May 26, 2022

Hello, Cuda Country. Hope everyone is doing well. I write today’s blog with a heavy heart. It was announced via social media on Tuesday that the original voice of the Barracuda, Eric Lindquist, passed away this past weekend.


I met Eric just once. But that experience, coupled with the boundless stories told by those who worked for or with him, made me feel like I knew him for years.

He was a true character of the game and a larger-than-life figure. Taking over for Eric in 2016 was a huge responsibility and one I didn’t take lightly. Nine years between San Jose and Worcester, he became part of the fabric and identity of the organization.


Eric will be dearly missed and I personally want to send my deepest condolences to his friends and family. Rest in peace, E!


This offseason has already been a historically busy one, which isn’t bad when you’re writing a blog and hoping to have content to talk about in the summer months.


With the impending opening of Tech CU Arena in August, the announcement of the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose, player signings, the upcoming draft, free agency and development camp, and most recently the hiring of John McCarthy as head coach, we aren’t lacking things to talk about.


Although he hasn’t been a head coach prior, McCarthy was destined to be in this role one day. The way he carried himself as a pro, the way he thought the game from an x’s and o’s standpoint, and his experience as a captain are just a few of the things that made you think he'd have a coaching future. He also played over 600 professional games, is highly respected within the organization and around the league, and has served as both an assistant coach and development coach since his retirement. Above all this, he’s a great person and will be an incredible face for the Barracuda.


Next up for McCarthy is building out a coaching staff. The entire group, aside from Roy who will take on a senior advisor role and Nick Gialdini who will stay on as the team’s video coach, will not be returning. Assistant Coach Jimmy Bonneau was reassigned to his former position as a professional scout with the Sharks, and Assistant Coach Michael Chiasson has accepted a position as an agent with CAA Hockey working with Pat Brisson. And Goaltending Coach Dany Sabourin decided not to return to the Barracuda to get closer to his home in Quebec.


It will no doubt be different without Roy behind the bench next year and moving forward, but he leaves behind a legacy that will one day put him into the AHL Hall of Fame and maybe even the USA Hockey Hall of Fame.


His historic tenure as the head coach of the Sharks’ top affiliate puts him first in AHL history in wins, games coached, and seasons coached. Being an Oakland native, and a member of the Sharks org for the last 26 seasons and counting, only adds to his incredible resume and legacy. I want to thank Roy for his patience with me, his honesty, and his friendship. He’s a legend in the sport and it was an honor to have worked with him for six seasons. Maybe he’s got a broadcasting future?! I wouldn't mind him joining me in the booth to do some color commentary. We can only hope.


In my last blog, we talked briefly that the Coachella Valley Firebirds will begin their first season playing out of Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle while the finishing touches on its new arena in Palm Springs are completed. The AHL dropped more Pacific Division news this week, announcing that the Stockton Heat would be relocating to Calgary following the 2021-22 season. There had been rumblings over the last couple of years that the Flames wanted to relocate its top affiliate to locations like Colorado Springs or even Boise, but in the end, the Heat will move to Calgary.


I’m sure the Flames kept a close eye on the Abbotsford Canucks this past year, and with the Heat playing out of Calgary in 2020-21 due to COVID, the move seemed a lot more “doable” than before.


Beyond just the convenience of having prospects so close, there are additional benefits like being able to manipulate the salary cap, calling players up the day of, exposure of the prospects to the market and fanbase, etc.


With Stockton’s move, the NorCal rivalry between the Barracuda and Heat will sadly come to a close. It also means, no more one-day trips, which is a staple of AHL hockey in the Northeast and before westward expansion.


The rivalry was very one-sided in favor of the Barracuda for the first four or so seasons, but the Heat flipped the script going 9-1 against San Jose this past year. All-time the Barracuda finished with a 35-26-4-3 record against Stockton.


The move could also spell some division realignment. If everything were to stay the same for next year, the Pacific would have a league-high 10 clubs. If I had to guess, Colorado would be the most likely team to depart the division, just based on logistics. With every team playing 72 games next year as opposed to the Pacific playing 68 and the rest of the league playing 76, it makes realignment a bit easier.


So, with the Heat leaving California, who becomes the Cuda’s biggest rival? I posed that question on Twitter and as I expected the overwhelming answer was Bakersfield. Makes sense because of the distance between the cities. For me though, it's San Diego. There's just something about those games, especially on the road. The atmosphere at the Pechanga Arena is second to none in the Division. It’s an old building but it’s often packed, and the fans are into it. Add on top of that the number of times the teams play each year, the NHL rivalry between the Sharks and Ducks, the number of players that once played for the Barracuda and are now on the Gulls, the playoff matchup in 2017, and so on. 


We end this week’s blog with some player news. The Sharks announced they’ve signed forward Mitchell Russell to an entry-level contract. The undrafted free agent has been dynamite this year with the Brampton Battalion in the OHL alongside Sharks prospect Brandon Coe. In the regular season, Russell finished 10th in league scoring with 88 points (41 goals, 47 assists) in 64 games. He led all team skaters in goals, plus-minus (plus-33, tied for first with Coe), power-play goals (13), short-handed goals (three) and shots (241). The forward set new career highs in every offensive category and he was one of 15 skaters leaguewide to eclipse the 40-goal mark.


He joins forward Max Veronneau and goaltender Strauss Mann as pre draft/pre free agency additions by the organization.


Hope everyone has a great Memorial Weekend. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you in two weeks.



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