San Jose Sharks and National Hockey League 2008-09 schedule released Thursday

The NHL released the full 2008-09 regular season schedule on Thursday. The San Jose Sharks have posted downloadable and printable versions here. The NHL will kick off 2008-09 with back-to-back games in Prague and Stockholm. Tampa Bay will face the New York Rangers in the Czech Republic Oct. 4th and 5th and Ottawa will meet Pittsburg at the Globe Arena in downtown Stockholm also on Oct. 4th and 5th.

The Sharks will play 24 games within the Pacific Division (6 games against Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix), 40 games against Western Conference opponents (four games against Northwest Division opponents Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, four games against Central Division opponents Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis), and 18 games against the Eastern Conference.

The Sharks only have to face a longest road trip of 5 games this season (Feb. 7 at Columbus, Feb. 10 at Boston, Feb. 11 at Pittsburgh, Feb. 13 at Buffalo, Feb. 15 at New Jersey), after enduring a monster 11-of-13 road trip in 2007-08. The Sharks dropped the first three games of that road trip before winning the next 10 as part of an 11-game winning streak. San Jose finished with a point streak of 20 games before dropping the final two games of the regular season to Los Angeles and Dallas. San Jose will have 14 back-to-back games in 2008-09, and will participate in the lone NHL game on Feburary 23rd against the Dallas Stars in a WCSF playoff rematch.

The Sharks open the preseason and regular season against Pacific Division rival Anaheim in contests that will instantly test new head coach Todd McLellan. The Sharks and former Bolts Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich will visit Tampa Bay on the back end of a 3-game Eastern Conference road trip in October. Hockey fans in the Bay Area will see back-to-back games against Stanley Cup Finalists Pittsburgh and Detroit October 28th and 30th, and the Toronto Maple Leafs and former head coach Ron Wilson will return to the tank December 2nd. Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, and Ottawa are the Eastern Conference teams that will not visit HP Pavilion this season, four of those teams played road games in San Jose last season.

During the Sharks home opener against the Boston Bruins last season, the power cut-off during the pregame skate cutting short the introduction of the new gigantic HD video screen and wrap-around video boards. The "Power Outage" game continued without national anthems, and without interior music and many video or display functions. Boston defenseman Aaron Ward broke a 1-1 tie with 12 seconds left in the third period to give the Bruins the road win, but it was one of the most unusual and entertaining games of the season. The Sharks need to have a t-shirt giveaway on the opening game of 2008-09 against the Ducks. All black shirts with a simple "Beat Anaheim" on the front. With Dan Boyle and Rob Blake manning the points on the San Jose power play, there are not going to be too many outages on the power play next season but they could start with a fan black out.


Sep. 24 at Anaheim, 7:00 p.m.
Sep. 26 Anaheim, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 29 at Phoenix, 7:00 p.m.
Sep. 30 Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 at Vancouver, 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. (Salt Lake City)

Regular Season

Oct. 9 Anaheim, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Los Angeles, 6 p.m.
Oct. 14 Columbus, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Anaheim, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 22 at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Florida, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Tampa Bay, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 30 Detroit, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 2 at Colorado, 6 p.m.
Nov. 4 Minnesota, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 St. Louis, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 Dallas, 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Phoenix, 5 p.m.
Nov. 11 Nashville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13 Calgary, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Chicago, 4 p.m.
Nov. 17 at Nashville, 5 p.m.
Nov. 22 Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 26 Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 at Phoenix, 6 p.m.

Dec. 2 Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 6 Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11 Anaheim, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 St. Louis, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15 at Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17 at Columbus, 4 p.m.
Dec. 18 at Detroit, 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 N.Y. Rangers, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 23 Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 at St. Louis, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 29 at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 31 at Minnesota, 3 p.m.

Jan. 3 N.Y. Islanders, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 at Calgary, 6 p.m.
Jan. 9 at Edmonton, 6 p.m.
Jan. 10 at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Jan. 13 Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 Calgary, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 Detroit, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24-25 (NHL Allstar Weekend in Montreal)
Jan. 27 at Colorado, 6 p.m.
Jan. 29 Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 Chicago, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Columbus, 4 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Boston, 4 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Buffalo, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 at New Jersey, 10 a.m.
Feb. 17 Edmonton, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 19 Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Feb. 23 at Dallas, 5 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Detroit, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Ottawa, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 28 at Montreal, 4 p.m.

Mar. 3 Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 5 Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 7 at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Mar. 10 at Minnesota, 5 p.m.
Mar. 12 at St. Louis, 5:30 p.m.
Mar. 14 Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
Mar. 15 at Anaheim, 5 p.m.
Mar. 17 at Phoenix, 6 p.m.
Mar. 19 Nashville, 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 21 Dallas, 1 p.m.
Mar. 22 Colorado, 5 p.m.
Mar. 25 at Chicago, 5:30 p.m.
Mar. 26 at Nashville, 5 p.m.
Mar. 28 Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 30 at Calgary, 6 p.m.

Apr. 2 at Edmonton, 6 p.m.
Apr. 4 Anaheim, 7 p.m.
Apr. 5 at Anaheim, 5 p.m.
Apr. 7 Colorado, 7:30 p.m.
Apr. 9 Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.
Apr. 11 at Los Angeles, 1 p.m.

[Update] Inside the 2008-09 Schedule - NHL.com.


Shark Notes: July 15th

- San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick fired a 2 under par 70 to lead the first round of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship last weekend in Lake Tahoe. Roenick registered a 6 over par 78 on day 2, and a 2 over par on day 3 to finish 9th overall (9 birdies, 14 bogeys, 0 penalty minutes). The official tournament website is available at tahoecelebritygolf.com. Video of Roenick's birdie put above courtesy of Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski, who has more on Roenick saving playing partner Tony Romo from a water hazard.

Also getting in on the golf action is new Shark defenseman Dan Boyle, who is competing in the 7th Annual Rautins-House Celebrity Classic held at the Rivermead Golf Club in Ottawa.

- The Sharks announced the signings of centers Marcel Goc, Tom Cavanagh and defenseman turned right wing Brad Staubitz on Monday. Marcel Goc registered 5 goals and 8 points in 53 games played for the Sharks on the checking line last season. In the past he competed for Team Germany in the 2008 World Championships and 2006 Olympics. The Sharks need Marcel Goc to fill out a more of a defensive specialist role, a player who can win key faceoffs and make high percentage plays in his own zone. Right wing Tom Cavanagh signed a 1-year contract after registering 12 goals and 32 assists in 77 games played with the Worcester Sharks last season. Cavanagh earned an assist on a Joe Thornton goal 36 seconds into his only NHL game played last season against Los Angeles. Right wing Brad Staubitz also signed a 1-year contract. "Brad is a big, strong player that has shown improvement in his three seasons in our organization. We asked him to change from defense to forward and he has accepted the challenge and is making the most of it." San Jose Sharks General manager and EVP Doug Wilson said of Staubitz.

- The box office dropoff for Mike Myers' Love Guru has been precipitous. After opening with a $13+ million weekend, the Guru drew just under $2 million in week 3, and $549,853 in week 4. The number of theaters airing the movie has dropped from 3,012 to 909.

- Eurohockey.net announced the Worcester Sharks signing of former Worcester Icecats defenseman Brendan Buckley from the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutscher Eishockey Liga. Prior to his season in Germany, Buckley was the captain of the AHL's Manchester Monarchs in 2006-07. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette's Bill Ballou also notes that veteran sniper Cory Larose is expected to sign with the Sharks top AHL affilate after the loss of the two top scorers in Mike Iggulden and Graham Mink. The AHL Sharks have holes on defense they will need to fill with the loss of Wishart, Carle and Brennan Evans. Bill Ballou reports that those may be addressed with Matt Kinch and Brett Westgarth.

- An "open source" rumor from Daniel Sallows that the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens are interested in 39 year old veteran Brendan Shanahan after he turned down the Vancouver Canucks. If he reportedly turned down a $2M offer from Vancouver, how is he rumored to go to a team with less than $1.4M of cap space with left wing Ryane Clowe still unsigned?

Shanahan's agent Rick Curran denied the Canucks even made an offer today in the Vancouver Province.

- San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak offered an update of sorts on the Sharks progress signing restricted free agent Ryane Clowe. Pollak previously reported that Clowe and general manager Doug Wilson had a handshake agreement on a deal, but the length of the contract was still not determined. Pollak contacted Clowe's agent Paul Cobeil, who would not comment on the negotiations.

The situation is compounded by a serious knee injury Clowe suffered in October that needed surgery. He missed 65 games of the regular season, returning to register 2 assists in the final 4 games of the year. Clowe exploded in the first round of the playoffs, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists in the first 5 games of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Calgary. He was held to 1 goal in the subsequent 8 playoff games against Calgary and Dallas. Also compounding the situation is a DUI arrest that happened earlier this season, and prior injuries that have limited the rugged Newfoundland power forward to only 126 NHL/AHL games played in the last 3 seasons. Ryane Clowe lead the AHL Cleveland Barons in scoring in 2004-05, but it took time for him to adjust his game to the NHL level. He skated hard in his first callup, but in subsequent seasons he has learned where to skate and how few NHL defenseman can knock him off the puck.

The situation is also compounded on the Sharks side by the lack of cap room available and the fact that Ryane Clowe fills a role that few others in the organization are suited for. Rookie Devin Setoguchi's development mitigated the loss of Steve Bernier, but Bernier and Clowe were the two Sharks most effective setting up in front of the opponent's crease. Without Clowe the Sharks will still have a quick transition game and a dominant power play, but hard nosed goals in front of the net come at a premium in the postseason. With 7 NHL roster defenseman under contract and Clowe expected to fill out the top 12 forwards, more roster maneuvering may still be in the works for general manager Doug Wilson. Worcester RFA's Lukas Kaspar, Mike Morris and Riley Armstrong also remain unsigned.

There was no update on the Clowe negotiations from the Sharks on Monday.

- On the July 10th episode of the Leafs Lunch podcast, available for download free on Itunes, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson discussed playoff expectations, the recent acquisitions of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, how the Sharks are looking to initiate offense through the defense, how the core Sharks players are coming into their prime, what the Sharks could expect from new head coach Todd McLellan and what the Toronto Maple Leafs can expect from coach Ron Wilson among other topics.

- Not Sharks related, but there has been another massive round of layoffs in local newspapers and newsrooms. 29 jobs were eliminated by MediaNews in the East Bay, 17 at the San Jose Mercury News, 6 at the Palo Alto Daily News, and 8 for NBC's local KNTV station in San Jose. There were also several recent departures at CBS's channel 5. In southern California the Los Angeles Times announced cuts of 250 employees, 150 from the news department. One small bright spot, a new free daily has launched in the penninsula with the Palo Alto Daily Post. Created by former Palo Alto Daily News founders Dave Price and Jim Pavelich, the Post focuses on local and national news Monday through Friday.

