What’s up Barracuda fans? Nick Nollenberger here. It’s another week, which means it’s time for another blog. The offseason has nearly reached its final month, which means training camp is just around the corner. Holy cow, training camp is just around the corner! That’s hard even to fathom. It feels like yesterday we were in Grand Rapids for the Western Conference Finals.
August is probably the most important month of the offseason. In the past, players used training camp to get back into shape, that is no more. You’ve got to be ready physically from the get-go, or you’ll quickly fall behind. Technology has allowed for upper management to know everything about each player, so there’s no hiding if you haven’t been training.
I’m going to enjoy this final month before the season really starts, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to see some of the camp battles that are to come. The Sharks revamped their farm system on the fly over the last few years, seemingly not skipping a beat at the NHL level, while filling up what was an empty minor-league cupboard. With a veteran roster and the departure of franchise legend Patrick Marleau, the time is now for many young players to make the leap to the next level. The salary cap forces franchises to rely on their youth and the Sharks will be no different in 2017-18.
I have several questions that I hope are solved in training camp. I think he will, but Can Ryan Carpenter become a full-time NHLer this season? Is Dylan DeMelo a lock for the sixth defensive spot on the Sharks or will Tim Heed or Joakim Ryan steal it? Can Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier build off their rookie seasons and become full-time impact players? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, it's going to be fun.
It is that time of the summer where things slow down just a bit in the hockey world, so let's shift gears and quickly dive into some of the Barracuda’s travel plans next season. With vacation, I haven’t had a chance to give my two cents on the schedule. The Barracuda will face only two different opponents from last season, but San Jose did pick up an additional two games outside of the Pacific Division. For a full schedule CLICK HERE. Instead of facing the Milwaukee Admirals, San Jose will instead go against the 2016 Calder Cup Champion Cleveland Monsters, four times. Plus, for the first time since their inaugural season in 2015-16, the Barracuda will battle the Rockford IceHogs, twice. That means in 2017-18, San Jose will face the last five Calder Cup Champions (Grand Rapids Griffins 2012-13, Texas Stars 2013-14, Manchester Monarchs (now the Ontario Reign) 2014-15, Lake Erie Monsters (now the Cleveland Monsters) 2015-16, and again the Grand Rapids Griffins 2016-17).
Aside from the seven teams in the Pacific, San Jose will duel against four Central Division clubs. The Grand Rapids Griffins (Red Wings), Rockford IceHogs (Blackhawks), Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets). I don’t know about you, but as a Californian, the first thing I looked at when I saw the schedule was the time of year we were traveling to the Midwest and Canada. I’m not going out on a limb, but we caught a break by visiting Cleveland in October. I love the city. Both my parents are from Ohio, and my twin brother works for the Browns, but that place gets cold. So the fact that we’ll be there in the fall is a huge bonus (Watch it snow when we’re there).
I’m also really looking forward to going back up to Canada this season. Playing at the MTS Centre was a blast last year. The broadcast vantage point was fantastic, and it’s fun to be in another NHL building. Winnipeg eats and breathes hockey. Everyone’s got a backyard rink, and you can’t find a restaurant that doesn’t have a game on TV. Last season, we went to the ‘Peg in February. This year we’ll be there for New Years, so I'll have to pack accordingly. It’s going to be cold, but that’s part of the fun. Let’s just hope the equipment can fit on one plane because it didn’t last year.
The final major trip will be in March, when the Barracuda return to Van Andel Arena to face the Griffs on a Friday night, before bussing through the night to Rockford to duel with the IceHogs the following evening. Last year, we had the same schedule, but we instead played Milwaukee the following night. That road trip sparked the 14-game winning streak, so let’s hope for the same success.
Well, that’s it from me. Enjoy your weekend, and we’ll talk to you all next week. All the best, Nick.