Monday, September 20, 2010

Main Camp

This weekend I experienced my first NHL training camp by attending days one and two of the San Jose Sharks main camp. I don't think any other sport allow their fans that kind of access to their players or team personnel.

I was able to speak with GM, Doug Wilson, and Director of Pro Player Development, Mike Ricci, over the weekend - both were extremely friendly and forthcoming with information.

Watching the players take the ice for flow drills brought back memories of what training camp felt like for me when I played. Unfortunately, I was usually a bubble player so I sympathized with the players that made mistakes that were most likely due to nerves rather than lack of skill or poor decision making.

Highly paid players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley looked relaxed, but focussed, and were able to enjoy being back out on the ice with the boys.

Newly signed goaltender, Antti Niemi, looked pretty awful - his mismatching equipment included - getting abused by snipes from the Sharks' forwards. Dany Heatley was shelving pucks on Niemi so hard that Mike Ricci exclaimed, "he's shooting BB's today!" as he and the scouting staff enjoyed the success of the assembled forwards.

The inner-squad scrimmage was very entertaining for the capacity crowd on hand, Douglas Murray came to play as he pasted Devin Setoguchi into the boards early on. Seto got up with a smile and had the last laugh as he would score the game-winning goal off a one-time feed from Joe Thornton.

The competition looks strong from the depth positions at forward as well. It will be hard to cut players with size and toughness such as 6'4 235 lbs forward Brandon Mashinter who was a standout player in the YoungStars tournament last week in Penticton, BC.

It will be interesting to see how the roster is trimmed in the coming weeks.

Look for my review of the Sharks' annual Teal vs White game being played Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Let's Drop the Puck

Back to work for NHL players Friday as training camps open league-wide. Players will report to their respective teams for physicals and testing then hitting the ice tomorrow. 

The end of this interesting off-season was capped off by rookie camps and tournaments with many of the rookies/prospects earning a roster spot for main camp. The Vancouver Canucks hosted a YoungStars tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, my old stomping grounds when I attended an international tournament at the Okanagen hockey school. Fans were treated to some very entertaining games and were able to catch a glimpse of many first-rounders including Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler. Anaheim, San Jose, Calgary, and Edmonton were among the teams that were invited by Vancouver. 

For the players already with positions secured with the big clubs, some will sport a sweater with a new logo in the front for the first time ever - Mike Modano, Marty Turco, and Alex Frolov are to name a few. How will these players prove they still have what it takes to make impacts on their new teams?

Expectations will be high for Ilya Kovalchuk after his contract saga that resulted in rejections, investigations, a mandate on future long-term contracts, and fining his new team the New Jersey Devil for $3 million plus some draft picks. Kovalchuk's $100 million contract will certainly send a current Devil packing in order to move the team under the cap - you have to wonder how that's going to impact the Devils' locker room dynamic. I personally think the whole situation is setting itself up for a bust, but that's me. 

The Washington Capitals will do their best "San Jose Sharks" and "San Diego Chargers" impressions as it won't matter how their regular season finishes, they'll be measured in post-season success. Capitals' forward, Niklas Backstrom, told the media yesterday that after going up 3-1 against the Canadiens, the team relaxed which ultimately lead to the come-from-behind win by Montreal. 

Pre-season games will start next week and the regular season will begin the first week of October. It's finally starting to feel a lot like hockey season.