[Update] Sharks Ice Supports LIVESTRONG Challenge, Sharks Ice Volunteers Turn Power Stop #2 Into Sharks Territory - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Wilson doesn't stand pat after Sharks fall short - retools contending team - CP.

"We played five good playoff games out of 13," Sharks GM Doug Wilson told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "That's not acceptable. We decided to make some changes." Say hello Todd McLellan, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich. "We've added four people and every one of them has won a Stanley Cup," said Wilson.

The message couldn't be any more clear than being slapped on the head with a two-by-four. Yes, the Sharks have a talented roster led by the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo but the group needed a little push to get over the hump. Blake won a Cup with Colorado in 2001, Boyle and Lukowich with Tampa Bay in 2004 and McLellan sipped champagne last month. They've been there. They know what it takes.

[Update3] The Sharks released the 2008-09 preseason schedule today:

Wednesday, Sept. 24 @ Anaheim
Honda Center 7.00 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 26 - Anaheim
HP Pavilion at San Jose, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27 - Vancouver
HP Pavilion at San Jose, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 29 @ Phoenix
Jobing.com Arena, 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30 - Phoenix
HP Pavilion at San Jose, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 2 @ Vancouver
GM Place, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 5 @ Los Angeles
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT, 5:00 p.m.

According to the Sharks, the final two pre-season games against Vancouver and Los Angeles will be broadcast on 98.5 KFOX and the San Jose Sharks Radio Network.


Stockton Thunder podcast notes - renewed affiliation with Edmonton, re-signed Mark Adamek, Tom Zanoski, alltime leading scorer Mike Lalonde

2006 ECHL Allstar Mike Lalonde Jake Moreland

The new Stockton Thunder podcast, also available on Stocktonthunder.com, details offseason news from the Edmonton Oilers ECHL affiliate in Northern California. The Thunder announced earlier this summer a renewed affiliation with Edmonton for the third straight season. The Thunder have made back-to-back ECHL Kelly Cup playoff appearances, and have promoted defenseman Bryan Young and Liam Reddox to the NHL roster. "They have such a great interest. I have never seen an NHL organization like this, so involved. I think it is beneficial for the NHL bound players and for everyone in the locker room" Stockton head coach Chris Cichocki told the podcast.

Also covered was the re-signing of veteran ECHL defenseman Mark Adamek and 24 year old rookie agitator Tom Zanoski. Adamek (3G, 9A, 68GP) is a Hollister native who is re-signing for his third season in Stockton. The former San Jose Jr Sharks and Anaheim Jr Ducks alumni teaches hockey in the area, and told stocktonthunder.com "I love the atmosphere". He went on to say, "(Stockton) should attract players because of their skill and the organization, and the fan support that we have is the reason we should be one of the top notch teams every season." 5-foot-11, 185-pound Brampton Ontario native Tom Zanoski will provide more of an agitating, in your face role for the Thunder in his second ECHL season. After 5 seasons in the CHL, and two and a half seasons at the Canadian Dalhousie University, Zanoski scored 20 points and earned 98 penalty minutes in only 42 games played in the ECHL last year.

Also breaking news via the podcast, inaugural Stockton Thunder forward Mike LaLonde will return for his third season after spending a year with the Tilburg Trappers hockey club in the Netherlands. LaLonde lead his European team and the Netherlands league with 43 goals and 49 assists in 34 games played. Mike LaLonde was the first-ever ECHL Allstar selection for Stockton (Fresno 2006), and he remains the all-time franchise leading goal scorer with 52 goals. LaLonde signed a 1-year contract for 2008-09, and will add firepower up front to a Thunder team that could use more offense.

A permanent link to the Stockton Thunder podcast is available on the right sidebar under RADIO/PODCASTS.

[Update] Tilburg Trappers triple, Tilburg wins Netherlands’ league again, White Caps Turnhout successful in Belgium - IIHF.com.

Mike Lalonde, who played in the ECHL the two seasons before, was the star, scoring all three goals for the Trappers. "I scored the championship goal but we did it as a team," said the 27-year-old Canadian, who also was the league's top scorer.

[Update2] Thunder re-signs former star - Stockton Record.

[Update3] Step up to the Mike - Benton's Blog.

The Thunder followed through in returning a player who is familiar with Chris Cichocki's system and ranks in the upper-echelon of offensive talent. Mike's 308 shots led the ECHL in his rookie season - which proves he isn't afraid to shoot the puck. This is an element the Thunder desperately needed at times last season on the power-play, that at times lacked a committed sniper. One thing is for sure, you can't have too many passers (and you can't have too many shooters).

Additionally, we're now starting to see a trend of core players - like Idaho has with Marty Flichel and Bakersfield with Sean Venedam - make their permanent residence nearby their hometown team. Lalonde is one of them - he's buying a house in town and has already set his word on possibly retiring as a Thunder player. He follows suit of Mark Adamek and Tim O'Connell, personifying a statement that advantages with living in Stockton during the summer.

Late goal by Colorado results in 1-1 tie, troubling signs plague San Jose Earthquakes offense

2008 San Jose Earthquakes Buck Shaw Stadium Santa Clara University
San Jose Earthquakes Colorado Rapids MLS soccer
2008 San Jose Earthquakes Kei Kamara Nick LaBrocca

The San Jose Earthquakes came out of the gate firing against the Colorado Rapids Saturday afternoon at Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium, but inconsistent play lead to a disappointing 1-1 tie and the extension of a 6-game winless streak.

The offensive chances were lopsided in San Jose's favor early. Kei Kamara and Ryan Johnson created pressure in front the Rapids goal. Kamara challenged two defenders who let up on a ball, and forced Colorado keeper Bouna Coundoul to make a diving save to his right. After forward Conor Casey directed a through ball just wide of the right post, San Jose's Johnson made a long run down the right side but was unable to connect with a teammate in front. A few minutes later, James Riley uncorked a hard shot from 30 yards out that was punched over the top of the goal by Coundoul. Johnson again followed that with a low bouncing shot the sailed just outside of the post.

The Quakes struggle to create offense is well known. San Jose has registered 1 goal for and 9 goals against, including two 0-0 ties, in their last 6 games. Keeper Joe Cannon has said that the failure to score has put intense pressure on the defense to keep opponents off of the board. Up front, if a shot rings off the post or if a pass does not connect, the Earthquakes at times appear frustrated and disjointed. Fans are appreciative that the Earthquakes have returned to the MLS and the South Bay, but eventually the honeymoon is going to end and the realization that this is an expansion team is going to set in. The Earthquakes need to build more of a blue collar identity, one where players keep their legs moving and mistakes and setbacks are answered with hard work. The acquisition of Norwich City striker Darren Huckerby should add much needed punch to the Quakes attack.

At halftime, San Jose head coach Frank Yallop told his team that they need to be more aggressive and play with more intensity. It was Colorado Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni who sent a message early in the second half with a hard challenge on Ronnie O'Brien. A minute later Rapids forward Tom McManus blew by two defenders on the right side and knifed a centering pass across the box. No one from Colorado was there to capitalize. The Rapids were controlling the pace and tempo of the second half. Quakes head coach Yallop substituted Cunliffe and Grabavoy for Guerrero and Gray in the 56th and 57th minutes.

Kei Kamara was shoved in the back by Rapids defender Facundo Erpen, while he was off balance a long goal kick by Cannon deflected off of his face. The Quakes were awarded a free kick with Ronnie O'Brien and Ramiro Corrales lining up to take it. Corrales bent the ball in to a diving Ryan Johnson. Johnson beat Rapids defender Ugo Ihemelu to head the ball over the head of stunned goal keeper Bouna Coundoul. Johnson, Kamara, and Hernandez ran over to perform a celebratory dance as the Quakes supporter section in the stands exploded.

The Rapids controlled possession for most of the game, but 8 offsides calls stunted any sustained attack they were generating. Colorado took the ball slowly up midfield, and then sent a long ball in to Connor Casey just outside of the box. Casey dropped the ball to Terry Cooke on the right side. Cooke lofted the ball back into the middle, where Casey battled with Jason Hernandez for position. Casey headed the ball against the grain to beat Joe Cannon and tie the game in the 70th minute. Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop was furious, and was thrown out of the game after he protested the non-call on Casey. Yallop believed Casey pushed off on Hernandez prior to heading in the game tying goal.

Colorado finished the game with more energy, crisper passes, and won more 50/50 balls. San Jose's Joe Cannon was trying to will his team to battle back for the win, driving the ball deep up field and sprinting to take free kicks while others took more time to get into position. Late in the game Quakes midfielder Ramiro Corrales tried to play a ball passed Colorado sub Omar Cummings (57th minute). Cummings deflected the ball to a teammate for a quick give and go, and accelerated down the right side. Cummings fought off a player who grabbed a fistful of his jersey, split a second defender, and forced Joe Cannon to come out and make a hard angle save. The hard work by Cummings earned the Rapids a corner kick on the play. Corrales took himself out of position by taking a knee after he lost the ball.

The Quakes earned a 1-1 tie and a point in front of 9,107 faithful. Best sign, (Oakland does not equal home). The weather was clear and 82 degrees but the haze from recent fires was noticeable and persistent. A photo gallery from the game is available here. San Jose plays an exhibition Tuesday night against the Honduran Olympic Team Tuesday, July 15 at 8:00 p.m. PT at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara. It will be the first international exhibition for the third generation Earthquakes franchise.

[Update] Controversial call lets Colorado tie Quakes, 1-1 - Pete Ratajczak for Centerlinesoccer.com.

A controversial non-call on Conor Casey led to his game-tying goal in the 69th minute as Colorado fought back to a 1-1 draw with San Jose Saturday afternoon at Buck Shaw Stadium. Just seven minutes after the Earthquakes had taken the lead on a Ryan Johnson goal, Terry Cooke lofted a forty yard diagonal ball into the box for Casey. "I looked at it again on tape," Yallop said. "From the angle I was at, (Casey) pushed (Hernandez) in the back. You can't do that in this sport. Jason feels the hands on his back and bends over, and it ends up a free header."

The play infuriated Yallop, who ended up being ejected from the game for arguing the call from the bench. This was Frank Yallop's 163rd game coaching in MLS, and the first time he'd ever been ejected. "I got thrown out with Canada once. I don't get angry very often, but I struggled with that one.

Centerlinesoccer.com's Jay Hipps also posted links to post-game media reports, an exclusive photo gallery, and audio interviews with Quakes coach Frank Yallop and Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo here.

[Update2] Brazilian midfielder Lima gets offer from Earthquakes - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] The official FreeKick MLS game program is well worth a look. Last month's issue included an excellent feature on soccer in Argentina. This month's issue (V13 I3) previews Olympic hopefuls playing in the MLS, breaks down the second year SuperLiga tournament between 4 MLS and 4 Mexican first division teams, and dicusses the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League tournament that will start in August. The intial results in 2008 SuperLiga play have D.C. United earning a 2-1 win over CD Guadalajara, Houston Dynamo earning a 4-0 shutout over Atlante, the New England Revolution earning a 1-0 shutout win over Santos Laguna, and Pachuca CF earning the sole win for the Mexican League this weekend with a 2-1 win over Chivas USA. This Saturday July 19th at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara Atlante will face CD Guadalajara at 7PM. Atlante is the 2007 Apertura champion after relocating from Mexico City to Cancun. 11-time champion Chivas draws a very enthusiastic crowd, and is known for suiting up only Mexican national players.

