memory, Thornton's energy is certainly palpable, and that bodes well for the Sharks as they attempt to get back to the playoffs for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.

Thornton signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the month to return to the Sharks for his 15th season in San Jose. He'll be one of four alternate captains on the team, after Logan Couture was named the 10th full-time captain in franchise history, taking over for the departed Joe Pavelski.

With Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist leaving in free agency during the offseason, the Sharks are counting on several prospects to take a step forward this coming season -- and on Thornton to help them succeed at the NHL level. While line pairings are still in flux, it wouldn't be shocking whatsoever to see Thornton paired with one of those prospects on his wing.

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Based on Thornton's mic'd up session, he'll be talking that prospects' ear off all game long.