Roy Sommer

Sharks need to utilize holiday break to 'take a look in the mirror'

Sharks need to utilize holiday break to 'take a look in the mirror'

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks aren't quite at the halfway point of their 2019-20 season just yet. But with a four-day holiday break getting underway after Sunday's game, it's a good time to take a look back at the first 38 games of the season. 

That reflection process can't be too fun for San Jose.

After a remarkable recovery in the month of November, the Sharks have gone 1-8-1 in their last 10 games, dropping their third straight game in a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday evening. 

Logan Couture, who is not one to mince words, told reporters after the game that it's time for the team to take note.

"We have a break here and I think guys are going their separate ways to see families, but everyone's got to take a look in the mirror and decide," the captain said. "What do you want to bring for the second half of the year right now? What do want to accomplish as a hockey player in the NHL this year? A lot of guys haven't had good years. A lot of guys have had letdowns from last year. So, I think (there needs to be) some soul-searching in this room. Everyone needs to be better."

The letdown over the last month is especially disappointing given how well San Jose faired in the month of November. But through December, the Sharks have seemingly reverted back to "finding ways to lose" like they were in the first month of the season. They are having trouble scoring goals and defensive breakdowns are occurring far too often.

For a team that has played together for a long time, this ongoing trend of losing games late and not being able to score is unacceptable.

"We're a veteran team," Couture noted. "I'd understand if we were dressing 10 rookies or 12 rookies. But you can count the number of rookies on this team who were dressed tonight on one hand."

San Jose's most glaring negative trend as of late is playing well for the majority of a game but committing mistakes in the third period that cost them.

The habit of giving up a late goal and not being able to counter it has become a regular occurrence, one that has been exacerbated by the Sharks not being able to generate any momentum on power-play opportunities late. 

"We're making the mistakes that are turning into big mistakes and they're going into the back of our net at bad times," Couture said. "It needs to be a lot better -- discipline, just smart decisions with the puck. Smart reads on rushes. We're just not doing it right now."

When the Sharks return from their four-game break, they have three contests before the end of 2019. At just 34 points on the season -- which puts them in a three-way tie with the Kings and Ducks for last in the Western Conference -- the Sharks have a steep climb to get out of the spot they have put themselves into.

[RELATED: What GM Wilson is looking for from Sharks moving forward]

The hope, for now, is that the holiday break will give the team a chance to take that look in the mirror and regroup.

"I think the four days off will be good for everybody," associate coach Roy Sommer said after Sunday's game. "Come back refreshed. I think there are a lot of positive things, but right now we're offensively challenged and we've got to play D and we just have breakdowns that are killing us right now."

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

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AP

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."

Bob Boughner intends to return Sharks to their expected level of play

Bob Boughner intends to return Sharks to their expected level of play

It's been a wild 24 hours for Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner.

There was no time to waste, though, as one day after Peter DeBoer was fired, he had to ready San Jose to play the visiting New York Rangers at SAP Center.

"It's been a roller-coaster, obviously," Boughner told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker before taking the ice Thursday night. "Mixed emotions.

"Everybody know how close our staff was and what Pete meant to me, not only as someone with a great working relationship but also as a good friend and a mentor. So, that wasn't an easy day. The flip side of that is an opportunity here -- a unique opportunity to sort of get these guys and steer this ship back in the right direction, and try and get this team playing to the level I think it's capable of."

The Sharks entered the game having lost five in a row, and were coming off a road trip in which they earned just one out of a possible eight points. That ultimately spelled doom for DeBoer and resulted in Boughner being elevated to head coach -- at least for the time being -- the same position he held with the Florida Panthers for each of the last two seasons.

So, yes, Boughner does have previous NHL coaching experience, not to mention eight seasons as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. Still, just like any head coach, he'll rely heavily on his assistants.

Speaking of the assistant coaches, there were changes there, too. Out are Dave Barr, Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg. In are associate coach Roy Sommer, assistant coach Mike Ricci and goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov.

Boughner admitted that the newly formed staff still is figuring out its respective duties and responsibilities, but because of their collective experience within the organization -- Sommer most recently was head coach of the San Jose Barracuda, while Ricci and Nabokov had been in developmental roles -- Boughner is confident he has put the right group together.

"They're guys that really are relationship guys," Boughner said of his staff. "They're good with people and good with establishing that relationship with the player, so I feel comfortable in that regard."

[RELATED: Sharks players share how DeBoer's firing shocked them]

So, what changes should we expect to see in the Sharks post-coaching change? In general, Boughner wants his team to become harder to play against on a nightly basis.

"I think it's just a general mindset that we have to be a more aggressive team, not so passive, and we want to hunt pucks," he said, "but at the end of the day, it's just playing inspired."

Nothing about the Sharks' play as of late has been inspiring. Surely they're hoping the coaching change will fix that.