According to the Free Kick Champions League article, 24 teams will compete in the inaugural tournament with 4 teams from Major League Soccer, 4 teams from the Mexican First Division, two teams from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and three Caribbean teams. MLS participants will include the MLS champion Houston Dynamo, regular season champion D.C. United, MLS Cup runner-up New England Revolution, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Champions. The Revolution captured the U.S. Open Cup last season, so second place runner up Chivas USA will compete in the fourth and final spot. Preliminary games will be held August 26-28th and will finish September 2-4th. Chivas USA will fave Panama's Tauro FC and New England will play Trinidad and Tobago's Joe Public FC in home-at-home series. The group stage will feature top seeded teams joining preliminary qualifiers in 4 groups of 4 teams each. The round robin play will feature six games played between September 16th and October 30th. Two game quarterfinal home-at-home series will be held in February 2009. Home-at-home semifinal series will be held in March and April. The CONCACAF Champions League home-at-home final series will be played in late April 2009.

[Update4] Quakes sign Huckerby, trade for Sealy, Pair of forwards add depth to San Jose front line - SJearthquakes.com.

SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- The San Jose Earthquakes announced Monday that the team has signed English forward Darren Huckerby and acquired Kansas City Wizards forward Scott Sealy. Per league and team policy, terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Huckerby signed with the Earthquakes after San Jose acquired his rights from Toronto FC in exchange for allocation money and an international player slot. He will be added to the roster pending the arrival of his ITC and approval of his visa. Sealy was acquired in exchange for allocation money from the Wizards.


Full slate of soccer on tap, Quakes try to break 5 game winless streak against Colorado, Club America vs Morelia Sunday, Honduran Olympic Team Tuesday

2008 San Jose Earthquakes starting squad vs Los Angeles
Club America Morelia exhibition soccer game Spartan Stadium

The San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-3) will try to crack their 5-game winless streak at 1PM today against Western Conference rival Colorado (6-8-1). San Jose and Colorado were held without a player nomination in initial MLS Allstar voting, but each team relies on an anchor in goal to keep them in games. Colorado Rapids goaltender Bouna Coundoul is fifth in the MLS with a 1.18GAA, 5 shutouts and 36 saves on 51 shots. In 15 starts, Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon has made 63 saves on 86 shots, registered a 1.40GAA with 5 shutouts.

The San Jose Mercury News reported the signing of English striker Darren Huckerby on Friday. Huckerby, second tier Norwich City player of the year in 2005 and 2007, was acquired in a trade with rights holder Toronto FC. The 5-foot-10 Nottingham, England native will not join the team in time for Saturday's contest, but his 32 career goals for Norwich City will help an Earthquakes side that has scored an MLS low of 10 goals in 15 games.

Huckerby reportedly turned down an offer from Toronto FC because of the FieldTurf artificial surface at BMO Field and his prior injury history. San Jose alternates playing home games this season between the remodeled Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University and McAfee Collesium in Oakland. The Earthquakes and San Jose are in the midst of negotiations for a new soccer-specific stadium west of the San Jose International Airport.

Centerlinesoccer.com's Jay Hipps has a pre-game press wrap prior to the Colorado-Quakes kickoff this afternoon, and notes that San Jose plays its first home game after seven weeks on the road. Hipps also quotes the UK site sportinglife.com who reports that Huckerby's contract is for 18 months with an option for 2 more years.

Sunday at Spartan Stadium Club America will face Morelia in a Mexican First Division exhibition game at 4PM. America, the 10-time champion operated by wealthy Televisa owner Emilio Azcárraga, will draw a legion of flag waving and flare lighting supporters. Club America lost an exhibition against Chelsea at Stanford Stadium last July 2-1. Monarcas de Morelia dropped a friendly to Chivas de Guadalajara 3-2 in front of 20,559 fans at Spartan Stadium in 2004. Tickets to Sunday's game are available from elmexicanopresenta.com, and more information is available from the official league website (spanish).

A press release from the San Jose Earthquakes:

Earthquakes to Host Honduran Olympic Team on July 15 at Buck Shaw

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that they will play the Honduran Olympic Team on Tuesday, July 15 at 8:00 p.m. PT at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara. Honduras will be the first international team the Quakes will face in the 2008 season.

The Honduran Olympic Team qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics after defeating Guatemala in the semifinals of the CONCACAF U-23 Championships on March 20. Honduran Erick Norales scored the game-winning goal in the 6-5 penalty kick victory after a 0-0 tie through regulation and extra-time.

Following their qualification for the Olympics, Honduras won the CONCACAF Under-23 Championship with a 1-0 victory over the United States on March 23 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. The game went scoreless during the first 90 minutes, before Georgie Wilson scored the game-winning goal in overtime for Honduras. Honduras last won the CONCACAF Under-23 Championship in 2000. Both the United States and Honduras qualified for the Olympics.

The last time the Quakes played against a national team was June 5, 2004 when the Quakes hosted the Canadian National Team, which was then coached by current Quakes head coach Frank Yallop. The Quakes fell 3-1 in that match.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased for $20 in advance or $25 on the day of the game. Earthquakes season ticket holders can purchase tickets at a special discounted rate of $15. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 1-877-QUAKE-01 or log onto sjearthquakes.com. Tickets can also be purchased on Tickets.com or the regular ticket locations in the Bay Area.

[Update] First half goals enough in Morelia 2-0 win over Timbers - soccercityusa.com.

[Update2] Captain eyes Euro teams, Veteran Pablo Mastroeni is passport-ready. Colorado's coach needs to sell, not trade, to profit - Denver Post.


G.J. Berg: A fortnight or so around the hockey world

The NHL Entry Draft has come and gone (Sharks drafted seven players).

The "silly season" that is the first few days of the free agent frenzy is about a week old. (Track signings here.)

Sharks managed a few trades: Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich for Carle, Wishart, plus picks; Rivet for picks...

A UFA signing - Rob Blake ...

And a few re-signings -- Boucher, Ehrhoff, Pavelski, Roenick, Shelley.

Elsewhere in the hockey world....

NHL announces salary cap of $56.7m for the 08-09 season.

Anaheim Ducks owner suspended indefinitely for stock option mishandling.

Of the more interesting transactions:

At the entry draft, Montreal was given permission to talk with Mats Sundin. (However, nothing came of it. As of the publishing of this blog entry, Sundin still hasn't made up his mind if he'll play next season, much less where; even when there was a $20m two year contract dangled.)

A number of former Sharks are changing addresses or extending their stay:

  • Steve Bernier is traded to the Vancouver Canucks; then signs offer sheet from St Louis Blues which is matched by Canucks
  • Brian Campbell signs eight year deal with Chicago Blackhawks
  • Josh Gorges signs three year deal with Montreal Canadiens
  • Owen Nolan signs two year deal with Minnesota Wild
  • Patrick Rissmiller signs one year deal with New York Rangers
  • Brad Stuart signs four year deal to stay with Detroit Red Wings

Shark Notes: Christian Ehrhoff expected to sign 3 year, $9.3 million contract to stay in San Jose, AHL options could impact NHL roster

San Jose Sharks expected to re-sign Christian Ehrhoff to 3 year deal
San Jose Sharks restricted free agent Lukas Kaspar

- On the same day German Stefan Schumacher earned the yellow jersey after a time trial stage win in the Tour de France, online reports noted that the Sharks re-signed 25-year old German defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a 3-year $9.3 million deal. NHLScap.com reported on Hockey Buzz that Ehrhoff will earn $2,750,000 in 2008-09, $3,150,000 in 2009-10, and a back-loaded $3,400,000 in 2010-11. The signing was confirmed with information on NHLPA.com and SJsharks.com. The contract average of $3.1M will apply against the salary cap each season.

A press release from the Sharks:


SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed Group II restricted free agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a three-year deal. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ehrhoff finished the 2007-08 season with 22 points (1-21=22) in 77 games, good for third among Sharks blueliners. He led the team in blocked shots (108) and was tied for sixth on the team in assists. Ehrhoff played in his 200th National Hockey League game on Nov. 2 vs. Los Angeles. The 26-year-old also played in 10 playoff games, recording five assists and 14 penalty minutes. Ehrhoff averaged just over 23 minutes of ice time, despite being hampered by an injured ankle.

"Christian is an extremely competitive person and we've liked his development as a player," said Wilson. "He got injured late in the regular season and showed a great deal of heart by playing through the playoffs. We expect him to continue to get better and be a big contributor for this organization."

Ehrhoff made his NHL debut in 2003-04 and is eighth on the all-time Sharks list among defensemen in points (17-73=90) in 264 regular season games. He has also added 15 points (2-13=15) in 32 career playoff games. The six-foot-two, 205-pound native of Moers, Germany was selected by San Jose in the fourth round (106th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

The Sharks roughly sit $2.1M under the NHL's $56.7M salary cap with restricted free agent left wing Ryane Clowe un-signed, and German center Marcel Goc opting for salary arbitration over the weekend. The news of Ehrhoff's signing follows another San Jose Sharks story that broke on Hockey Buzz. The website was the first to break the specific details of the Boyle-Carle trade, which included one of the Sharks blue chip defensive prospects in Ty Wishart.

- With the Sharks up against the cap, future maneuverings up front or on the blueline are possibilities moving forward. The Ottawa Senators, rumored to be pursuing defenseman Kyle McLaren, signed defenseman Jason Smith to a 2-year $5.2 million deal. Jason Smith was the longest serving captain in Edmonton history (2001-07), and the defensive-defenseman finished with 10 points in 77 games played for Philadelphia last season. San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak also notes that the Sharks could keep 6-foot-6, 235 pound Alexei Semenov (1G, 3A, -8, 22GP) in the fold as a depth defenseman next season. Semenov could provide valuable minutes if injuries to Rob Blake or Kyle McLaren factored into the season.

The Sharks have 10 roster forwards under contract for the 2008-09 season, 7 defenseman, and 3 goaltenders who registered a start last season (Nabokov, Boucher, Greiss). A look at Sharkspage contributor Darryl Hunt's end of the season 210 AHL Awards offers insight as to who might be asked to contribute at the NHL level in future seasons. Darryl's top offensive player of the year, Graham Mink, recently signed with the Washington Capitals organization. Center Thomas Plihal split time with the AHL Worcester Sharks (5G, 7A, 22GP) and NHL San Jose Sharks (2G, 1A, 22GP) last season, and impressed the former coaching staff with his work ethic and determination. The Sharks also called up centers Tom Cavanagh (1GP, 1A) and Mike Iggulden (1GP, -1) for brief looks towards the end of the season. Iggulden lead the W-Sharks in goals (29), assists (37) and points (66), while Cavanagh finished second on Worcester in assists and tied for second in scoring.

