Aug 23, 2018

What’s going on ‘Cuda Country? Hope you’ve had a great week. Hockey season isn’t quite here yet, but it will be in no time, and it’s got me thinking about camp battles. As Hard Knocks teaches us in the NFL, there are always storylines during training camp, and that can certainly be said in hockey, too. Granted football is a bit more dramatic in the sense that there are so many more tryout players, but there’s still plenty of drama in an NHL camp that often doesn’t come to light until it happens in real time. The Sharks open training camp on September 14 and the Barracuda will have a team a couple of weeks after that.

The biggest news of the offseason for the Sharks organization was without a doubt the signings of Evander Kane and Joe Thornton and the push for highly touted free agent John Tavares.

It’s not a surprise the team’s additional moves would fall a bit under the radar. I admit, I too forgot about a couple of the team’s signings, mostly because they happened before the Barracuda season ended. But as camp nears it made me think of some guys that could have a considerable impact on the Barracuda and in turn impact the Sharks in 2018-19.  Over the last six months, San Jose added several forwards to the organization, including Vincent Praplan, Antti Suomela, and Lukas Radil. I loved Praplan’s game at last years rookie tournament. He was one of the best players on the ice during a tournament that featured a handful of NHL players. I focus on these three because of their age and experience. All three played pro in Europe last season. Other offseason free agent signings like Jeffrey Viel, Evan Weinger, and Matt Fonteyne (etc.) are expected to compete solely for AHL jobs this season, and their impact may not be felt for a couple of more years. If history tells us anything, Praplan, Suomela, and Radil are going to get a real look from the organization’s brass this fall. If they take advantage and that is TBD, we’re going to have some great camp battles between the new additions and established Sharks. Competition is essential for the growth of a team and its preparation for the upcoming season. And it usually forces NHL-deserving players back to the American League, hopefully with a chip on their shoulder.

However it shakes out, we know one thing, there are only so many jobs with the big club, which is going to allow the Barracuda an excellent opportunity to field a strong team and potentially get back into the upper echelon of the AHL in 2018-19.

I’ll have a ton more training camp, rookie tournament, Fan Fest (etc.) talk in my blog once we get to September, but as promised last week, here's another softball update.

Last week, a few of my softball teammates/coworkers weren’t too pleased with me because I left the company softball update out of the blog (I’ll take it. It means they’re reading the thing and that’s a win, right?). I got carried away with throwback jerseys after the release of the Barracuda promo schedule and didn’t have room to talk too much about the team. Looking back on it, it was a mistake. We had a great comeback win after a sluggish start last Wednesday with a skeleton group, which has become a theme all season long. I told the squad the update would return this week, and I’ll keep my promise. Unfortunately, it comes after the worst loss in company softball franchise history.

Without further ado, let’s begin. To start, we lost 18-3. Yes, that’s right, 18-3. Even a corky softball rule in the fifth inning that allowed for us to have six-straight outs, didn’t help. Don’t ask, both teams had no clue what was going on.

For starters, our game was supposed to start at 10:10 p.m. which in itself was completely out of control. Then the game before us ran long. Plus, it was a higher level than our coed team, which I think left everyone questioning their abilities (Yes, even company softball has a mental element). When it was all said and done, I got to bed around 1:30 a.m.

Once we got on the field, we were not allowed a warmup (I think the ump was ready for bed, too), which isn't ideal for someone of my average ability.

The first batter for the opposing team came to the plate in full pajama bottoms. So I'm thinking, we're going to whoop these guys. Welp, don't judge a book by its cover, the first pitch he saw he roped  to the left-field fence and the rout was on. We eventually got out of the inning only allowing five runs, surprisingly. But it was a precursor of what type of night it was going to be.

Everything was crushed! I could hear the seems whistling through the air on almost every hit. Infielders were going into the butterfly just to keep the ball in front of them and it still didn't work.

From a personal standpoint, the loss probably started and ended with me. I don't mean that selfishly, I was terrible! (Note to self, no more pre-game naps). I say it started and ended with me because I played shortstop the entire game, a very vital position in the game of softball. Oh yeah, and I went 0-3 at the plate. Don’t get me wrong, I love filling in at short from time to time, and I’ll make a play here and there, but the entire game may be too much. My night started by passing up a short forceout at third for the long throw to first. It sailed over the head of our first baseman Ben Guerrero’s head, resulting in the continuation of a very long and painful first inning. Also in the first, I had a chance to turn two, and I couldn’t get the ball out of my glove in time. My start trickled down and the bad juju continued all night. Blunder after blunder and hard it ball after hard hit ball.

In the end, we got killed, but it may have revealed a very fundamental issue. We need to have fun again. If you haven’t noticed in the way I’m writing this thing, I’m entirely (kinda) kidding in the importance of the results of this team, but we’ve become too uptight. As they say in hockey, we’re gripping our sticks a little bit too much.

I expect a significant culture change next Wednesday. Win or lose, we’re going to get back to having fun. Oh, I didn’t mention, every team makes the playoffs, so we’re golden.

Ok, that's enough of that. Have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you next Thursday.

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