Tomas Hertl

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 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."

Sharks training camp: Injury updates on Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek

Sharks training camp: Injury updates on Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek

SAN JOSE - The Sharks' blue line is something of a magnet for attention. Everything from Erik Karlsson joining the team to the state of Brent Burns' beard seems to be worthy of its own storyline.

With training camp for the 2019-20 season officially getting underway on Friday, the big talk is how healthy San Jose's defense will be by opening night -- mainly when it comes to Karlsson and Radim Simek, both of whom sustained major injuries last season that took them out of the Sharks' lineup.

While camp is only a day old, things are looking good for Team Teal's d-corps

Karlsson appeared to be moving well in the first day of camp as he was paired back up with last-season d-partner Brenden Dillon. It was surely a happy sight for the Sharks after Karlsson missed significant playtime last season, being sidelined with a groin injury and then having surgery early in the offseason

Sharks' bench boss Peter DeBoer went so far as to say Karlsson is in better shape at the start of camp than he'd anticipated.

"He looks way ahead of where I expected him to be," DeBoer admitted after the first day of camp concluded. "I wasn't sure what to expect. But he looks great and feels great, so that's a real positive sign. I think if you'd asked me a month ago if he'd look like he did right now and he was participating full-out, I'd probably be a little reluctant to say yes. But that wasn't even a question. I thought he looked great out there."

Karlsson said he isn't sure yet how many preseason games he'll appear in, admitting he's played a different number of tune-up contests in just about every camp he has participated in.

"We'll see how it feels," Karlsson said. "For me, it's about getting my own personal game ready and I think I'll be able to accomplish that whether I play five games or if I play one."

As for Simek, he missed even more time last season than Karlsson did, having his impressive rookie campaign cut short when he sustained a knee injury on March 12 against the Winnipeg Jets, and had subsequent surgery to repair his right ACL and MCL.

Simek didn't skate with the rest of the team on Friday as he continues to rehab and build up strength in his knee. However, fellow countryman Tomas Hertl told the media he spoke with Simek a bit over the summer and that he's working hard to get back to playtime.

"He's working his ass off," Hertl said. "He's working on it and hopefully he can come back skating with the guys. But you can't rush this. You have to make sure everything gets strong, because if you come (back) early you can get hurt again."

Simek made a fast impression last season when he successfully paired with Burns and visibly beefed up San Jose's defensive effort. Hertl admitted SImek's play was missed by the team down the stretch.

"We for sure missed him last year, I think, in the playoffs," Hertl said. "It will be nice getting him back for the season."

Having their blue line at full strength will be huge for Team Teal heading into the new season. While the team ranked second in the league in goals scored last season, they also had stretches when they struggled with defensive breakdowns and other mishaps in their own zone. 

Fine-tuning their defensive side of the game is one area the Sharks are looking to clean up, DeBoer discussed.

[RELATED: Three questions Sharks must answer]

"The foundation of our game since I got here has always been about defending well," the coach 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. But, you know, for us to always starts with defending hard and getting the puck back so that we can create on offense."

Having a healthy blue line can certainly help that effort.