Sharks 2004 first round draft pick Lukas Kaspar, a brief NHL callup last season, should garner a long look by new San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. Kaspar (17G, 24A, 73GP) finished fourth on the Worcester Sharks in scoring, and he earned the Two-By-Two Award from Darryl Hunt "while wearing #22 was called for 22 minor penalties, leading the team in penalty minutes without being called for a major". Max Giese profiled Kaspar prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, Lukas Kaspar on the Cusp? Max noted the highs and lows the Czech winger has battled since his 2004 draft selection, but his size and skillset offer a tantalizing payoff if he can put it all together. According to NHLScap, Lukas Kaspar and Riley Armstrong are still unsigned restricted free agents.

Darryl Hunt gave his 2007-08 defensive player of the year award to veteran AHL/NHL blueliner Patrick Traverse (6G, 19A, 65GP). Hunt noted that Traverse was the most steady defenseman on the Worcester Sharks AHL roster, and that he was the player the team looked to in critical situations. Hunt gave his rookie of the year award to 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman Derek Joslin (10G, 24A, 80GP), who anchored the second defensive pairing in Worcester and saw time on the top power play unit. Joslin may need more time to develop at the AHL level, but he may be asked to provide more of a leadership role next season.

5-foot-11, 180-pound right wing Riley Armstrong also earned Hunt's MVP award for the season. Armstrong (15G, 19A, 64GP) finished third with 91 penalty minutes and lead Worcester in plus/minus. There was a considerable drop off in energy when Armstrong was out with an injury according to Hunt, and he was one of the most talked about players on the Worcester roster at the trade deadline. One of the new faces at the end of the season, 6-foot-4 205-pound free agent signee Matt Jones, has the speed and size to be effective in front of the crease at the NHL level in the future. Sharkspage's Max Giese broke the news of his signing with Worcester earlier this year. Max notes that his 15 goals with Merrimack against tough Hockey East competition made Jones a sought after free agent acquisition. Max believes Matt Jones will compete for an NHL roster spot in 2008-09, but with time spent on the second and third lines in Worcester at the end of the season he may need more time to familiarize himself with hockey at the professional level.

- The San Jose Sharks ECHL affiliate, the Phoenix Roadrunners, signed 2007-08 rookie forwards Mitch Carefoot and Chris Stevens earlier today. According to the ECHL, 23-year-old Mitch Carefoot was sixth on the team with 33 points (12g-21a) in 70 games while the 21-year-old Stevens had 25 points (8g-17a) in 67 games.

- In the July issue of San Jose Magazine, Valley Christian High School and SJ Jr Sharks girls hockey standout Paula Romanchuk was named as one of the rising local youth athletic and academic stars in the nation's 10th largest metropolitan area. Romanchuk, the only girl in the newly developed high school hockey league, will play for Princeton University next season. The article also notes that Romanchuk twice earned a spot in USA Hockey's National Development camp.

- Also recently seen on Christian's official ehrhoff.com website maintained by Sascha Staat was a link to Marcel Goc's new website at marcelgoc.com. There is not going to be a lot of breaking news on either, but there are video clips of Ehrhoff at gaming conventions in Germany, hockey photos, music, backgrounds, and more. Quarter Acre and Hasteblood have nice tracks on Ehrhoff's site, but negative props for the Justin Timberlake.

[Update] Setoguchi Spends Summer in San Jose - SJsharks.com.

For the Sharks Devin Setoguchi, he just finished his first NHL campaign, but he has not had the opportunity to rest on his laurels. When the season concluded, Setoguchi had to deal with shoulder and sports hernia surgeries. So instead of returning to Alberta for a lot of golf with his buddies, he found himself planted on the couch.

"I had four weeks back home lounging on the couch and enjoying home cooking," said Setoguchi. When he returned to San Jose for the summer, it was all about rehabbing and conditioning.

[Update2] Thanks to this post by James Mirtle, all of the blogs by NHL beat reporters under the media sidebar to the right are followed by their team's initials in brackets.

[Update3] Checking in with Matt Jones - Matt Jones for sharksahl.com (PDF).

This is Matt Jones writing in from Woburn, MA. I am staying with a friend from college so that I am able to train at 'Body by Boyle' along with a few other Sharks players. Mike Boyle works us hard every morning Monday thru Thursday along with other professional hockey players. I am also able to skate a few times a week in a men's league, which I love doing. I can't get enough hockey I guess! When I cannot hit the real ice, I will usually be up for a game of NHL 08 on xbox 360.

[Update4] In addition to Graham Mink's departure to Washington/Hershey, the New York Islanders/Bridgeport Sound Tigers also signed forward Mike Iggulden. "He has tremendous upside. We see him as a potential Islander... He's a big winger (6-foot-3, 215 pounds). He was our No. 1 targeted free agent on the forward end." Sound Tigers president Howard Saffan told the Connecticut Post. In addition to RFA's Lukas Kaspar and Riley Armstrong, center Thomas Plihal also remains unsigned. In their latest DOH podcast, Mike and Doug tab collegians T.J. Fox and Steven Zalewski, and WHL alum Frazer McLaren as players working their way up the Sharks development system. More on T.J. Fox here. Thanks to a reader, Marcel Goc is listed as signed for $775,000 on NHLPA.com.


Sharks Trade Analysis: Blake, Boyle and Lukowich add missing pieces of the puzzle for Sharks power play and playoff problems

San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray
San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff

The July 4th holiday weekend was a busy one for the San Jose Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson. In the span of 48 hours on Thursday and Friday, the Sharks traded defenseman Craig Rivet, Matt Carle, Ty Wishart a 2009 first-round, 2010 fourth-round, and 2010 seventh-round draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres and the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich and 2009 and 2010 second-round picks. The Sharks also signed free agent defenseman Rob Blake to a 1-year, $5 million contract.

The moves effectively reshuffle and restructure the draft and develop short term gameplan for the San Jose blueline. The Sharks have a history of stacking players and prospects at all stages of development throughout the organization. After three straight Western Conference Semifinal playoff exits, gone are a power play quarterback of the future (Carle), the Sharks most NHL-ready defensive prospect (Wishart), and the first overall draft pick in next year's draft.

An aggressive shutdown defense that allowed the third fewest goals in the regular season (193) struggled mightily in two playoff series against Calgary and Dallas. According to general manager Doug Wilson, the Sharks played only 5 quality playoff games out of 13. The Sharks defense backed off opponents at the blueline, were outworked in 1-on-1 battles behind the net, and were tentative and cautious moving the puck out of their own zone. On the power play, the defense was worse. No Sharks defenseman scored a power play goal, and Rivet (4) Campbell (2) and Ehrhoff (1) combined for 7 total power play assists. The offense effectively flowed through the defense, and without a fluid transition up ice or rebound opportunities generated by point shots on net the Sharks finshed only 8-56 (14.3) with the man advantage, 5th worst in the postseason. In the WCSF deciding game 6 against Dallas the Sharks were held scoreless on 4 power play opportunities, including a 2 minute power play in the third overtime. Brian Campbell took a hooking call in the fourth OT, and Brenden Morrow converted in less than a minute to send the Stars to the Western Conference Finals.

In Boyle, Lukowich and Rob Blake the Sharks add 100 years to one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, and over 2200 games of NHL experience (2232). Blake is 9th among active NHL players in total shots (3516), first overall among active defenseman in goals, and tied for fourth among active defenseman in total points (223G, 479A, 702PTS).

TSN's Scott Cullen notes that 2007-08 was the worst season on record for Tampa Bay's Dan Boyle. A freak wrist injury occured when a skate fell off a hook in the locker room and injured 3 tendons in his wrist. A brief comeback attempt was unsuccessful, and Boyle eventually missed a combined 45 games. After his return, Cullen notes that Boyle registered a league worst -29 (for defenseman) on a Tampa Bay Lightning team that finished with the worst record in the NHL.

The addition of Blake and Boyle will have an immediate impact on a Sharks power play, one that too often relied on Joe Thornton to initiate offense from the half boards. Blake's howitzer of a shot from the point will create a number of rebound opportunities in front for Patrick Marleau (6-foot-2 220-pounds), Ryane Clowe (6-foot-2, 225-pounds), Milan Michalek (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), Joe Thornton (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and Jonathan Cheechoo (6-foot-1, 205 pounds). Blake's long reach and size also make him difficult to handle on the point, but a mean streak and the occasional propensity to flatten opponents are qualities the Sharks had to admire.

Boyle is a fluid and mobile skater, one who may lack the top end speed of a Brian Campbell but may be more creative running a power play from the point. He is also more defensively aware, and his vision up-ice should be a strength on the Sharks transition 5-on-5. Many have noted Boyle's lack of size at 5-foot-11 190-pounds, and have questioned his ability to move out larger bodies in front of the net. A look at possibile defensive pairings offer interesting possibilities. Boyle could be matched up with 6-foot-3, 240 pound wall of humanity Douglas Murray. The Cornell grad from Sweden, along with Christian Ehrhoff, were the two most improved defenseman on the San Jose Sharks last season. Murray used his size and positioning, and a simple and steady game to excel in a shutdown role. Christian Ehrhoff, a restricted free agent from Germany, used speed, stickhandling and an active stick to beat opponents to the puck and quickly move it up ice. Ehrhoff could be paired with Rob Blake, where his left shot and speed could compliment the game of the former Los Angeles Kings captain.

The third pairing could consist of a young Marc-Edouard Vlasic and veteran defensive defenseman Brad Lukowich. Vlasic, a co-rookie defenseman of the year along with Matt Carle in 2006-07, plays an intelligent and mature game with solid fundamentals similar to the departed Craig Rivet. Vlasic struggled to challenge opponents in the playoffs, but a pairing with hard hitting shot blocking Lukowich could be a perfect match. Kyle McLaren struggled to overcome a knee injury during the regular season, and in 5 playoff games against Calgary it looked like the veteran defenseman wanted to get to areas on the ice where his knee could not take him. McLaren's size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and tenacity could have been desperately used against Dallas, but with 1 year remaining on his contract at $2,500,000 he may become another salary cap casualty.

The Sharks offered qualifying offers to Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc prior to July 1st. Word from inside San Jose is that the Sharks and Clowe are close on salary, but are slightly apart on the length of the contract. Word from outside of San Jose is that the Sharks and Ehrhoff are also apart on the length of a contract. Daniel Tolensky reports that Sharks center Marcel Goc joins 15 other NHL players who elected to take their teams to salary arbitration on Saturday. The deadline for the Sharks to take a player to arbitration is Sunday. Tolensky breaks down the specifics of player or team initiated arbitration, and provides a look back at significant arbitration decisions and a specific look at the 1998 individual arbitration ruling regarding former Bruins forward Dimitri Khristich.

