Jul 18, 2022

Hello, Cuda Country. Where do I even start? It’s been a heck of a couple of weeks since we last spoke. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this has been the busiest offseason I can remember, and it seems like it gets busier by the day. Or at least, more eventful. 


It has to do largely with the new arena, plus, all the coaching and staff changes. And that’s just with the Barracuda. Frankly, the entire organization is going through unprecedented times. Sports are often unstable (I know, I'm a Browns fan), but the Sharks have been a model franchise for stability, mostly because of the incredible guidance of former general manager Doug Wilson. When the team announced Wilson would be stepping down from his GM post in April, changes seemed inevitable.


Before we get to all that, let’s start with the news from Monday. John McCarthy officially has two new assistants. Louis Mass and Kyle Hagel, both formerly of the WHL, were announced to McCarthy's coaching staff. Mass, 45, has 12 years of coaching experience between the ECHLNCAA and WHL. The Anchorage, Alaska native spent the last four seasons with the Everett Silvertips, where he served last year as an associate coach and the three prior years as an assistant. While in Everett, Mass, who worked predominantly with the defense corps, helped the Silvertips become one of the stingiest teams in the entire Canadian Hockey League. Before his time in Everett, he coached four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Alaska-Anchorage and the five campaigns before that as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. Mass, a former blueliner during his playing days, will most likely handle the d-core.


Hagel, 37, spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL after a nine-year pro playing career between the ECHL and AHL. Hagel, who played mostly left-wing as a player, spent four years at Princeton before beginning his pro career. During his nine seasons as a professional, he spent time with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, Peoria Rivermen, Hamilton Bulldogs, Portland Pirates, and Charlotte Checkers, amassing 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) and 1,001 penalty minutes in 373 games. In the ECHL, he skated in 80 games between the Fresno Falcons, Reading Royals and Las Vegas Wranglers, totaling 28 points (14 goals, 14 goals) in 80 games.


The native of Hamilton, Ontario, won the 2015 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which is given out annually to the AHL’s man of the year for service to his local community. It's a pretty easy assumption, but Hagel will likely handle the forwards. 


Now back to the craziness of the last few months… After the end of the season and then a three-month search, the Sharks found their man in Mike Grier to take over as the team's fifth general manager in franchise history. Right before his hire, the organization parted ways with head coach Bob Boughner and his staff. Even if Boughner did nothing wrong, the writing was on the wall with a new general manager coming in. Boughner has since been hired by the Red Wings as an associate coach.


Of course, things really started in May when the Sharks announced coaching changes for the Barracuda. Former captain John McCarthy was hired as head coach and longtime bench boss Roy Sommer was given an advisor role. Additionally, assistant coach Jimmy Bonneau was reassigned to his former role as a professional scout, assistant coach Michael Chiasson accepted a role as an agent with CAA Hockey and goaltending coach Dany Sabourin decided to not return to the team so he could get closer to his home in Quebec. We’ll get to Roy taking over as the new head coach of the San Diego Gulls later in the blog.


Immediately following the announcement of Grier’s hiring, the new boss and his staff, hopped on a plane the following day, bound for the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal.


Tragically, on the day of the draft, the organization lost one of its most beloved figures as former player and current scout/development coach Bryan Marchment passed away suddenly while in Montreal. As a kid, I remember Bryan fondly as one of the most feared players to ever don a Sharks uniform. When I first landed the job in San Jose, getting to meet him was an incredible thrill. He was extremely kind and always happy to chat. Getting to know him as a person and becoming a friend was an honor. Bryan lived in Toronto but when he was in town, I always made a point to talk to him and pick his brain.


When I was a kid, I’ll never forget it, we were given game-used Sharks’ socks to wear during practice and games. One heck of a thrill for any 8-year-old kid. I still remember it to this day, mine were Bryan Marchment’s. They had the 27 written on them with black sharpie. I probably could have cut them in half, they were so big. He was a great Shark but an even better person. He will never be forgotten. R.I.P.


After trading back in the first round and acquiring a pair of second-round picks, the Sharks wrapped up the 2022 Draft with nine new prospects.


It marked the third straight draft in which the organization selected nine players. Taking four forwards, four defense, and one goalie.


Development Camp doesn’t tell the whole story, but I was really impressed by both Filip Bystedt, the team’s first-rounder, and Cam Lund, who the club took with its second pick. For his size, Bystedt (6-3, 187 lbs.) is a great skater and has excellent hockey smarts. Not surprising, most Swedes do. Lund was flat-out silky. He pulled off four or five spectacular moves during the 3-on-3 tournament and was one of the real standouts of the week. 


The players you expected to dominate, did. I.e. William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, and Jasper Weatherby. Good signs for Sharks fans. Also, Strauss Mann was excellent in the nets. Excited to see what he can do in the American Hockey League this year.


The draft finished spectacularly as the club selected Reese Laubach in the seventh round (217th overall), marking the first time in the Sharks' 30+ year history in which they drafted a former San Jose Jr. Shark. There have been Jr. Sharks who have reached the NHL, like Alec Martinez and Matt Tennyson, but no one from the Jr. Sharks has ever been drafted by the club.


During the draft, the Sharks traded John Leonard and a third-rounder to Nashville for forward Luke Kunin. It marked the first of several transactions for the organization over the next week and a half.


Before free agency last week, and following the draft, the Sharks parted ways with Doug Wilson Jr., who took over the scouting department back in 2017. Another change that didn’t completely come out of left field because, again, all of the organization's changes in the last few months. 


I’ve known Dougie since I was a little kid. He played ice hockey with my older brother

and was always incredibly welcoming and more than happy to bestow his wisdom in a casual conversation or a formal interview. He’s a bright guy and there’s no doubt he’ll land back on his feet in no time.


I counted 10 new players joining the organization since the draft, plus of course, nine draftees. The hope would be that the veteran players that are coming in as free-agent signings or via trades can help the Sharks, but several could be valuable veteran assets for McCarthy and the Barracuda. In my opinion, the lack of veterans in the AHL played a big role in how the Barracuda finished last year, losing its last 15. Taxi squads haven't helped that depth either over the last couple of years. Crossing my fingers that's a thing of the past. The below list should spend some time, if not significant time, in the AHL next season.


Markus Nutivaara

Andrew Agozzino

CJ Suess

Eetu Makiniemi

Aaron Dell


We wrap up this edition of Nolly's Notes by saying so long to coach Sommer. Sommer accepted the head coaching job with the Gulls last week, ending an incredible 26-year run with the Sharks organization. Sometimes I feel like I'm still green, but when I joined the 'Cuda in 2016, I was extremely green. Having Roy as the head coach was a Master Class in hockey education and storytelling. He's truly a legend in the sport. Once he's done coaching for good, there's no doubt, the Oakland native will be showered in celebration by the Sharks for his incredible career. He's an iconic figure in the history of California hockey and will be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame one day. 


As long as all goes as planned, the Barracuda, along with the rest of the league will be releasing its regular-season schedule later this week, and the first thing I'm doing is circling the first game against the Gulls. Teacher vs. student, can't wait.


That'll do it for this edition of Nolly's Notes. Thanks for reading and so long until next time. 

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