It's the slowest time of year on the hockey calendar, but that doesn't mean we don't have time for a mailbag...
What do the Sharks do at [defense] after [Vlasic, Braun, Burns, Martin and Dillon]? Is Mueller expected to play the full season or is more help coming? #SharksTalk (RJ Eskanos @rjesk20)
The last time we did one of these, I suggested that the Sharks could use another defenseman. While I still believe that to be the case, I get the impression that’s not going to happen. The current group that is signed for the 2015-16 season will likely be the group that comes to training camp in about six weeks.
You mentioned the five guys that are locks to make the opening night roster, but the competition for that sixth spot should be a primary early storyline. I would expect camp to open with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun paired up, while Brent Burns will get a look with Paul Martin. That leaves Brenden Dillon, who is a left-handed shot that has experience playing both sides.
Along with Mirco Mueller, Matt Tennyson and Dylan DeMelo will be two other guys to keep an eye on. I believe the organization is particularly high on DeMelo, who was recalled last season but didn’t get into a game. The 22-year-old right-hander, a sixth round pick in 2011, has played 147 AHL games over parts of the last four seasons.
“I think he looks really good,” Barracuda coach Roy Sommer said at development camp in July. “This is his year. I think he’s going to come to camp and make a big splash.
“He’s a guy that you’re not going to fall in love with because he doesn’t wow you with anything, but he’s as steady as you’re going to get.”
Do you think the culture has improved with character additions such as Ward and Martin? #SharksTalk (Steven Dodge @waxasnatchie)
I do believe that part of the reason Joel Ward and Paul Martin were brought in was because they are both known as solid team guys. Ward, apparently, was as popular a guy as there was in the Capitals’ dressing room, while Martin was clearly a respected and well-liked veteran. If you missed it, check out this post from Martin on The Players’ Tribune, thanking his former teammates in Pittsburgh shortly after his decision to sign with San Jose.
Martin, in particular, will play a big role in terms of leading the blue line. That group simply didn’t have the kind of veteran presence back there that was needed last season after Dan Boyle left, and I would suspect that Martin is the kind of guy that will speak up when necessary after he gets acclimated to his new surroundings and teammates. As good as Vlasic is on the ice, he’s not that kind of guy, as Todd McLellan suggested in the second half of last season.
Who is expected to wear the C, and why is it Joe Pavelski? #SharksTalk (Tommy Dudley @tommydudley)
I’ve written multiple times why I think Joe Pavelski will still be the next captain, and I still believe that’s how this will end up. After he assumed all captaincy duties last season despite not wearing the C, it would make no sense to make someone else the captain now, even after the coaching change.
What may be more intriguing, though, is who will end up as the alternates? Peter DeBoer really doesn’t know hardly anyone on the Sharks’ roster personally, and he won’t get a complete picture until they all get on the ice together.
This time last year, Doug Wilson was saying that the Sharks were turning over the keys to the younger players – both on the ice and in the dressing room – while Larry Robinson echoed Wilson’s earlier suggestions that Joe Thornton probably wasn’t the best choice as captain. Still, McLellan named Thornton and fellow former captain Patrick Marleau as alternates, while Logan Couture was inexplicably left out of the official leadership group. The whole thing was a debacle, and a prime example of Wilson and McLellan not seeing eye-to-eye.
It’s a good bet that DeBoer will be more on board with Wilson’s wishes, so perhaps he tabs guys like Couture and Tommy Wingels to wear letters rather than Thornton and Marleau. Or, maybe he could choose one of the new guys like Martin to serve as the liaison between the coach’s office and the defense corps.
One possibility is that the team could again have rotating alternates with Pavelski as full-time captain. I’ve seen teams go with two alternates for home games, and two different alternates for road games. That could be an option.
Either way, the fact that the Sharks will make the announcement before the season opener has to be preferable to everyone in the organization. Get it out of the way, and get ready for the long haul that starts on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles.