Interview with Comcast Sportsnet Sharks reporter Brodie Brazil on goaltending, coach Todd McLellan and Europe trip

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Comcast Sportsnet’s San Jose Sharks reporter Brodie Brazil answered a few questions in an interview with Sharkspage yesterday. Brodie discussed the addition of new goaltenders Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, the status of the Sharks defense heading into the regular season, the behind the scenes coaching style of head coach Todd McLellan, the leadership core of the team for 2010-11, Comcast Sportsnet’s coverage plans for the season opening games in Sweden, and discussed how the Sharks will deal with the pressure from another year of playoff expectations among other topics.

Tune into Comcast Sportsnet California’s broadcast of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Game featuring the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets live from Ericcsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden October 9th at 12PM (PT). Also follow Brodie Brazil at and via twitter @brodiebrazilCSN. Brodie was also interviewed yesterday on KNBR’s Damon Bruce show, direct link here.

[Q] Vancouver and San Jose are two teams thought of as contenders in the Western Conference, but Tuesday’s game was not a tight affair. How do you think the sharks are playing now heading into the regular season?

[BB] I know people are a little concerned. There is only one win now, and there has been a wait for the first power play goal. You have a strong team, when you saw the top two lines the other night against Phoenix, but I don’t think we have seen the roster at its fullest. I am not too worried.

[Q] With the addition of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, do you think there are going to be any major adjustments with the goaltending, or is it going to pick up where it left off last season?

[BB] I think there are a lot of variables that we just don’t know about yet. One being that Antti Niemi is relatively young in terms of an NHL career. Antero Niittymaki has never played on a team as good as the Sharks. What you are trusting here, you are trusting Doug Wilson’s judgement. The fact that he has seen something, the fact that the scouts have seen something in these two guys in terms of really wanting to acquire them and put them on the roster and trust them.

There are a lot of variables with goaltending they are trying to feel out right now.

[Q] How do you assess the Sharks defense heading into the regular season?

[BB] In the offseason everyone talked about an addition. There were the Willie Mitchell’s, Kevin Bieksa, there were other names, even back to Dan Hamhuis. The names have been thrown out there all offseason. Everybody thought the Sharks were going to get a crack at one of them. The right situation didn’t present itself. Money-wise, and personel-wise, it didn’t work. The Sharks did not have to go out and make a move. They think they are well enough for the regular season in terms of their defensive situation.

If they go through the course of the season, and they feel they need to make an acquisition, there is plenty of time to do that. The right time, and the right situation weren’t there.

[Q] They are getting a long look at prospects still left on the roster, of those left who do you think is favored to make the team?

[BB] I was surprised, I knew he was dealing with an injury, with Cam MacIntyre. He was a pretty good prospect with the possibility of starting the season on the San Jose Sharks roster. This morning his was assigned to Worcester. It just goes to show you, that no matter how much you buy into some of these young guys, the coaching staff ultimately is looking for something very, very specific.

It gets very hard to make a prediction of who will be there. Frazer McLaren started last season with the Sharks, then he went down to Worcester for a lot of the season. Even though we talk about who might be on the roster to begin with, it is going to change as the season progresses. A guy like Logan Couture as well. He was not on the opening day roster last year. Then he was there down the stretch and in the postseason.

[Q] This is going to be a team that leans pretty heavily on the top six forwards. How do you see the impact of that leadership on the ice with the departure of Rob Blake?

[BB] As much as Rob Blake will be missed, he was a great leader in the room. You talk to the players and they will talk about leadership by committee. There is not one person that is going to lead this team, there is a group of guys in that room. Not only those wearing a letter, a guy like Ryane Clowe who wore the ‘A’ infrequently on occasions when Rob Blake was out, he boosted everybody up. As much as Blake will be missed, there is a bigger picture, and a bigger system in place so much so that no matter who takes on the role as captain, things are not going to change at all in terms of leadership, accountability, responsibility, and things like that.