In other related news, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun speculates that Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray may be looking into a trade for San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren or Anaheim defenseman Mathieu Schneider. The Minnesota Wild also signed rugged right wing Owen Nolan for 2 years at $5.5 million. The Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont also notes a report from agent Jay Fee that San Jose Sharks right wing Mike Grier had successful knee surgery and should be primed for training camp in September.

[Update] ESPN's Scott Burnside believes that the acquisition of Blake and Boyle more than fill the void left by Brian Campbell's departure to Chicago, but that recent big-name trades for Craig Rivet, Bill Guerin, and Brian Campbell may have significantly drained the franchise. In a second report on the Dan Boyle trade, Burnside notes that the Tampa Bay defenseman chose San Jose over several other options, and that the trade has refurbished a defense that was pushed around in the playoffs.

Burnside notes the "painful" loss of Wishart, who was thought to be one of the Sharks top-2 blue chip defensive prospects and possibly the most NHL-ready. Current Sharks blueliner Marc-Edouard Vlasic is only 21, and Douglas Murray and Christian Ehrhoff (RFA) are entering their primes at 28 and 26 respectively. With Boyle (turning 32 July 12th), signed for 6 seasons, San Jose could have a core defense in place for much of the foreseeable future. Hard hitting freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki, a first round San Jose draft selection in 2007, won an NCAA Championship in his first season at Boston College. San Jose's development pipeline on defense has thinned to a degree, but the end result is a much stronger blend of youth and experience at the NHL level.

[Update2] Lightning help Sharks win big in free agency - Eric McErlain for The Sporting News.

So what's San Jose getting in Boyle? Since the lockout and thanks to the unbalanced schedule, I got to see a lot of Boyle in Washington over the past three seasons. And outside of Scott Niedermayer or Nicklas Lidstrom, there's probably no one single defenseman in all of hockey who could solve the problems with your power play faster than Boyle, never mind finding one that can also rack up better than 27 minutes of ice time per game.

Unlike most power play units that station a pair of defensemen at the points, Boyle ran Tampa Bay's first unit by himself. Stationed at the enemy blue line one stride from the top of the slot, Boyle served as the unit's lone pivot, distributing the puck to each wing in a manner that made him look as much like an NBA point guard as an NHL defenseman.

Sure, there are plenty of other defensemen who could have racked up eye-popping numbers playing alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, but make no mistake, Boyle was an integral part of that unit, and every bit as much a contributor as either of his more celebrated teammates. Now, in San Jose, Boyle gets to work with a corps of forwards arguably as talented and deep as the group he left in Tampa Bay, and he'll get to share the load on the power play with a future Hall of Famer in Rob Blake, who signed a one-year deal with the Sharks just before the July 4th holiday in the States.

[Update3] Sharks Hockey Analysis notes the contribution of Brad Lukowich in Tampa Bay. In 53 games played, Lukowich registered 153 hits to lead the team and finished third with 108 blocked shots. Chuq Von Rospach at Two for Elbowing takes a look at the 2008-09 Sharks roster, what new head coach Todd McLellan could bring to the team, and how the forward lines could shake out for next season. Before the ink was dry on that post the Sharks traded Craig Rivet, but Chuq also looks at how the defensive has changed with recent trades. The Oilogosphere's Lowetide also likes the Sharks acquisition of Rob Blake, believing he could provide leadership to a young defense. James Mirtle speculates that some of the recent questions about Dan Boyle's work ethic may have came from former Florida Panthers teammate and current Tampa Bay Lightning part-owner Len Barrie.

[Update4] KNBR 680AM's Ralph Barbieri interviewed new Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle this afternoon, audio of the interview is available for download here. Boyle talked about his departure from Tampa Bay, the start of his minor league career with Evgeni Nabokov at San Jose's then AHL affiliate in Lexington, and that he wears #22 because he was a fan of Rick Tocchet growing up. NHL.com columnist Larry Wigge also broke down the process general manager Doug Wilson went through to acquire Dan Boyle and Rob Blake on SJsharks.com, and detailed Wilson's desire to add more Cup winning experience to the Sharks roster.


Conference call transcripts from defenseman Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich, and general manager Doug Wilson

Partial conference call transcript of Dan Boyle's comments to the media yesterday:

"It has been pretty tough for awhile. I have been in Tampa awhile, and it is my home. I didn't see this coming whatsoever. It was a shock for awhile, but once I processed the whole thing I got a lot of information from a lot of different places. When it came time to decide on waiving my no trade clause, we took a quick peek at a few times. San Jose obviously being the top team I wanted to go to. I have played with players on that team. I have played with Thornton, I have played with Marleau, I have played with Nabokov. I know Blake from the Olympics. The team along with the management, I heard nothing but great things. After what happened to me, that is very important to me. Once I kind of got over the shock, it was a very easy decision to make."

"I am the type of player, I have had to prove myself my whole career. I am going to do that until the day I retire. This is just another chapter in my book. I am actually pumped to prove what I can do. I want to win, and this team is a couple of pieces away from winning."

"It is no secret what my style of game is. I play on offensive type of game coming in from the blueline. I think Campbell did a good job at the end of the year helping the team out. I watch every team, I have the hockey package at home. The Sharks play an offensive type game, which is right up my alley. That doesn't neccessarily say you give up on your side of the blueline, but I am looking forward to playing with some of the players up there. It has been a tough couple of years in Tampa unfortunately. I have won a Cup. I have seen what it is like to be at the top of the mountain. I have seen what it is like to be the worst in the league. Last year is one I completely want to forget. I heard people talking about me and my year last year, it was a horrible year last year and I completely want to forget about it. Now that I have gotten over the shock of it, I am so excited to look forward. I am not the youngest guy, but I have so much left to give that I am very excited."

"I honestly don't have the nicest things to say about what happened (in Tampa Bay). I don't want to dwell on this and for this to be what is talked about in San Jose, but I was misled. It was really not the right way to do a lot of things. I actually don't have anything good to say about how this all went down. Once I got over the shock, all of a sudden I am on the trading block and finding out a lot of things. Now I am past that. I am ready to move on. I have to be honest with you, I am a straight shooter, I am very excited to be on a team that will not just contend next year but hopefully for the next hopefully 6 years for me, and beyond maybe who knows. That is what excites me about next season. I want to win. I have done it before. Once you get there, there is nothing like it."

"Blake is one of those guys who was probably underappreciated in his career. I love guys like that. I think he is a great defenseman, but he probably does not get as much credit as he deserves. Thornton, everybody talks about how good he is, but he hasn't won. He is going to win. He is a great player and one of the smartest in the game. Patrick (Marleau), I have played with him and he is one of the best players in the game. (Evgeni) Nabokov, I began my career with him in Lexington Kentucky in the minors. Obviously he has come a long way, and he is one of the best goalies in the game today. Not to single out any of the other guys, I still have to get to know some of these younger guys. They have some of the best prospects in the game, 2-3 year guys who are doing an amazing job. That makes my job easier, and makes me look better too."

"I have played with all kinds of defenseman. I have played with rookies, I have played with veterans. It really does not affect me one way or another. I am going to play my game. Bringing in Brad Lukowich, who was my partner the year we one a Cup and for 2-3 years in a row. I like to think that within a few minutes, we will get some kind of chemistry going."

"(I have not had a chance to speak with coach Todd McLellan yet.) I have talked with Doug Wilson, and he gave me a brief schpiel on him. He is from my hometown of Ottawa... He is one of the most respected coaches in the game, and he comes from a winning tradition. I have played for all kinds of coaches, and I am going to play hard no matter who is behind the bench. I am going to give you everything I have, and at the end of the day that is what you get."

Partial conference call transcript of Brad Lukowich's comments:

"In Tampa I have had the opportunity to play in different situations. I got an opportunity to find out what kind of player I could be. I love to hit and block shots. I am not a fancy player, but I like to get out there and play an old school kind of game. I think the West is a little more rough and tough, so I think that is good for me."

"I have been on a lot of Stanley Cup runs, right to the very end and been successful. I have seen teams that have not even made it to the playoffs, like us last year. I think being in different situations, being on different teams gives you more awareness with what it takes to win. Fortunately for me, it has been very easy for me to see what it takes to win. If I can bring some of those things into the dressing room with the Sharks, a team that will do anything for each other and sacrifice for each other, bring leadership and a little bit of knowledge... If can bring a little of that to San Jose and help them get over that bubble, help them wit what they were looking for, that would be a great start for me. On the ice, I like to be one of the more physical guys on the ice. I like to block shots, defense first and if I can do anything on offense it will be a bonus for me. Last year was a very difficult season for everybody, and I want to look past it. I am very unhappy with the way everything went last year with myself, and I am looking to redeem myself, and to get to San Jose."

"I was asked that question about four or five years ago (about what fans can expect from Dan Boyle). I said he was one of the most underrated players in the league, and that he played for Team Canada and was definitely going to be an allstar. He has proven me right in every respect. He is a nice guy. He is one of my closest friends. He is a game changer, in every which way. He is not afraid to mix it up either for a little guy. He does everything else. He is a guy you look for to play those big minutes, he can play 30 minutes a night. He is a very competitive guy. To be honest with you, the deciding factor for me going back to Tampa was the fact that Dan was there. I would get a chance to play with him back in Tampa, and I am very fortunate to get that chance now."

"I like to get in on pucks. Like I said, I am not a very flashy guy. I like to hit. It is part of the game that I have embraced over the years. I like to get the puck any chance I can. I like penalty killing. If I can basically make life easier for my goaltender and my teammates, that is me. I am not the flashiest guy, but I really know the game. I am not the biggest guy, but I like to make the big hits and give my best every night."

Partial conference call transcript of San Jose Sharks General Manager and EVP Doug Wilson's comments:

"A lot of things are connected under this system. Obviously it is rare when a player like Dan Boyle becomes available, an elite player in the league. He has won a Stanley Cup, and Brad Lukowich is the same way. So when you start building your team and you go back and look at the pieces we have added I think they are pretty consistent. We have addressed that. When you move people, and take on the type of dollars we took on you have to do some other things. One you have to move some talent, and two you have to replenish some picks. We will never alter our draft and develop philosophy. When you get the opportunity to add these types of players, you have to step up and do it."

"I did have one conversation with Dan (Boyle). You would have to talk to him about that. We had the ability to share some thoughts on our organization. He knows our organization very well, he has played with a lot of our players. We think it is a great compliment that he had an option of choices where he wanted to go, and I think he fancies where we are at and what we are trying to accomplish. Two big right shot players like this (Boyle and Rob Blake), with Rob Blake and then with Brad coming in, it changed our defense, evolved it and made it better. That was our goal."

"We have got a new coach coming in. I think he would like to evaluate some of the things we have. As we sit here today, we like our hockey team. We don't want to prevent the opportunity of some other guys stepping up. We have a group of keys guys who are in their prime. Our goaltending, with the way Nabber played this year and Boucher being there to support him. Marleau, Cheechoo, Michalek, Grier and Clowe, we think we were not going to sit back and naturally things are going to change. We had to go out there and make sure we got it done. We are never going to shy away from the expectations people have of this group. At the end of the year, we made a very serious change with our coaching situation, and that was not going to be our only change. "Absolutely (I feel better about this team now). We have people who have been there and won it. That is really important. To have the opportunity to get this type of player. We had to do what we did."

