IRVINE, Calif. — Does it matter that most of the players don’t want to play?
“It was written in the agreement that there could be a very short post-season window,” San Jose Barracuda GM Joe Will offered, when asked about the PHPA’s resistance to the AHL Pacific Division playoffs. “These are just valuable games for player development.”
The Barracuda are set to begin their three-game semi-final series with the top-seeded Henderson Silver Knights tonight. The winner of this series will play either the Bakersfield Condors or the San Diego Gulls, not for the Calder Cup, but the John D. Chick Trophy, which is usually presented to the Pacific Division team with the best regular season record.
To their credit, perhaps under some duress, the Barracuda have performed, winning the play-in tournament at FivePoint Arena to advance to the Pacific Division playoffs.
“I feel our players are playing hard,” Will said, “and they certainly appear to me very excited to be here.”
San Jose Sharks assistant general managers Joe Will and Tim Burke, along with Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr., spoke today on the Pacific Division playoff controversy, Ryan Merkley’s growth this year, and whether or not Jonathan Dahlen is finally ready to come back to San Jose.
Joe Will, on why it was important for the Pacific Division to have a playoffs:
I think like anything else in the pandemic, it’s to get back to normal a little bit, a little bit of something. Playoffs weren’t held since 2019.
Last year, everything abruptly ended in March. And there was an 11-month window between the regular season and the American Hockey League. And as we know, playoff games are just extremely meaningful, even just a few.
It’s a 12-day window to hold these games. It’s just really to have meaningful games at the end of the year, the best we can, to try and catch up. We went down to Irvine, there weren’t any fans in the building. It’s like everything else, we’re trying to get back to normal.
And then player development, every game is so important for these guys’ careers and to move forward.
Especially if we look at, we have young players coming in, 18, 19, 20 years old, coming from these other leagues. These are just valuable games for player development.
Will, on 133-8 Pacific Division players’ vote against having these playoffs:
We went ahead because it was in the agreement. There was an agreement at the beginning of the year — and again, I go back, and I give credit to the players in the league, and the owners, and everybody who stepped up to get the league going — but it was written in the agreement that there could be a very short post-season window as long as it was done by the end of May.
It was, again, there weren’t fans or anything, it was just really for the players’ benefit, to get some of the young players games and valuable experience. They need to get caught up and everything else on player development, get themselves ready for next year. We had a lot of obstacles stand in our way over the past year due to the pandemic and these are just valuable games.
Will, on if the San Jose Sharks are a party of some of PHPA executive director Larry Landon’s most serious accusations, that GMs threatened their players and aren’t paying for accommodations back home for players whose leases expired before the playoffs:
Yeah, not at all.
Like I said, it was in the agreement to have these games here. That’s it. We had the games and I feel our players are playing hard and they certainly appear to me very excited to be here.
Doug Wilson Jr., on Ryan Merkley’s progress:
He was 21st overall.
You know, those types of [late 2017 first-round] guys really didn’t get many games. I watched Detroit and Joe Veleno went 31st overall, he just got in.
The story with Merks, if you got a chance to watch the AHL playoff games, he was probably the best defenseman on the ice both games. He was a difference-maker.
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