Martin Jones

Sharks' Aaron Dell reveals extra motivation ahead of 2019 NHL season

Sharks' Aaron Dell reveals extra motivation ahead of 2019 NHL season

SAN JOSE - Nothing can motivate a team at the start of training camp quite like missing out on making the Stanley Cup Final the previous season. 

As Sharks netminder Aaron Dell told NBC Sports California on the first day of training camp, coming that close can even make it difficult to get your summer vacation started.

"I think you're a little bitter for a little bit longer than normal when you get that close," he said. "I think it gives you a little bit more motivation to get started, actually. I think you get that little bit of an edge."

But the carryover from last season stops there. It's a brand new season, and Dell knows he has to put his previous campaign in the rearview mirror and get back to work -- which includes solidifying his job as Team Teal's defacto backup netminder.

"Every year when you come in, the last year is kind of a wash, regardless of how it went," Dell said of proving himself yet again at the start of the season. "It's kind of a 'what have you done for me lately?' kind of thing." 

Both Dell and starter Martin Jones experienced a downturn in performance during the 2018-19 season. Part of the problem came from defensive breakdowns in front of the crease -- a problem the rest of the team has acknowledged on more than one occasion.

"The foundation of our game since I got here has always been about defending well," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said. "We did score last year, we did give up too much in that area. And I thought we started to find a little bit of a happy medium down the stretch and through the playoffs."

Nevertheless, both netminders ultimately gave up more than they had in past years, ending the regular season with save percentages under .900. Dell himself went from registering a 2.64 goals-against average through 22 starts in the 2017-18 season to a 3.17 through 20 starts during the 2018-19 campaign. There's understandable motivation to get those numbers down with a new season about to start.

The 30-year-old Airdrie, Alberta native may be feeling a little more heat to up his game up given he's heading into the final season of his current two-year contract with the Sharks. Not to mention the team is particularly excited about the crop of young players they have coming into this year's camp and might feel inclined to give one of the up-and-coming goalies a look. San Jose Barracuda starter Antoine Bibeau has two NHL games on his resume from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, having gone 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average.

But Dell's doing the same thing to get ready for this season as every other one -- even with that "bit of an edge" from his team narrowly missing a Stanley Cup Final bid last spring.

"You try not to let it (affect you)," Dell said. "You try to do the same things every year, do what works for you. But I think when you get in that situation, you find extra things you could've been better at."

[RELATED: Sharks preparing for Oct. 2 clash with Vegas]

"I'm just excited to get going," Dell summarized with a smile. "Just excited to get some games going and get back into it again."

Peter DeBoer, Sharks players describe what Joe Pavelski meant to them

Peter DeBoer, Sharks players describe what Joe Pavelski meant to them

SAN JOSE -- When the Sharks take the ice Friday, it will mark their first training camp without Joe Pavelski, who signed with the Dallas Stars this offseason after 13 seasons in teal.

So, we asked his former Sharks teammates to finish this sentence: Joe Pavelski was …

Logan Couture

“Heart and soul. Amazing person, not just a hockey player. He was very special to a lot of guys in the room, and he’ll be missed.”

Peter DeBoer

“A warrior. There’s a guy, not the biggest, not the fastest. But fearless. A leader, and he’ll be greatly missed in the room, on the ice but personally, too. Him and his family, just infectious personalities. We’ve got to find a way to replace some of that.”

Martin Jones

“A great leader, a great teammate. One of those guys that he’s real easy to follow going into the hard areas of the ice. You see the grit he plays with. He’s inspiring.”

Joe Thornton

“The best. I love the guy. He’s meant so much to this organization for over 10 years now. A big part of this group, and we’re going to miss him definitely.”

Brent Burns

“The ultimate professional. When you look at him, broke him down, he wasn’t the fastest skater, didn’t have the hardest shot, he was just smart. He just did everything right. A great guy off the ice, and [an] unbelievable hockey player.”

Timo Meier

“A huge impact for me. Learned a lot from him, not just on the ice but off the ice, too. He’s a guy that when I first came in, guided me and showed me the right attitude, the right habits. Just a guy you can rely on in every kind of moment.”

[RELATED: Couture named new Sharks captain]

Erik Karlsson

“An important character. During the period of time, he was the culture here. He knew what needed to be done, and he’d seen things that guys except Thornton and [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic hadn’t. He was vital to keeping things the right way.”

Three questions Sharks must answer in training camp before NHL season

Three questions Sharks must answer in training camp before NHL season

Like with the start of every training camp, the Sharks have some questions that need answering before the new campaign gets underway at the beginning of October. 

Here's a look at just a couple things that need solving over the next couple of weeks:

How healthy will the Sharks' blue line be come opening night?

Injuries hit San Jose's d-corps hard last season, with Erik Karlsson going in and out of the lineup with a groin injury and Radim Simek being sidelined the whole second half of the season with a knee injury. The hope is that both players will be back in the lineup and healthy to start the season -- although that still remains to be seen.

Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson told the media last Friday that Karlsson is expected to participate at the start of training camp, while Simek is still building up strength in his injured knee ahead of the season-opener on October 2. San Jose's defense took noticeable hits last season when each skater was out of the lineup, so getting both Karlsson and Simek back at full strength will be huge.

Keeping that in mind, it isn't likely we'll see a whole lot from either skater during the preseason.

Which will make trying to figure out what the defensive pairings will be even more interesting, but that's a story for another day.

Does San Jose really have enough weapons on offense to fill the void left by free agency?

There had been some speculation that Wilson would acquire a forward towards the end of the offseason to fill in the offensive void left by the departures of Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist. For the time being, however, it appears the Sharks are going all-in on giving some of their younger players a chance to fill those roles.

Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc have been mentioned a ton in this conversation -- especially after they both had upward-trending seasons and then got inked to new deals over the summer -- but those are just two skaters San Jose is looking to for offensive help.

After a season of bouncing between the NHL and AHL, Dylan Gambrell has the opportunity to become a regular starter. Marcus Sorensen will also be tasked with continuing to grow following a solid 2018-19 campaign skating primarily alongside Joe Thornton. Plus, younger players such as Ivan Chekhovich will be given the opportunity to compete for a roster spot.

[RELATED: How Karlsson can fill scoring void]

Of course, the Sharks may decide to make a move after the season starts if they're still lacking offensive firepower. For the time being, however, it looks like San Jose is looking to its young guns to pick up the slack.

What can we expect from the goaltending this season?

It's pretty fair to assume fans will be on the edge of their seats for Martin Jones' first start, hoping he doesn't let the puck get by him in the first minute of the game. He did that quite a bit last season, after all. And his backup, Aaron Dell, didn't always fair much better. 

Even though Jones turned his game around during last season's playoff run, he will likely be under the microscope pretty early on, especially if he looks shaky during preseason play. While Jones didn't always have the support from the defense in front of him last season, there's still a need for him to be on his A-game early on, even as early as in training camp.