[Q] That kind of brings me to head coach Todd McLellan. The first year he preached net front presence, shots from the point, and puck management to play the puck out of the defensive zone. The second year he talked about reputation and responsibility, this summer he has repeatedly talked about growth.

In your recent report on Comcast, you talked about his coaching style and his temperature behind the scenes. How do you think McLellan is going to approach this season. Do you think he is the right coach for the personel, the right coach to get the Sharks over the hump in the playoffs?

[BB] I think Todd McLellan is, I have had the opportunity to get to know, interview, observe, a lot of the baseball managers, football coaches, and in this case the hockey coach. In terms of the way he leads this team, it never ceases to impress me. This is a guy that not only puts an immense amount of time and effort into his preperation, but he has such a polish about him personally. He seems to always deliver the right message.

At the start of the postseason last year he created the message that you need to overcome… He is a great leader for these guys. I don’t think there is a better fit for this team. He is such a versatile guy.

You mentioned what his goal is this year, you are absolutely right. It is growth, and it is taking a step forward. I think the biggest thing from the end of last year going into this year is that yes, they did accomplish a lot last year, but they need to move forward. The next step is the key this year. That is the biggest message he is going to give these guys, you need to take the next step if you want this all to be worth it.

[Q] I think one of the things I have noticed that wasn’t always the case with the previous coach, Todd McLellan does an excellent job of explaining situation and concepts, and breaking down the game for the media and fans. McLellan and Ken Hitchcock were two of the best coaches in that regard that I have heard, teaching coaches.

[BB] I seperate the personal from the professional, but I asked a lot of the players what McLellan is like behind the scenes. I asked them to tell me what he is like when we don’t see him. He is calm, cool and collected in front of the media. Thornton told me on occasion he will blow up, he will get that way when it is appropriate. This is a veteran team… they need a coach that is sensible and professional, and that is exactly the kind of coach Todd is.

[Q] I have to ask you about the road trip, the exhibition game in Germany and the season opening Compuware Premiere games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Stockholm. This has to be one of the most exciting road trips to make with this team. What kind of plans do you have for Sweden and Germany, it is right in the middle of Oktoberfest isn’t it?

[BB] That is the first thing people ask me (about Oktoberfest), my intinerary is to latch on to the Sharks intinerary and follow that. Every day we are going to be doing a feature out there from Europe that you will be able to see on the web. There will also be a story on every night on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Sportsnet Central from Europe. That will be exciting.

On Chronicle Live, we are hoping to utilize skype, possibly a skype live shot so we can talk to Greg Papa. It will be sometime in the morning in Sweden. It is a 9 hour difference.

We are out there to cover the Sharks, to cover all the things the players are doing. The coverage on Sportsnet Central will mostly focus on what the Sharks are doing, what the players did that day, more human interest. In terms of the broadcast, we are also doing the second game of the season. Everything we shoot over there will be sent back to San Francisco. They will be able to slice in the graphics over there, it will be kind of a different production. Usually the road games are all produced at the site. Randy and Drew will be in Stockholm, but the game will be produced in SF. We are going to throw in some of that experience (of being in Europe) in that first broadcast.

[Q] Two years ago, Dan Boyle mentioned that he heard about the playoffs all year long. The second year it tailed off a little bit, and some of the national and mainstream media kind of wrote off the Sharks a little bit. This year it seems like there is still the weight of playoff expectations there. How do you think they are going to deal with that all year, or will it be an issue at all?

[BB] I think the expectations are different. Coming into last year at this time, it was how do we erase some disappointment from the postseason. Talking about the series with the Ducks. I think they were embarassed by what happened. How do we get past that? Now, they are in a different situation. How do we build on what we have, and take that to the next level. How do we win the Western Conference and get to the Stanley Cup Final. I think the pressure and the expectations are still relative, but they are very different. I don’t think it is going to weigh them down at all in the regular season. All they need to do is be successful in the regular season, as they have been for several years. The postseason is so segmented, it is a completely different season. The variables, and so much changes, the only thing the team can focus on now is being good in the regular season. The expectations are certainly still there.

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