NEW YORK – David Quinn’s message to the San Jose Sharks at the beginning of practice was clear: “I believe in this group, we as coaches. I said that to them. I said hopefully you guys think you’re as good as we think you are.”
We’ll see if the 0-5-0 Sharks take that message to heart, starting tomorrow tonight against the New York Rangers. They haven’t played like a team that believes in each other so far.
That’s not just hockey speak either: If you believe in your teammates, you trust them to do their jobs on the ice. Instead, we’ve seen too much heroball or “I’ve got this, no I’ve got this” hockey.
Quinn, however, insisted: “One of the things we tell them, we’re not that far off. I know it feels like we are, but we’re really not. There are stretches where we look like a good hockey team, we’re just not doing those things consistently.
“There are things that we can do, the controllables that we can be better at, that’ll put us in a better position to win.”
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture summarized Quinn’s five-minute talk to start practice: “Basically, he believes in us and we gotta believe in each other.”
I don’t want to overdramatize this moment: We’re just five games into the season. But let’s be honest here, this isn’t the 2018-19 Sharks: 0-5-0 is a bigger hole for this team than that Western Conference finalist.
“It’s getting time to win some hockey games here because you can only dig yourself out of a hole that’s so deep,” Couture acknowledged. “Obviously, confidence isn’t at an all-time high right now. But we still believe in each other.”
So this afternoon’s practice at Chelsea Piers was a moment for the San Jose Sharks to come together again, and show the hockey world that the Tank is what they call SAP Center and not how the Sharks are playing.
For the record, I don’t think GM Mike Grier or the Sharks are “falling hard for Connor Bedard” – while I didn’t think they’d make the playoffs, they’re certainly better than this.
But protracted losing streaks have a way of putting a team into a death spiral that’s hard to climb out of: You fall out of the race, it’s human nature for players to care just a little bit less, and that’s often reflected in your results.
We’ve seen that with the Sharks the last three years, but about halfway or so into the season, not in the opening month.
“They’re trying everything right now,” Couture noted of Quinn and his coaching staff.
That includes moving Nick Bonino to left wing, which was an end-of-the-season maneuver last year. They’ve also reunited the Timo Meier-Tomas Hertl-Alexander Barabanov triumvirate, elevated Nico Sturm’s line, and might scratch Kevin Labanc.
Changes tomorrow for #SJSharks? Top line restored, Bonino to wing, Labanc scratched? Benning, Harrington & Vlasic have alternated
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 19, 2022
There was also a particular emphasis on 5-on-5 play and defending off the faceoff today. Three of the four 5-on-5 goals surrendered by the San Jose Sharks to the New York Islanders yesterday were off the draw.
Will these changes and this practice and Quinn’s speech galvanize the slumping Sharks?
Quinn hopes so: “We just touched on the fragility of our group. Obviously, we’re not feeling great about ourselves.
“You can see when a goal is scored on us, it’s almost like here we go again, regardless of the score, even if it’s 1-1 or 2-2.
“We’ve got to shake ourselves out of that. We’ve got to become a more confident group. And the only way to do that is do things right over and over again. That’s what we talked about in practice today.”
Then the bench boss emphasized again: “They need to feel the same amount of confidence that we feel in them and that’s the only way we’re gonna get out of this.”
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