What Radim Simek beginning conditioning stint in AHL means for Sharks

What Radim Simek beginning conditioning stint in AHL means for Sharks

Sharks fans no doubt are waiting with bated breath as Radim Simek gets his AHL conditioning stint underway en route to playing for a healthy game for San Jose.

Now, the Czech defenseman probably isn't hopping back on NHL ice after just one game with the Barracuda. But at the very least, Simek appears to be on the right track -- and for a Sharks team in need of a boost after a rocky start to their season, that is a very good thing. 

Simek registered a plus-one in the Barracuda's 5-0 rout of the Bakersfield Condors on Wednesday, and set up a third-period goal by Lean Bergmann in his first contest since getting injured last March. For a skater who hasn't played in a game for almost a year, the ability to shake off the rust and get on the scoresheet in a positive way obviously is a good sign.

"To be honest, he really didn't look like he missed a beat," Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told the media after Wednesday's game. "I don't think we're going to have him for long."

Of course, as encouraging as that endorsement is, how Simek's surgically-repaired knee responds to playing again is going to be a big factor. Simek said his knee still had to be checked out following the game but noted it felt good for the duration.

"I felt great tonight," Simek said to the media. "I wasn't nervous, but it was eight months without hockey. Maybe I was nervous a little bit. The first period was hard for me. But the second and third period was better."

Not only was Simek's physical play up to snuff, but his hockey smarts seem to be as sharp as ever.

"You can tell he's above all of our other guys in moving pucks and making decisions," Sommer said. "He makes his partner look good."

The next step for the 27-year-old blueliner is having that positive impact on his defensive partner on the NHL stage.

The 2019 Sharks' "Rookie of the Year" honoree made a huge impact when he was recalled from the Barracuda last season, cementing himself in the Sharks defense by being the perfect anchor for Brent Burns. San Jose then went 29-9-3 with Simek in the lineup until losing him to the ACL/MCL injury.

Needless to say, that's the kind of record the Sharks could use right now, as they sit just one point ahead of the cellar-dwelling LA Kings in the Pacific Division. They also are giving up the second-most goals in the league -- LA is giving up the most -- through the first 13 games of the season. Clearly, any shakeup to their defense will be a big boost.

How the Sharks' blue line will look after Simek returns is a bit of a mystery.

It would make sense to pencil him back in on Burns' left side since the two played together so successfully last season. Assuming the Brenden Dillon-Erik Karlsson pair doesn't get broken up, that would potentially put lefty Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Tim Heed and make rookie Mario Ferraro the odd man out -- except that Ferraro has successfully taken on a big workload in his first stint in the NHL and Heed has been glued to San Jose's bench for the better part the last few games. 

[RELATED: Sharks in dire need of turnaround]

Long story short: How San Jose's defense will look when Simek returns will have to remain a mystery for now.

At the very least, though, he's closer to making a comeback. 

Bob Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up' after shutout loss to Avalanche


Bob Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up' after shutout loss to Avalanche

Just when you think the Sharks have figured things out, they drop a couple games in a row and look really bad in the process.

After beating the Blue Jackets and Stars at home last week, San Jose headed to Arizona and lost 6-3 on Tuesday night. Two days later, it got even worse for Bob Boughner's club as the Avalanche shut out the Sharks 4-0 on Thursday night.

San Jose heads to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Saturday before getting eight days off due to the NHL All-Star break.

For Boughner, it's time for his club to put up or shut up.

"I think it's crucial for us," Boughner told reporters in Colorado. "I think Vancouver, a team that's in the division and ahead of us, before we get into this break and end it off on the right note, we felt really good about ourselves and the way we were playing before this trip and things haven't gone our way for the first two games.

"I think it's time to man up. We've got too many guys that are not on the same page right now in the last two games and we're not a good enough team to do that. We proved that we can play with the best teams if we play the right way and we've got all 20 guys going and stick to the plan. But when we don't, we're average at best."

The Sharks are in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time since the 2003-04 season, and Brenden Dillon understands every game the rest of the way is vitally important.

"Yeah, it's a division game, it's a team we're chasing and I think all these games we've got to have that playoff mindset of do-or-die mentality going in and show some desperation," Dillon told reporters. "A lot of these teams are battling, whether that's for playoff spots or home-ice or whatever it is in the divisions. But esepcially against Vancouver, a good team that's going well, so we've got to finish on a high."

[RELATED: Boughner reacts to Vegas hiring DeBoer]

After the loss to the Avs, the Sharks sit at 21-24-4 with 33 games remaining. They are nine points out of a wild-card spot, but every loss chips away at their margain for error.

If they don't turn things around in a hurry, it will be a long summer in San Jose.

Peter DeBoer will use lessons learned with Sharks to help Golden Knights

Peter DeBoer will use lessons learned with Sharks to help Golden Knights

Peter DeBoer spent four-plus seasons leading the Sharks. He coached them to Stanley Cup Final and another Western Conference Final berth.

But messages get stale and general manager Doug Wilson made the decision to relieve DeBoer of his duties in December with the Sharks sitting at 15-16-2. A month later, DeBoer now finds himself at the helm of the Sharks' archrival -- the Vegas Golden Knights. 

DeBoer was hired Wednesday, replacing Gerrard Gallant who was fired after the Golden Knights fell out of the playoff picture. 

In his first comments since being announced as head coach, DeBoer said he thinks he can take some lessons he learned in San Jose and apply them to his new club.

"The one thing I learned in San Jose is if you can walk into a locker room with good character and good people that you can find your way through the turbulent waters," DeBoer said after the Golden Knights' morning skate. "I think that's probably the case here. You got a real good group of men that care, and we'll find our way through it."

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Golden Knights find themselves at 24-19-6, just behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Vegas entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations. While they have underachieved to this point, DeBoer led the Sharks to a similar turnaround a few years back. 

"This is a team that the goal is to win the Stanley Cup," DeBoer said. "They are one of those teams. I feel like we've been one of those teams in San Jose the last four or five years. That's the goal. I can tell you that the year we went to the Final with San Jose, December or January we were right around .500, you know, spinning our tires a little bit. We found a way to get it going in the right direction. The list is endless of teams that are in this situation at some point or another. It's one of the things I'll talk to the players about.

"A little bit of adversity, I think is always a good thing. it's just how you deal with it." 

[RELATED: Why Sharks should go after Gallant]

DeBoer was well-liked in the Sharks' locker room and his firing left the players stunned and shocked.

Eight months ago, Gallant called DeBoer a "clown" before the Sharks and Golden Knights played a memorable Game 7 in their first-round playoff series.

Now, DeBoer will be tasked with helping Vegas do what he couldn't in San Jose. Win it all.