Peter DeBoer

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

SAN JOSE - Fans might have been scratching their heads when it was announced ahead of training camp that the Sharks will have four alternate captains this season.

But as head coach Peter DeBoer explained when camp opened up, each player wearing an "A"-- Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson -- brings something different to the table. And their jobs will be just as important as that of newly-appointed captain Logan Couture

"For me, it's always about the people around the guy wearing the 'C,'" DeBoer said. "They're just as important, and we've got two former captains in there in Jumbo (Joe Thornton) and Erik Karlsson."

He has a point. San Jose's "A-team" boasts a resume of players with extensive leadership backgrounds. From Thornton's and Karlsson's experiences as being captains to Burns' run as being one of the loudest voices in the Sharks' dressing room. Couture himself said having a group like that around him is a plus.

"I'm lucky here in San Jose," Couture said on Friday, the first day of training camp. "There are a lot of guys who are leaders and a few guys who have been captains in the past. So we've got a great leadership group." 

The one alternate captain selection that has garnered the most attention thus far has been Tomas Hertl, who is wearing a letter for the first time in his professional career. Of course, anyone who has kept tabs on the Czech forward during his tenure in teal knows he has developed into a leader over the last couple of seasons, particularly last season when he took rookies Lukas Radil and Radim Simek -- both of whom are older than Hertl -- under his wing.

"I know we've got a lot of leaders here on the team and I'm really happy Pete picked me," Hertl said on Friday, adding that he wants to continue elevating his game after a successful 2018-19 campaign. "I want to prove it, you know? I think I proved it last year but now, it can't just be one year and then I slow down. I want to push myself harder and harder and help the other young guys coming in."

"He's elevated his game and his confidence in demanding and making other people around him better," DeBoer said of Hertl. "That's grown over the four years that I've been here. He was a young kid that was coming off of a couple of really tough injuries when I first got here. His development and growth have just been off the charts."

DeBoer also mentioned that San Jose's contingent of leaders backing up Couture expands beyond the four players wearing "A"s.

[RELATED: Dell's extra motivation for 2019 season]

"We've got a lot of other guys, even (more) than the group who are wearing the letters," DeBoer said, "who are going to be part of our leadership group, including Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane and other guys.

"I feel very fortunate here as a coach with what I've inherited in this organization. I think all of those guys will support Logan in his job."

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."

Sharks preparing for all-out brawl with Vegas in 2019-20 season opener

Sharks preparing for all-out brawl with Vegas in 2019-20 season opener

SAN JOSE - Nevermind that opening night is still over two weeks away. The Sharks are already expecting it to be quite contentious.

San Jose is set to open up their 2019-20 campaign on Oct. 2 at T-Mobile Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be the first time the two teams will officially see each other since Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals when the Sharks overcame a three-goal deficit in Game 7 to ultimately defeat Vegas 5-4 in overtime.

Sure, San Jose and Vegas have a couple of tune-up games slotted during preseason play. But given that most of the veterans from last year's rosters probably won't see each other until that opening game, the real test will be when they face off in the season-opener.

Long story short: There could be an all-out brawl in Sin City on opening night.

"It'll be exciting, hopefully we don't kill each other before the season," Tomas Hertl said with a chuckle when he addressed the media on the first day of training camp. 

Although the Golden Knights have only been in the league for two seasons, their rivalry with the Sharks has become as bitter as that of a long-standing Original Six stand-off. Even before these squads squared off in the first round of last season's Stanley Cup playoffs, their contests had become combative and physical -- if not also a breeding ground for off-ice smack talk, as demonstrated between Evander Kane and Ryan Reaves, and between coaches Peter DeBoer and Gerard Gallant

"We've built a rivalry, it started right away," Hertl said. "The first few games (this preseason) will prove if we're ready because we play against Vegas in the week three times."

Despite the big Game 7 win last April, the Sharks know their upcoming matchups with the Golden Knights won't be walks in the park. San Jose and Vegas split last year's regular-season series 2-2-0, but both of the Sharks' wins were by a one-goal margin. Vegas defeated the Sharks handily on two occasions, shutting San Jose out 6-0 on Nov. 24 and 7-3 on March 30. 

The matchup on Oct. 2 will also be the first time the Sharks will face the Golden Knights with their newly-tooled roster. San Jose will be without some of last season's offensive firepower, mainly former captain Joe Pavelski, who's late-game head injury fueled the Sharks' insane come-from-behind victory.

[RELATED: Injury updates on Karlsson, Simek]

Regardless of who the Sharks have in their starting lineup come opening night, they know they have to be ready to grind it out yet again.

"I think we still have to prove we can beat them, not just in the playoffs but in the regular season," Hertl admitted. "We just have to be ready because Vegas will be coming for us."