"(Dan Boyle) is a player we have always identified as a great player, especially under these rules. We think he is the type of guy that we need. Don't underestimate the impact of a player like Brad Lukowich also."

"With the right hand shots, and Rob Blake is that type of player, the minutes, and the types of player we added. We added three defenseman. We had three go out that were on our roster. The level that Dan is at, that Rob is at, and Brad, it all makes sense when you look at it from a team building concept. We certainly included Todd (McLellan) in these conversations. With how we are going to play, the puck possession and pushing the puck a little quicker, in the big picture this clarifies it for you."

"You look at your group, and you learn from all of your experiences. We made a very aggressive move to add a player at the deadline, and he played very well for us. We did not quite show enough in the playoffs. As I have said, we played 5 good games out of 13. You have to maintain the push. We had 108 points. I can't question many of the things we did, but we are going to have to push to get where we want to get to. These guys have all been there, starting with our coach and these players. I think it is an important element. One that was needed at this point, and we were willing to do it. Certainly in Dan's case, he will be our power play quarterback for a long time, and you can't find those guys that fit into that role. We expect him to do it for a long time as he comes into his prime now."

[Update] A few of Dan Boyle's comments making the rounds yesterday were taken from a seperate post-conference call interview he participated in with the Ottawa Sun. Bruce Garrioch details more of the anger and frustration Boyle felt, describing how he is "pissed off" after learning of the trade discussions after being told by the new ownership that he was a centerpiece of the franchise moving forward, how the trade to a list of six teams and the threat to place him on waivers by Tampa Bay could have been handled better, and in a response to questions about his work ethic Boyle noted how he led the franchise in ice time for several years.

California screamin', Defenceman Boyle unloads on Lightning after deal from Tampa to Sharks - Ottawa Sun.

"I'm (bleeping) pissed off," said Boyle, an Ottawa native, who is in town on vacation. "As recently as three or four days ago, I was told (he was going to be a centrepiece for the organization). I was in contact with them through the course of the summer and there was never any indications I wasn't going to be part of this.

"I'm pretty fired up here. Let me be honest: I understand it's a business and these guys are going to do it the way they want to do it. I'm okay with that. I've been traded before. But there is a way to conduct business, there's a way to respect your players and there's a way to do things. This was a complete uppercut. It came out of nowhere. I was even laughing about some of the rumours because I was pretty much told up until a few days ago they were just a joke. I was completely floored. When you're told one thing and blindsided by another, you're going to be pissed off."

[Update2] The Morning Skate: Did Lightning Owners Go Off the Boyle? - NYT Slapshots.


Craig Rivet traded to Buffalo for 2009, 2010 2nd rounders, Dan Boyle-Brad Lukowitch trade with Tampa Bay finalized

San Jose Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet traded to the Buffalo Sabres

The San Jose Sharks announced this afternoon that veteran defenseman Craig Rivet was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for second round draft picks in 2009 and 2010. Rivet lead all Sharks defenseman in scoring (with San Jose) last season registering 5 goals, 30 assists and a team leading 104 penalty minutes in 74 games played. Veteran leadership has become somewhat of a buzzword when referencing certain players, but Craig Rivet and Vincent Damphousse are two individuals who have best exemplified the trait in San Jose over the last 10 years.

"Under the cap system, difficult decisions have to be made and this is one of them. Craig is a true professional and we would like to thank him for everything that he has done here." San Jose General Manager and EVP said of the decision to trade Rivet.

Also confirmed by San Jose on Friday afternoon, the Sharks finalized a trade to Tampa Bay for defenseman Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich for former Hobey Baker and 2-time NCAA champion Matt Carle, 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart, a 2009 first round draft pick, and a fourth round selection in 2010.

Dan Boyle registered 25 points, 4 goals and 21 assists in 37 games played for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. Boyle missed 36 games after suffering a freak injury that cut 3 tendons in his wrist. He returned January 24th and scored two goals against the Ottawa Senators. "Dan is one of the elite offensive-minded defensemen in the League today, being able to acquire an elite player in his prime that has won a Stanley Cup will help this organization get to where we want to go." San Jose Sharks General Manager and EVP Doug Wilson said of the acquisition of Boyle.

Also a part of the Boyle-Carle trade, veteran defenseman and former defensive partner of Boyle, Brad Lukowich also will be coming to San Jose. 6-foot-1, 205-pound Lukowich has won 2 Stanley Cups with Dallas (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004), and has registered 22 goals and 81 assists in 8 full NHL seasons with Dallas, Tampa Bay, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils. "Brad is a tough competitor that isn't afraid to give up his body for the sake of the team," Doug Wilson said.

[Update] Seen Boyle? - Tampa Tribune.

Standout and stand-up Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle has been "convinced" to be traded to San Jose, the capper to a blinding whirlwind of done deals by the new driving force on Channelside Drive. Those ATM thrill seekers, the real Lightning bolts, co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, now plan to draw their first breaths since taking over this last-place franchise. Barry Melrose's hair would have stood on end with excitement if it wasn't axle-greased down.

Have you ever seen anything like this? It was a week to leave Lightning followers too dazzled and dazed to break it down. It was lights, camera, checkbook. This is not going to be boring - ever. Meet Jerry Jones' long lost twins. Koules and Barrie promised to be active. Heck, they've been close to radioactive.

[Update2] Hold off judging Lightning for now - John Romano for the St Petersburg Times.

Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, 1st and 4th San Jose Sharks trade to Tampa Bay Lightning for Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowitch reportedly close

Tampa Bay Lightning offensive defenseman Dan Boyle reportedly coming to San Jose

San Jose's offseason machinations continue unabated today, with a TSN report from Darren Dreger surfacing that Tampa Bay Lightning offensive defenseman Dan Boyle has agreed to waive the no-trade clause on his 6-year $40 million contract in order to complete a trade with the San Jose Sharks. Early word has the deal breaking down to Dan Boyle (37GP, 4G, 21A) and veteran defenseman Brad Lukowitch (59GP, 1G, 6A) coming to San Jose, with former Hobey Baker winning defenseman Matt Carle (62GP, 2G, 13A) 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart a first and a fourth round draft pick going to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

St. Petersburg Times reporter/blogger Damian Cristodero reports today that Dan Boyle has waived his no-trade clause and agreed to a move to San Jose. After a confirmation from Boyle's agent George Bazos, it is now incumbent on the Lightning to work out a trade with San Jose. Other reports have the trade finalized with the paperwork awaiting NHL approval.

A few thoughts on the recent maneuverings:

- Matt Carle is a talented building block for a team's future, but he regressed in his last NHL season. Carle won back-to-back NCAA championships with the University of Denver en route to winning a Hobey Baker award as the best player in college hockey as a junior in 2006. After 39 games played, 11 goals and 42 assists with Denver in 2005-06, Carle jumped to the NHL for 12 regular season games (3G, 3A, 12GP) and 3 points in 11 playoff games against Nashville and Edmonton. His stickhandling and poise with the puck on the point were on par with a 10 year NHL veteran. In his first full NHL season in 2006-07, Carle earned co-rookie defenseman of the year honors with teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic en route to putting up 42 points in 77 games, but there were warning signs on the power play and defensive lapses the signaled a need for Carle to tighten up his game. This season, after citing a need to focus on his defensive responsibilities, Carle struggled to provide a strong defensive role or to make an impact on the power play. He earned only 15 points in 62 games played. With second year defenseman Carle and Vlasic, and third year defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray, the mix of youth to experience on the San Jose blueline was heavy.

- After completing a 2007-08 WHL season split between Prince George and Moose Jaw (72GP, 16G, 51A), 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart made his professional debut at the end of the Worcester Sharks AHL season. On Max Giese's Spring 2008 Sharks Prospect Report, Wishart was ranked as San Jose's 2nd highest defensive prospect behind only Boston College's Nick Petrecki. Max noted that Wishart lead the WHL in scoring by a defenseman, that the hulking 6-foot-5 215-pound defenseman is a mobile and skilled 2-way defensive prospect. Sharkspage's Worcester correspondent Darryl Hunt noted his first impressions of Wishart during his brief appearance in the AHL. Darryl noted his confidence and aggressiveness.

- Somewhat overlooked in the discussion of Rob Blake, he adds another right shot to a defensive corps overloaded with left shooting defenseman. Carle, Ehrhoff (RFA), McLaren, Murray, Vlasic and even departed Brian Campbell were all left shooting defenseman. Only Craig Rivet owns a right shot. As an assistant coach mentioned last season, adding a right shooting dman opens up the creativity a little for a power play that almost exclusively initiated scoring chances via Joe Thornton on the half boards. Defenseman Dan Boyle owns a right shot, Brad Lukowich owns a left shot.

- The NHL Salary Cap rose from $50.3 million to $56.7 million this season, with a salary floor of $40.7 million ($1.7M over the post-lockout NHL Salary Cap in 2005-06). According to estimates from NHLScap, with 20 NHL roster players under contract the Sharks currently sit at a cap hit of $54,950,834. That leaves San Jose General Manager and EVP Doug Wilson a little over $1.7M to come to terms with unsigned RFA's Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff and Marcell Goc. With 8 NHL defenseman allegedly on the roster if the trade is finalized (Boyle, Blake, Rivet, McLaren, Lukowich, Vlasic, Murray, Ehrhoff), more roster turnover this offseason is almost guaranteed.

- 5-foot-11, 190 pound defenseman Dan Boyle is coming off a freak wrist injury where a skate fell off a hook in the locker room and cut three of his tendons. He missed 45 games last season, registering 4 goals and 21 assists in 37 games played for Tampa Bay. A brief scouting report notes Boyle's proficiency running a power play and his improved all around game as assets. In 2006-07, Boyle was named as a 2nd team NHL Allstar after he set a Tampa Bay Lightning franchise record for goals with 20. En route to the Lightning's Stanley Cup Championship in 2003-04, Boyle lead the team ice time (22:45) per game and lead all defenseman in power play points during the regular season. The last time Boyle played at HP Pavilion in San Jose January 16th 2006, the Sharks took advantage of the road weary Lightning 3-1 and Boyle was held without a point.

More soon.


San Jose Sharks sign defenseman Rob Blake to 1-year deal adding a power-play quarterback, report Sharks are pursuing Tampa Bay's Dan Boyle

San Jose Sharks sign defenseman Rob Blake for 1 year
San Jose Sharks sign defenseman Rob Blake for 1 year

The San Jose Sharks announced the signing of defenseman Rob Blake to a 1-year $5 million contract this afternoon. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman scored 9 goals and 22 assists in 71 games played as the Los Angeles Kings captain last season. The 18-year NHL veteran and 6-time Allstar earned a Norris trophy with the Los Angeles Kings in 1998 as the NHL's top defenseman, and earned a Stanley Cup Championship with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

"Rob is a tremendous competitor that has been one of the top defensemen in this League for many years. While he has enjoyed mentoring the young guys, great players need the ability to win in order to thrive and his sole purpose here is to focus on winning." Sharks GM/EVP Doug Wilson said of Rob Blake.

