Team A vs Team B scrimmage opened the Sharks training camp in San Jose on Friday.
Media Day interviews with Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Cheechoo, Evgeni Nabokov, and head coach Ron Wilson.
There are a lot of questions as the Sharks start training camp about who will be the backup goaltender behind Nabokov, which defenseman will play his way into the lineup after the loss of Hannan, and what the forward lines will shake out with Jeremy Roenick and several prospects vying for spots on all 4 lines (if you listen to head coach Ron Wilson's interview above).
Playing a GM on the internet, at this early date I like Dimitri Patzold as the backup goaltender. Good size (6-0, 195), solid positionally, more experience as a starter at the AHL level. I think he is more NHL ready. Although German goalie Thomas Greiss may be more athletic and have a higher upside, he only has 1 season of hockey in North America under his belt. He will grow into his talent quicker with another season as the go-to guy in Worcester of the AHL. But this goaltending competition will probably boil down to who has a better training camp.
One television reporter asked goaltender Evgeni Nabokov if he has heard of any of the goaltenders vying for the backup role. Nabokov was understandably a little animated in his response. Evgeni also talked about how his goaltending coach Warren Strelow, who died last year, helped goaltenders in the organization by being a positive influence instead of focusing on the negative. One season ticket holder I spoke with said that Strelow was the first ever goaltending coach, and wondered what his lasting influence would be within the Sharks system after his passing. A good question.
On defense, the dark horse is Alexei Semenov. A very intelligent and articulate guy, and one who stands a legitimate 6-foot-6, 235 pounds. Chara-esque. Rob Davison and Doug Murray were the #7 and #8 defenseman last year, and honestly they would be starting in the top 6 for most NHL teams. A few people speculated about 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart (6-4, 205) taking the Marc-Edouard Vlasic pipeline directly into the NHL, but I think he might be a year away. Vlasic was not only the best defenseman on the ice last year at the rookie tournament in Anaheim, he was also the best defenseman on the ice a couple of days during training camp last season. And again, you can hear coach Ron Wilson say that Vlasic was the best defenseman for several regular and postseason games in the NHL last season. A rare compliment for a rookie.
Who will pick up Hannan's minutes against opponent's top lines is a question, who will fill out the 6/7/8 slots is another, but how will the Sharks address a lack of scoring or a lack of initiating offense from the blueline is a question that sticks out for me. Detroit with Nicklas Lidstrom, and Anaheim with Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, showed the need for a top defenseman to take control on the offensive side of the ice in the playoffs. The Sharks have two candidates with all of the promise in the world, the tongue wagging bolt of German lightning Christian Ehrhoff, and Hobey Baker winner and 2-time NCAA champion Matt Carle. Time to show me the money, and start drilling pucks at the net.
The front lines for San Jose are anyone's guess at this point. The top line at the end of last season was Michalek-Thornton-Cheechoo, but Michalek-Marleau-Bernier were unstoppable for long stretches. Wilson mentioned that he is not just going to stick Jeremey Roenick on the 4th line for 5-7 minutes a night, and Wilson has a history of giving players who have success as much ice time as they can handle. What I did not hear mentioned was whether Roenick would be asked to contribute in key defensive situations. Clearing the puck at critical junctures, or answering the parade of teams trying to intimidate the Sharks physically in the postseason are possibly more important than Roenick's goal scoring prowess to be honest. The Sharks are not going to be a team struggling to find goals at any point during the season.
Devin Setoguchi almost made the team his first time out, and I think he is a near lock to make it this time around. He has definitely put on some size, and he has a quick and deadly accurate shot. I did not see 2007 first round pick Logan Couture skate in the Team A vs Team B scrimmage today, or if I did see him I did not recognize him. The players only had a small number on the back of their helmet about the size of a Canadian loony.
More photos and notes from the San Jose training camp will be up on Sharkspage.