The San Jose Sharks held end-of-season lockerroom cleanout interviews with local media today after a long and grueling postseason. A majority of the interest centered around upcoming unrestricted free agents Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov, and both pointed to a feeling of ‘unfinished business’ surrounding their long tenure with the franchise. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, captain Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Manny Malhotra along with several others answered questions in the media scrum.
Patrick Marleau answered several questions, including his thoughts on the Sharks playoff run, and what he thinks about his pending unrestricted free agency this summer:
You get a feeling for the work it takes to get as far as we did, and basically we were only half way there. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to get to that next level, to win the Stanley Cup.
(Free Agency) is something new for me, we will have talks. As far as anything else, I really don’t know yet.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was reflective and proud of San Jose’s postseason run, but he turned combative when his tenure as a San Jose Shark was spoken of in the past tense. Twice he spoke at length about wanting to remain with the team, and with this specific group of players. He also stressed a sense of ‘unfinished business’, and gave a clear impression that if the management wants him to stay, he will.
(The ball) is not in my court really, it is up to the organization. Then after that, it will be in my court. It is their decision, then my decision. It is a weird situation, I haven’t been in that situation in a very long time. To be honest, I don’t know what is the right way to answer.
Absolutely (I would remain with the team if it was up to me). I would like to be with these guys. I think we have a really good team. We have been through a lot of different things, bad seasons, and very good seasons. I don’t like not finishing something. I would like to finish something here, then I could sleep well.
[Update] Youtube rejected a longer version of this video, below are selected comments by Dany Heatley, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Manny Malhotra. Dany Heatley on his feelings after the series loss to Chicago, how everyone plays through injuries in the playoffs, and his outlook for the summer:
Disappointment. We felt we had the group to do it this year. Overall I think it was a good season. We took some steps forward, and we believe in this group. The guys in this room are a lot of fun to play with, we had a lot of good times.
Throughout a hockey season, throughout the playoffs, everybody has got something going on. You just have to do your best with it… I was fine out there, good enough to play.
Last summer, I don’t want to repeat that. There is not a lot of time until training camp. I am excited to get a little time off, and then get right back at it, and get back here with these guys. It was fun to come to the rink every day.
There was speculation 40-year old captain Rob Blake may have played his last game in the Western Conference Finals, but at this point he was not prepared to confirm or deny a 21st NHL season.
I need to meet with Doug (Wilson), I need to meet with Todd (McLellan). It will take some time. I don’t think it is that tough (a decision) by any means, it just takes some time. There is an emotional factor when you are done with a season. You need to wait that out. Then you need to talk to influential people in your life, and guys you have a lot of trust in. You put all that together, and then you make your decision. That is why guys usually wait a little bit.
Defenseman Dan Boyle looked back at the playoffs and at the series against Chicago:
I like the makeup of our team. If we start the series again today or tomorrow, it could be a different result. I am not convinced they would beat us again. It is what it is. History just says you are going to lose playoff series before you win a Cup.
No, we beat a very good team (in Detroit). The media and people outside are going to say they exhaled, and it was a letdown. It was just a missed opportunity. We missed an opportunity in game 1. Game 2 wasn’t very good. Games 3 and 4 could have gone the other way. It was a missed opportunity on our part. I don’t think the Detroit series had any factor into it at all.
From experience, I think a break does help. I think our first game, our first period was one of the best we had all series.
Manny Malhotra took less than market value to fit under the salary cap for the 2009-10 season in San Jose, and should be at the head of the line for a new contract offer over the summer. It was made clear that he and his family wanted to remain in San Jose, that he felt the team was building toward a Stanley Cup Final apperance, and he had glowing comments about the Sharks organization, the fans, and the city:
Just talking with my wife, I would love to stary here. It has been a great experience so far. The talks we had last year with Doug (Wilson), we didn’t want it to be a one and done situation. I wanted to find a home again, to grow a home with an organization. It has been a great start, and hopefully this relationship can continue.
(The playoff run) was a step towards where we want to go. I told everybody from day 1, this team has a unbelievable game plan as far as how to get to the Stanley Cup. We executed that throughout the year. It is definitely a situation as a player you want to be a part of.
Everything (is special here), every aspect of it. The team itself, how you are treated as a player. It is incredible, I really can’t even explain it. The fans and the city, it is a privilege to play in front of a sellout every night, and as loud as they get, and as in to the game as they are. That is a privilege to play in front of as an athlete. You can go up and down the checklist, everything about San Jose is a plus.
[Update2] Evgeni Nabokov on future with Sharks: ‘I want to be part of it, but I don’t know if it’s up to me’ – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.