According to TSN, Blake agreed to a 1-year contract for $5 million. After the free agent departure of Brian Campbell, Blake joins veteran blueliner Craig Rivet and a trio of young defenseman in Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle. The Sharks tendered a qualifying offer to restricted free agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, but have yet to come to an agreement on a contract. Veteran defenseman Kyle McLaren, in the final year of a 3-year $7.5 million contract, had in-season knee surgery but re-injured it during the Sharks first round WCQF playoff series with Calgary.

Blake was an anchor for the Kings last season, averaging 22:44 minutes of ice time a night, along with 144 shots on goal and 15 power play points. He offers the Sharks the opportunity to become their first true power play quarterback, a 6-foot-4 225-pound intimidation factor, and a welcome dose of mean to a team that often found itself challenged physically by opponents. The San Jose Sharks offer Blake a chance to make a long playoff run with a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, a loose locker room, and the ability to play in front of a full building often regarded as one of the loudest in the league.

"Rob's skill set and intangibles speak for themselves. I coached Nicklas Lidstrom for the last three years and Rob is the same age as him. Rob, like Nicklas, has proven to be a leader on a championship-winning team and any coach would be lucky to have a player of his caliber." new San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said earlier today.

The addition of Blake allows the Sharks to take their time with the recovery of defenseman Kyle McLaren, who was sorely missed in back-to-back grueling playoff series against Calgary and Dallas. San Jose still has to nail down RFA's Ryane Clowe, Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff, but the addition of another top-6 or top-9 forward could round out the Sharks offseason maneuvring. The Sharks saw the contributions of former captain and offseason San Jose resident Owen Nolan firsthand during the postseason (16 goals 32 points in 77 regular season games played, 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 playoff games against SJ). He remains unsigned despite a recent offer of $5.2M for two years according to the Calgary Herald.

A report on Rob Blake is available from SJsharks.com here, and a video interview with radio broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky and San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is available here.

[Update] Rob Blake leaves Kings, signs with San Jose Sharks - Los Angeles Times.

[Update2] More details from the LA Daily News' Rich Hammond on the excellent Inside the Kings blog. Hammond notes from today's conference call that Blake did not receive an offer from the Kings, that he and his agent reportedly asked for $4 million after the end of the season, that he admired the potential in San Jose, and that the Kings are in the midst of a rebuilding process and they are moving in the right direction with Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson as cornerstones of the future. Hammond used a photo from this blog on his post.

[Update3] The other major Sharks news making the rounds is the Tampa Bay Lightning asked defenseman Dan Boyle to waive a no-trade clause that kicked in July 1st on his 6-year $40 million contract. Damian Cristodero of the St Petersburg Times lists San Jose, Ottawa, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Columbus as possible destinations. Dan Boyle ($6,666,667) is the second highest paid player on the Lightning behind Vincent Lecavalier ($6,875,000) according to NHLScaps, and with Tampa Bay already $400,000 under the new $56.7 salary cap without factoring in performances bonuses cost cutting via trades is almost a neccessity at this point. One day earlier, reports out of Tampa Bay noted that Boyle was not asked to waive his no-trade clause (link via Battle of California). "As I stand here right now, I want to be in Tampa," Boyle said of his situation yesterday.

[Update4] TSN's Darren Dreger reports that Dan Boyle has not yet waived his no-trade clause, and that the San Jose Sharks appear to be the front runner and the Tampa Bay Lightning's first choice.

At Damian Cristodero's Lightning Strikes blog, Dan Boyle's agent George Bazos said that a decision on a prospective trade would probably not be made by his client prior to Friday. "We've been in communication. Everybody understands everybody's position. Dan is going to think about things tonight. We will have further discussions (Friday) to find what is the best option for Dan." Bazos said according to Cristodero. Link via Kukla's Korner. One trade target for Tampa could be offensive defenseman and former Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle, who signed a 4-year $13.75 million contract extension in November but underperformed with only 15 points in 62 games played this season. Carle was scratched several times in the regular season and twice in the postseason, but he is tantalizingly close to being a breakout talent at only 23 years of age.

[Update5] Blake signing could put Sharks over the hump - Erik Duhatschek.

Just when you thought not much of anything was happening on the third day of NHL free agency, along come the San Jose Sharks to make an intriguing move, one that will undoubtedly convince some people (me included) that they are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders again.

The Sharks, of course, disappoint on a more regular basis than any other NHL team. For years, they've been poised on the cusp of a playoff breakthrough — and every year in the past four seasons, they've been in the NHL's final eight, something no other team can claim.

[Update6] Another update from Rich Hammond detailed a timeline for Blake and his agent Pat Brisson's negotiations with the Los Angeles Kings and GM Dean Lombardi. Blake said in today's conference call that the Los Angeles Kings never made a contract offer for him after the July 1st start of free agency. According to Lombardi's conversation with Hammond, Blake's agent Pat Brisson made a 1-year, $4 million contract offer early Tuesday morning. Blake and his agent were firm, but Lombardi needed to wait to examine options for the Kings. Wednesday Lombardi tells Brisson that he still needs to go through his evaluation process. Thursday, Blake signed with San Jose.

[Update7] Pat Brisson's timeline of events with Rob Blake and the Los Angeles Kings is available via Inside the Kings here.

Hockey Fundamentals: Hockey Sticks

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla uses an Easton Synergy hockey stick
San Jose Sharks right wing Mike Grier stickhandles around an opponent

The third post in a series on hockey fundamentals, following a look at goaltending fundamentals and power skating, zeros in on the longest stick allowed in competition team sports. According to the official 2008 National Hockey League rules a hockey stick can be made of wood or other materials approved by the league, can have a shaft of up to 63 inches (up to 65 with an exception), and have a blade that extends no longer than 12 and a half inches.

Within those parameters, there are all manner of improvements, new technologies, and customizations that make selecting a stick more time consuming. Stick length can impact stickhandling for a forward or how well a defenseman can poke check or fill a passing lane. The flex of a shaft can impact the pace of a slapshot or the quickness of a release, and is usually influenced by the size and the playing style of an individual. The lie of the stick blade in relation to the shaft, usually between a 5 or a 6, can be influenced by where a player is comfortable stickhandling or how he or she skates. The blade may have a curve that does not exceed 3/4 of an inch, and can also utilize a myriad of variations to dial in a stick for individual athletes.

NHL rules official hockey stick measurements

Easton Hockey Product Manager Mike Mountain answered a few general questions about what to look for when choosing a hockey stick, how the construction of modern hockey sticks has changed over time, what factors contribute to stick breakage, and if wider stick blades may increase effectiveness on faceoffs.

[Q] What are the basic traits forwards, defenseman, and goaltenders should examine when looking for a hockey stick?

[MM] The length width and shape of the blade is a result of individual player preference. Back when wood was the material of choice, a player was able to remove weight from a wood stick or wood blade by simply removing mass in the form of height and/or blade length reductions. As for the curve and its relates size and location; this is derived by either the player's signature move of shot of preference. It is not uncommon for Defensemen to have a larger blade and a curve that originates from the heel. This 'heel' curve allows for the player to maintain longer buck blade contact and thus generate additional slapshot velocity. It is becoming more and more common-place for the better puck handling defensemen / poewerplay quarterback to opt for a straighter blade shape from the heel and then a sharper curve at the toe. This 'toe' curve geometry allows for more accurate backhand prowess and the 'toe' character allows for getting the puck up quickly and back across-the-grain in zone passes.

The more 'crafty' player may opt for a curve that is more generally centered on the blade face. This location allows for more puck handling freedom and better 'toe-drag' proficiency. Snap and wrist shots are likely the shot of preference for this player and the mid-location enhances the quick release preference for these shots.

[Q] How has the construction of hockey sticks evolved over the years? How has the manufacturing process and technology involved contributed to the effectiveness of the modern hockey stick?

[MM] The largest area of change has been in the materials. From wood to aluminum to composite, sticks have been continually designed to improve performance while getting lighter and ligher. With changes in materials come changes in processes. As sticks become lighter, the tolerance for manufacturing gets smaller. Processes must be developed to work with lightweight designs to ensure consistency.

[Q] How have hockey manufacturers addressed the issue of breakage, and what are the factors that may lead to a stick breaking during play?

[MM] Factors that lead to breakage can really be boiled down to impacts. The shaft portion of a stick is designed to generate power, not absorb major contact with other sticks. These impacts will damage the carbon plies. Once the material is compromised the stick may break under normal circumstances such as flexing the shaft for a hard shot or pass.

At Easton, stick durability is on the top of our list for any stick development. Our highend performance models are compression molded with Kevlar in the shaft for impact protection. We have introduced Corner Reinforement Technology to maintain shaft strength while shedding weight to improve performance. We have redesigned blades to concentrate material in high impact areas to improve durability. It remains one of the largest areas of focus for our team.

[Q] What are your thoughts on Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau asking his players to use a wider stick blade to help his team on faceoffs?

Coach Carbonneau's comments are not new to the sport. They are also a byproduct of the deteriorating ice conditions that infect the sport and are never more evident than the drive for the Stanley Cup. As outside temperatures rise and humidity levels increase, the ice quality is adversely affected. It is more difficult for the puck to stay flat. This character is easily evident on the longer passes that occur during a game. Players often mitigate this condition by increasing the height of their stick blade slightly. Center men often migrate towards a taller blade to help on face-offs to increase their success rate for poor drops or even to catch the puck before it hits the ice and win a critical draw. Tall blade shapes are not typically popular with most European players, Montreal has certainly their fair share of players of European origins and this may have contributed to his plea.

According to Easton Hockey, 18 Sharks players used Easton stick models last year including Jonathan Cheechoo, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell, Milan Michalek and Craig Rivet. 348 NHL players in total, 50.3% of the entire league, used Easton models last season.

The 2008 Easton stick line includes the Stealth S17, Synergy Elite, and Synergy ST models. The Stealth S17 is the most technologically advanced model, featuring an innovative design to transfer torque from the hands to the blade improving velocity, a compression molded process for the stick shaft, and a Micro-Bladder process and Multi-Rib structure to control blade flex. The Synergy Elite features a tapered blade design, reinforcement of the impact area, and a dual I-Beam internal structure to help strength and increase the durability of the blade. The Synergy ST (Super Tough) model features a liquid silicone molded shaft for durability, and shox technology to improve control of the blade.

[Update] The unlikely home of the hockey stick, Michael Felberbaum tours the plant where a large chunk of the NHL's sticks are made. And no, it's not in Canada - Timesreporter.com.

[Update2] From Fan to Factory to the NHL, a tale of one goalie pad's journey to the big show - Sharkspage.

