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."

[RELATED: Why Doug Wilson isn't bringing Marleau back to Sharks]

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 players laud Bob Boughner's performance as interim head coach

Sharks players laud Bob Boughner's performance as interim head coach

Being an interim head coach is never easy. The title itself implies something previously went wrong with someone at the top during the flow of a season, and that was certainly the case when Bob Boughner took over the Sharks on Dec. 11, 2019 after Pete DeBoer got sacked.

The once-mighty Sharks were floundering, in desperate need of an about-face the front office hoped radical change could provide. San Jose improved but not enough to make a real playoff push. The Sharks even failed to qualify for an expanded, 24-team playoff format designed to restart the NHL season after pausing it due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a long offseason ahead to sort out their issues.

Finding a head coach definitely is one, though after doing due diligence, it’s possible the Sharks simply lift the interim tag off Boughner’s title.

“We have time to build the staff that’s best going forward for this team,” San Jose general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “Bob has certainly got the inside track. … We’re still in the middle of that process. We’ll be very thorough.”

Players don’t have the ultimate say in that decision, but they were impressed by what Boughner was able to do after taking DeBoer’s place.

“I don’t think he entered a very easy situation,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said Thursday in a video conference with local reporters. “He did the best he could with what he had. He clearly thought about what he needed to fix immediately, and also had a long-term plan even though his future was uncertain.

“I think he did the right thing for the team and the organization moving forward. I think he did everything he could to be the best coach he could be. I think we got a boost from [him], but I think we were a little bit too far gone to really be saved.”

The Sharks were 15-16-2 under DeBoer and 14-20-3 under Boughner, though the latter dealt with season-ending injuries to Karlsson and Tomas Hertl and played several weeks without captain Logan Couture.

Boughner helped improve a porous defense and held players accountable for poor play and missteps. Long-tenured defenseman Brent Burns was impressed by Boughner’s effort, seeing a change in his style after returning to the team following two seasons as head coach of the Florida Panthers.

“You could see there was a difference in him from being a head coach during the time he was in Florida, but he was still ‘Bougy,’” Burns said. “He has all those positive things that made him great as an assistant. He learned to be a head coach, so he evolved and became a bit more authoritative. He has the ability to interact with guys like he’s still a player. He’s a great communicator. He gets what’s going on and sees it, but at the end of the day, he has a little bit of that "fear of god" in him.

“I think he learned a lot from Pete, learning from a great coach. He was great before, but you could see he evolved and was better. The atmosphere he creates is good. That’s tough to say with how sh--ty everything was going, but he did a great job with where he was at and where we were at.”

[RELATED: Couture says Sharks have ambition to sustain long offseason]

Boughner already knew most of the longer-tenured Sharks, but also found a way to connect with younger players.

“I learned a lot from him,” defenseman Mario Ferraro said. “He held me accountable out there and gave me a lot of advice as a young player in the league. I like the way he coaches and, if I were to make a mistake, he’s going to be hard on me but show me a way I can improve with video and stuff in practice. The season was pretty hilly for me, and when I was on the downhill, he would try to pick me back up. It’s a privilege to play for him.”

What Logan Couture learned from from first season as Sharks captain

What Logan Couture learned from from first season as Sharks captain

Logan Couture was an obvious choice to succeed Joe Pavelski after his four seasons as Sharks captain.

The veteran center was an alternate captain during Pavelski’s time leading the locker room. He’s a long-tenured Shark with steady on-ice performance and penchant for stepping up in the clutch. The 31-year-old has the work ethic and temperament required of such a post so, after Pavelski signed a three-year with the Dallas Stars last summer, Couture eventually had the “C” stitched on his sweater.

Couture’s first season leading the team was rockier than expected. The Sharks went from Western Conference finalists to cellar dwellers in a flash, with the team adjusting to Pete DeBoer’s in-season firing after a sluggish start and unable to recover while beset by injuries to star players. That included Couture, who missed 17 games with a fractured ankle.

The locker room was admittedly tense during an unexpected downturn, but Couture worked hard to keep the squad focused on playing together under interim coach Bob Boughner.

Couture has had time to reflect on his first NHL experience as captain since the league hit pause on the 2019-20 season in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the distance has provided perspective. While the season went awry, Couture vowed to use those bad times as a way to learn and grow as a leader.

“It was obviously a learning experience in a lot of different situations, many of which I had never been in as a player,” Couture said Thursday in a video conference with Sharks reporters. “We had a coach get fired. We went through tough times, a lot of guys got hurt and we lost a lot of games in difficult ways. Although it was a very difficult, difficult season, that I can learn a lot from situations we were in as a team and I was in individually. My goal is to become a better teammate, person and player from this past year.”

Couture believes the Sharks had a lackluster training camp that led to a poor start, and things spiraled from there. Losing consistently was a new experience for most, considering the Sharks had missed the playoffs only once since the 2003-04 season. The new and difficult experience was uncomfortable, and Couture admits the players didn’t always handle things well.

“When you’re losing and things are going your way, frustrating builds and it builds quickly,” Couture said. “With us, a lot of guys in our room have never gone through a season like that. Some may have years ago, but not recently. From top to bottom I don’t think anyone handled it the best possible way. I’m obviously in that group. There’s a lot that I think I can learn from.

“All we can do now is move forward, come together and learn from this. Everyone needs to buy in. Get a good training camp underneath us and get going from there. Everyone will learn from this year and it’ll make us stronger.”

[RELATED: Couture believes Sharks' ambition must be high in long offseason]

The captain’s lieutenants feel the same push to help the team stay together and improve quickly after a lost season where they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format to be played once the season restarts.

Tomas Hertl also dealt with a knee injury ending his season in late January, but still feels he could’ve done more as a leader.

“I tried to be the same guy and lead, but I know I can be better in that role,” Hertl said. “I should be Logan’s second hand and help him out more and more. I think I learned a lot as well this past season about the importance of being a leader. I think we should all be a little bit better, especially in a situation like we were in where we struggled.

"All 20 guys should work as one. It doesn’t matter if you’re an assistant or a captain. Everyone should work hard to keep the team together. I really want to be better for Logan because he has been there for me from the start of my career.”