San Jose Barracuda

AHL, San Jose Barracuda cancel 2019-20 season amid coronavirus pandemic

San Jose Barracuda

AHL, San Jose Barracuda cancel 2019-20 season amid coronavirus pandemic

While the NHL hopes to resume its season at some point amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the American Hockey League announced Monday that they have canceled the regular season and playoffs. 

The AHL's announcement puts an end to the San Jose Barracuda's 2019-20 season. And like the San Jose Sharks, the Barracuda struggled this season. 

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The Barracuda finished the season tied the Bakersfield Condors for the worst record in the league at 21-27-5-2. Their 49 points were the lowest in the entire AHL. 

San Jose did go out on a high note, though. In what wound up being their final games of the season, the Barracuda beat the Stockton Heat, 7-4, on March 10.

Sharks taking precautions with coronavirus, but proceeding as planned


Sharks taking precautions with coronavirus, but proceeding as planned

Following the lead of the NBA, the NHL sent a memo to all 31 of its teams on Friday, urging players to limit contact with fans due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Sharks already have made some changes to their usual routine, although the team announced that, based on the information currently available, all events scheduled at SAP Center this weekend will go on as planned.

San Jose is scheduled to host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday before wrapping up a six-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. Additionally, the Barracuda -- the Sharks' AHL affiliate -- are scheduled to face the San Diego Gulls at SAP Center on both Friday and Saturday night.

Though the games are expected to proceed as scheduled, the team strongly encouraged fans to follow the suggestions of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, which recommended that "persons at higher risk avoid mass gatherings such as parades, sporting events, and concerts where large numbers of people are within arm's length of one another."

Sharks games would certainly fall into that category, and it would appear the coronavirus has already had a significant impact on attendance. For San Jose's 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, only 14,517 tickets were sold. SAP Center has a seating capacity of 17,562, and Thursday's crowd was the smallest the Sharks have had in a home game in the last five years.

The health department issued that recommendation only hours before Thursday's game, which is the only explanation for the sudden drop-off in attendance. For the first three games of the homestand, the Sharks averaged 16,868 fans per contest.

One would imagine that attendance figures will be down through the remainder of the homestand, and potentially longer.

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The Sharks had a limited practice Friday, and although they can't be sure how many fans they'll be playing in front of against the Senators, they had already begun taking extra precautions so as to limit their chances of contracting the coronavirus. Starting Friday, in a policy that will remain in place for the foreseeable future, members of the media were not allowed into San Jose's dressing room after practice, and instead conducted their player interviews at a podium outside of it. 

"It’s not bad. I like to stand behind the podium to do interviews. It’s a little more professional,” Timo Meier told The Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka. “With the coronavirus now going on, you’ve got to be careful and wash your hands and keep your distance."

It remains to be seen how many fans will keep theirs.

Noah Gregor showing confidence, proving to Sharks he belongs in NHL

Noah Gregor showing confidence, proving to Sharks he belongs in NHL

SAN JOSE -- Noah Gregor made his NHL debut with the Sharks on Oct. 19 after being called up from the AHL earlier that day. The 21-year-old appeared in 10 of San Jose's next 12 games, totaling zero points and posting a minus-6 before being sent back down to the Barracuda on Nov. 17.

A week later, Gregor was called back up and scored his first career NHL goal in the next game he played. However, that would be the only point he registered before once again being sent back to the Barracuda towards the end of December after seven more NHL games.

Gregor had to wait almost an entire two months for his next pot of coffee in the NHL. Given how he has played since, he might have said goodbye to the AHL for good.

In getting the primary assist on Stefan Noesen's first-period power-play goal in the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, Gregor offered the latest evidence that he has no intention of ever being sent back down. Since being called up on Feb. 13, he now has tallied three points (one goal, two assists) across eight games.

"Just a lot of confidence," Gregor explained what's different in this go-around with the Sharks following Thursday's loss. "I went down and worked on some things that translated into my recent call-up, and I think I've done a pretty good job of being confident and knowing I can play at this level."

While Gregor's self-confidence might be near an all-time high, he has also been given indications from the coaching staff that they, too, have confidence in him. Interim coach Bob Boughner recently moved Gregor up to the first line alongside Logan Couture and Evander Kane, and the rookie was actually manning the point on the power play when he found Noesen for the goal.

"He thinks the game very well. He's fast," Noesen described Gregor. "Overall, his hockey IQ is pretty good. Every time he's on the ice he creates something, and that's what you want to see."

San Jose's captain echoed a similar sentiment. 

"He's quick," Couture said of his new linemate. "He's smart. He sees the game well. As he gets more experience, he's going to get some more patience with the puck. He has a creativity where he can make plays. You can tell he's a skill player -- and he has got a good shot."

Both of the goals Gregor has scored at the NHL level support that last assessment.

Given the current state of the Sharks and the fact they're all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, you can expect Gregor to get plenty more opportunities to prove that he belongs. Consequently, he'll likely find himself in positions he's not accustomed to.

Such was the case Thursday night when Gregor had to fill in defensively for Brent Burns, who had previously jumped up in the play and was unable to get back as a Wild skater moved into the neutral zone. In an effort to get into better defensive positioning, Gregor attempted to transition from skating forwards to backwards.

To put it lightly: It wasn't the most graceful look.

"A little better skating forwards than backwards," Gregor said with a chuckle. "Tough pivot there by me."

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There surely will be more growing pains for Gregor as he continues to establish himself at the NHL level, but since his most recent call-up, those have often been overshadowed by evidence of promise.

Gregor has no intention of going back to the AHL, and lately, he's playing like it.