[Update3] Easton also announced this week the creation of a Henrik Zetterberg micro-site at eastonhockey.com/hank/. The mini website contains video, a hockey biography of the 2008 Conn Smythe Award winner, career highlights including his 2008 Stanley Cup Championship with the Detroit Red Wings, and the opportunity to win a signed Henrik Zetterberg jersey.


Free agent defenseman Brian Campbell signs 8-year, $56.8 million contract with Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers sign Patrick Rissmiller

free agent defenseman Brian Campbell signs with Chicago Blackhawks
former San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell signs with Chicago
San Jose Sharks Brian Campbell NHL media photo

TSN confirmed earlier this afternoon that free agent defenseman Brian Campbell signed an 8-year, $56.8 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks acquired the 29-year old defenseman at the trade dealine along with a 7th round draft pick from the Buffalo Sabres for young power forward Steve Bernier and the 26th overall pick (Tyler Ennis) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Brian Campbell registered 3 goals and 16 assists as the Sharks finished the 2007-08 regular season on a blistering 16-2-2 run. In 83 combined regular season games played for San Jose and Columbus, Campbell registered 8 goals and 54 assists. His production on both sides of the ice dropped considerably in the postseason, where he registered 1 goal and 6 assists in 13 playoff games against Calgary and Dallas.

According to a Chicago press release, defenseman Brian Campbell was the primary target for Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon on the first day of NHL free agency. Tallon cited Brian Campbell's skating ability and his work on the power play, and noted that Campbell and defenseman Duncan Keith will add speed to each of the first two defensive pairings. "That's one thing we've lacked. Our power play has been really subpar the last three or four years and we needed to upgrade that... (Campbell) can log a lot of minutes and is similar to Duncan Keith with his feet, probably a little more offensive-minded than Dunc, but those two guys can play a lot of minutes." Tallon told chicagoblackhawks.com.

In another major free agent acquisition, the Chicago Blackhawks signed former Washington Capitals goaltender Cristobal Huet to a 4-year $22.5 million contract. Huet joins Nikolai Khabibulin in goal, which may signal more moves yet to be made by the Blackhawks short term as they are currently $3 million over the NHL's $56.7 million salary cap. "Saying that Chicago is back, that's not the issue, the issue is that we wanted to send a message that we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get better and become a championship team." Tallon said.

Prior to the Free Agency free for all today, rumors had the Ottawa Senators willing to offer up to $6.5 million a season for Brian Campbell, with the Atlanta Thrashers reportedly willing to go as high as $7 million a season. San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak noted a television report by TSN's Bob McKenzie that Campbell narrowed down his choices to Chicago, Atlanta, and San Jose, before finally accepting the offer from the Blackhawks.

A few notes from TSN's Free Agent Frenzy late edition television special:

- On a busy Canada Day, 28 unrestricted free agents signed, 8 goalies switched teams, 5 trades took place, 1 player was signed to an offer sheet, and $300 million was spent to date...

- Brian Campbell was considered the top free agent defenseman available on July 1st. "San Jose is first class in what they did. I think it was a case for me that I wanted to be a little closer to my home area. Chicago just kept creeping back into the picture the whole time" Campbell told TSN in an audio interview.

David Pollak of the SJ Mercury News also quoted another Brian Campbell statement from TSN's Free Agent coverage:

"Obviously San Jose is first class and they have really good people that work for that organization so a part of me feels bad and a little guilty. I consider myself a pretty honest person and to leave people like that is very tough, though I was only there for a short time. It's unfortunate that it didn't work out there, but I don't think I would have considered them if I hadn't gone there. I'm happy I did go there, but, yeah, today's a huge celebration for me and for everybody involved with me."

The Sharks noted today that Campbell had a family situation and a desire to play in a city closer to the East Coast as two reasons that influenced his decision. Campbell's agent Larry Kelly dismissed an earlier rumor out of Canada that the free agent defenseman ruled out a return to San Jose, and Campbell himself later said that San Jose still had a shot at signing him, that he did not enjoy the free agent process, and that the size of a contract was an issue. An email to Larry Kelly for comment by this blog was not returned.

All of the contract details aside, and without any concrete information on exactly why Campbell made comments about family issues and playing on the East Coast, the decision not to re-sign Campbell may also work in the San Jose Sharks favor. It may turn out that Campbell did indeed go to the highest bidder, but he is undeniably a dynamic offensive talent. He explodes with the puck, and often scans options up ice while accelerating with possession. On his way back to the bench, you can see him shaking out and cutting sharply with his skates as if to fine tune them for his next shift. With Chicago, the Blackhawks can overpay a puck moving defenseman, make the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons or advance to the second round for the first time in 11 seasons, and the move will be considered a success. The Sharks need a defenseman making upwards of $7 million a season to be an impact, game breaking player in the playoffs. A self-motivating defenseman capable of taking over games, winning defensive battles in his own zone, and being an offensive force in the opponent's zone. Campbell was not that player in back-to-back playoff series against Calgary or Dallas, and he might not be that player for some time in Chicago.

Will the loss of Campbell impact the Sharks offense? Of course, but general manager Doug Wilson used the assets at his disposal to make a run at the Stanley Cup last season. He has shown a willingness to identify the areas of need on the Sharks, and to make the best moves possible to address them. The first order of business for San Jose is coming to terms with restricted free agents Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff, and Marcel Goc. Reports have noted the Sharks and Clowe are close to a deal, differing only on the length of the contract. Wilson also noted that talks with Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican (2G, 15A, 66GP) are continuing.

[Update] In addition to re-signing veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival, and signing free agent defenseman Wade Redden to $39 million over 6 years, the New York Rangers also added former Sharks left wing Patrick Rissmiller. The 6-4, 220-pound third line center/winger developed into a shutdown defensive role for the San Jose Sharks over the last 3 seasons, but he has an offensive power forward element to his game that could be developed around the net. Rumors had the Sharks as one of the last 3 teams (NYR, DAL, SJ) in the running for Wade Redden.

[Update2] Also off the market: D Mark Streit (UFA, NYI, 5 years, $20.5-million), D Brad Stuart (RFA, DET, 4 years, $15-million), and D Mike Green (RFA, WAS, 4 years, $21-million).

[Update3] Sharks, Thrashers stuck on bench during frenzy - Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports. McKeon notes that the Sharks might be interested in a trade for recently signed Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle, as well as a trade for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski takes a behind the scenes look at the making of NHL 2K9 with 2K Sports and Rick Nash

Yahoo's Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski recently visited the 2K Sports production facilities in Novato, California for a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the upcoming NHL 2K9 hockey video game title. In the first post of his three part series, Wyshynski met with Columbus Blue Jackets power forward and NHL 2K9 cover athlete Rick Nash. The Brampton, Ontario native discussed "the goal", being named team captain after the departure of Adam Foote, and what it is like living and being a professional athlete in the city of Columbus.

In an email Wyshynski admitted questioning how much an athlete contributes to a game before he saw the process first-hand. "I had my doubts about how much these players actually add to the production process beyond a familiar face for the cover. That was until I sat in a room with the 2K Games eggheads and Nash, who got a grilling that makes a postgame media scrum seem like a hugfest by comparison." Wyshynski said. He added, "they wanted to know what he thought of the series, what he wanted to get across, and what it was that he thought should change."

In the second post of the series, Wyshynski offered an inside look at 2K Sports headquarters and described the interview process where the staff tried to improve the game based on Rick Nash's first hand knowledge of the NHL. Making special moves more realistic or making the game more user friendly is easier with feedback from an NHL Allstar. A player who scored 38 goals last season in addition to being an avid gamer.

The third post of the series is where the rubber meets the road. The NHL 2K9 production crew adorned Nash with ping pong balls and a motion capture suit, and set him out on sythetic ice to mimic every conceivable in-game action. Wyshynski noted that Rick Nash was in the motion capture suit for the better part of a day, and that as many as 80 of his moves could be used in the final version of the game. When asked about any secret moves for the video game version of Nash, "Well, they did have Nash's Phoenix goal playing on the wall in a continuous loop, but I haven't heard anything official on that" Wyshynski said.

Wyshynski noted that several East coast transplants are working on the NHL 2K9 title in Northern California, with several discussing the Islanders and the Flyers and even putting old Probert fights from YouTube up on the projection screen after hours. In an earlier interview with 2K Sports senior product manager Mike Rhinehart, Wyshynski outed Rhinehart as a huge San Jose Sharks fan. Huge to the point that he traveled to Atlanta for the 2008 for the NHL Allstar game to cheer on Evgeni Nabokov, receiving a high five from S.J. Sharkie in the process.

Video of the motion capture process for NHL 2K9 is available on youtube here via Gamespot. 2K Sports recently announced that this title will be the first NHL and NHLPA licensed game available for the popular Nintendo Wii as well as for the PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. The official NHL 2K9 website is available here.

Back in February, EA Sports proposed a $2-billion buyout of 2K Sports parent company Take-Two Interactive. The accounts of which side actually turned down the deal vary, but the release of Take Two's Grand Theft Auto IV on April 29th turned out to be one of the largest releases in video game history. GTA4 earned a reported $400 million in sales in the first week alone, and analysts predict as many as 11-13 million copies will be sold by the end of 2008. The success of GTA4, along with solid numbers put up by an improved NHL 2K9 title, could go along way towards the company's efforts to restructure itself for the future.

[Update] In 2003, my brother Chris ordered this custom wood grained Atari 2600 handheld console after reading an article about fabricator Benjamin Heckendorn. The first title I bought him, Activision Ice Hockey. Just an assumption, but I believe the motion capture process for the Activision hockey game was minimal. The stick figure animation process? Very complicated.

[Update2] EA continues quest to buy videogame maker Take-Two Interactive - AFP.

Sharks re-sign left wing Jody Shelley for 2 years

San Jose Sharks left wing Jody Shelley re-signs

The San Jose Sharks announced Monday that Group III unrestricted free agent left wing Jody Shelley re-signed with the club for 2 years. The Sharks acquired Jody Shelley in a January 29th trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2009 sixth round draft selection. Shelley was expected to add a physical element and answer a constant stream of physical challenges from opposing teams, but he developed a larger role with the team and was effective using his size along the boards and in front of the net.

Shelley registered 1 goal, 6 assists, 41 shots, and 135 penalty minutes in 62 games played for San Jose and Columbus this season. "From the first day that Jody arrived here, he brought toughness and character. He is one of the most respected players in our room because of his team-first attitude and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done" San Jose General Manager and EVP Doug Wilson said of Jody Shelley.

His role under new head coach Todd McLellan remains to be seen, but the 6-foot-4 230 pound Shelley should continue to see a mix of fourth line and enforcement duties. In the 2007-08 regular season, Shelley registered 13 fighting majors according to hockeyfights.com including matchups with NHL Heavyweights Derek Boogaard, George Parros, and Darcy Hordichuk.

[Update] Sharks Re-Sign Left Wing Jody Shelley - NHL.com.