Hey Barracuda fans! Nick Nollenberger here. It’s another week, which means it’s time for another blog. The five-game road trip is finally over, and I can’t wait to be back home this Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong, traveling is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Exploring different cities, checking out opposing arenas, etc. is a blast. But there’s nothing like being home.
Coming into this season, I knew there would be some growing pains after all the departures from last year’s squad. The early successes at the NHL level for Tim Heed, Joakim Ryan, Kevin Labanc, Ryan Carpenter, Timo Meier, and Barclay Goodrow is putting into perspective how much talent was on the Barracuda roster last year. Simply put, the ‘Cuda were loaded.
This year’s team has some serious upside, but the combination of youth, inexperience, and unfamiliarity has stalled early successes.
Despite going 1-3-0-1 during the road trip, I don’t think the Barracuda are as far off as there record indicates. Often with young teams, the biggest obstacle is themselves. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ontario made it clearer than ever. If the Barracuda can limit the penalties and cut down on uncharacteristic mental errors in key points of the game, the results are going to change from losses to wins. From my spectator standpoint, San Jose has plenty of talent to compete and win a ton of games, but it’s been one bad play here or one bad play there that has plagued them. What’s encouraging is all of the issues can be corrected.
We’ve been asking fans to submit questions each week using the hashtag #AskNick to be featured on my weekly blog. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and keep them coming.
What was your best Christmas party ever? Before returning back to my native Northern California, I worked one season with the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League. Our staff was small, but we had a great group of guys that I’ll call great friends for life. We’re only two days removed from Halloween, so I can’t believe my old team is already asking Christmas questions. My one Christmas party in Odessa was a blast. Secret Santa and ice skating is always a good holiday recipe.
You hyped up the Cleveland trip quite a bit. How was it and what did you do while you were there, away from the rink? Cleveland was a great time. I had a fan thank me for bringing the California weather. He said, “It’s sunny this weekend, but it will be snowing the next.” I guess that’s the life in the Midwest this time of year. We got lucky with the weather, that is for sure. It was upper 70’s the entire time we were there. The trip was extremely sporty. Aside from the two games we played, the team and staff also went to the Cavaliers game, and I got to go to the first half of Sunday’s Browns game. I have a ton of family from that region of the country, so I got to see them during the trip, which was awesome.
You spent your birthday in Ontario for the Barracuda game so do you have any plans to celebrate when you get back to San Jose? I was hoping there would be some surf this weekend since we don’t play until Sunday, but it looks like all the waves are gone for the foreseeable future. No major plans, but I’ll probably try to get back over to Santa Cruz and hang with the fam.
Which Barracuda game (or games) this month are you looking forward to the most? I’m looking forward to Manitoba visiting SAP Center next weekend. It’ll be a chance to see a rare Canadien opponent and the return of Buddy Robison who was a key piece to the Barracuda’s run last year. Robinson signed as a free-agent with the Winnipeg Jets organization this offseason.
What are your thoughts on Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed becoming staples on the Sharks blue line? It’s been amazing, but not surprising. Tim Heed’s power-play slap shot goal against Toronto the other night was incredible, but I saw him do that countless times last year. Joakim Ryan is as cool a customer as they come. Nothing fazes the guy, and he’s been a seamless addition to the Sharks lineup since Paul Martin went down. Those guys are a perfect examples of why the AHL is such an important league for player development.
Well, that's it for me this week. Keep submitting those questions. Talk to you all next Thursday.