NOLLY'S NOTES - BLOG #29
Nick NollenbergerJan 19, 2023
Howdy, Cuda Country! Hope everyone has had a great start to the new year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Bay Country Night on Friday. A pre & post-game concert is exactly what the organization envisioned when they were building Tech CU Arena. They wanted the Barracuda’s home to be a party that appealed to everyone and went beyond just the product on the ice. Friday is one of the marquee promotions of the year, and we should have one of our very best crowds of the season with an atmosphere not yet experienced inside Tech CU Arena.
George Birge will play during the game and warmups, and Matt Stell will headline the post-game concert presented by Bay Country and Wheatley Vodka. All you need is a ticket to the game for the concert. Additionally, the first 2,000 fans will receive a foam cowboy hat.
For the Barracuda, 2023 couldn’t have come at a better time as the team snapped an eight-game skid in its first game of the new year, 4-3 in a shootout against Henderson on Jan. 4. In 2023, the Barracuda are now 3-4 after a 3-2 win against Abbotsford on Sunday.
On Friday, the Cuda wrap up its three-game homestand with the final visit from Roy Sommer and the San Diego Gulls. It’s pretty fitting the Cowboy returns to San Jose for Bay Country Night, right? Speaking of Roy, while in San Diego during our last road trip, I saw his wife Melissa who confirmed Mo will be at the game on Friday, too. Can’t wait for Cotton Eye Joe to play!
Because of his recent trade request, and the Sharks' admission that they’ve investigated some potential landing spots for defenseman Ryan Merkley, Wednesday’s trade between the Red Wings and Sharks came as a bit of a surprise. As it wasn’t Merkley who was dealt but instead forward Jasper Weatherby going to the Wings for veteran AHL forward Kyle Criscoulo. A season ago, his first in the pro ranks, Weatherby skated in 50 games with the Sharks and 25 with the Barracuda. A lot has changed since that point. One thing being that the Sharks have almost an entirely new front office. This season has been a tryout for every player in the organization. A clean slate. Weatherby has great size which will bode well for him moving forward, but offensively, he just never could get things going this year, mustering three goals in 39 games with the Cuda. Sometimes, a fresh start can be the best thing for a player. Best of luck, Weather. A great guy who still has a bright future.
For Sharks fans scratching their heads about the trade, I think it only provides more clarity about the game plan for the organization’s top prospects. Many have wanted to see the likes of Bordeleau, Eklund, Gushchin, Robins, Coe, Wiesblatt, etc. with the Sharks, but the org has been steadfast on keeping them in the AHL to develop.
Criscoulo is a Calder Cup champion who’s versatile and will provide another veteran presence in a room that is one of the youngest in the league. Although the Barracuda are holding onto the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot as of today (Thursday), the team expects to be playing in meaningful games come spring time, and a player like Criscoulo could make a huge difference. This much I know, the Sharks want nothing more than for their prospects to play in high-intensity playoff games. It’s something that can’t be replicated for a young player and can help accelerate development. If I had to guess, some of the prospects might get a few games in the NHL after the trade deadline, but for the most part, they’ll be in the AHL developing all season long.
Longtime Grand Rapids voice Bob Kaser on Criscoulo:
“You are getting an absolute GEM in Criscuolo. Top-five best guys I’ve met during my 22 years in GR. He’s a heart and soul guy. Real tough one for our team to see him off yesterday. One of the most respected guys you can have on a team.”
The other trade on Wednesday also included the Sharks and Red Wings organizations but was an AHL deal that sent Patrick McGrath to Grand Rapids for future considerations. McGrath had sat out the last 16 games and appeared in just one of the team’s last 22 outings, so going to GR may give the veteran forward more of an opportunity to get into the lineup. The Barracuda just haven’t had enough depth scoring from its forwards to justify McGrath playing over another guy who might be able to chip in on the offensive side of the puck.
We wrap up this edition of Nolly’s Notes by talking about the return of Derrick Pouliot, who prior to Saturday, had not played in the last 24 games as he dealt with an upper-body injury. Pouliot has been a revelation for the Barracuda when he’s been in the lineup and his absence was drastically felt, especially on the penalty kill. With the veteran d-man, the Barracuda are 55/60 (91%) on the PK. Without him, they are 145/181 (74%). On Sunday, Pouliot, in just his second game back from injury, netted the game-winning goal as the Barracuda beat the Abbotsford Canucks for the first time this year.
That will do it for this edition of Nolly’s Notes. Thanks for reading, and so long until next time.