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Exit Interview: Grier on Trading Karlsson, How Sharks Get Better, Not Bringing Back Reimer & More (+)

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Mike Grier, as usual, was pretty open about his plans for the San Jose Sharks.

He spoke with local media this morning for his exit interview, and spoke on a wide range of off-season topics.

Trade Erik Karlsson? It’s still possible, but it’ll depend on the offer.

Would winning the No. 1 pick and drafting Connor Bedard change his off-season free agency and trade plan? Nope.

The first-year GM spoke on Karlsson, Bedard, Hasso Plattner’s opinion of his performance, the adjustments that Tomas Hertl has to make to his game, the Sharks goaltending and probably not bringing back UFA James Reimer, if there are any buyout plans this summer, how he wants to improve the Sharks, and a whole lot more.

Mike Grier’s main takeaways from this season:

On the ice, it was a little bit disappointing. I thought, pre-Deadline, we were a better team than our record showed. But the results weren’t there.

But I think the main thing, I was really happy with the style of play that was implemented. The compete level of the group, I thought guys showed up and worked everyday at practice. In the games, we competed hard, pretty much every night.

I think one of the things we set out to do was kind of start building that. The foundation of what type of culture and standard we want here with the Sharks. I think the guys and the coaches did a good job of kind of laying the early bricks down of that foundation.

See the full Mike Grier interview here

Grier, on his year-end conversation with Erik Karlsson:

He had a tremendous season. We all know it, it was kind of a special year to be around. He carried a lot of play for us, for our team, and was an important player.

Him and I talked, and it’s tough to put a timeline on any of this stuff, how quickly you can turn it around. There’s a lot of unknowns and circumstance that goes into it. I think he and I both agree that things are moving in the right direction.
Whether everything matches up with the timeline of where he’s at in his career, I don’t know. It’s hard. It’s hard for me to say 100 percent for sure, one way or the other.

But he’s been great. I’ve enjoyed working with him. Quinny’s enjoyed working with him. Hopefully, he’ll be back.

But we’ll have to see, as he takes some time away to think about it, and then we get down the road in the offseason, what else might pop up as far as [another] team’s interest in him.

As we’ve done for the last four months, if there’s interest in him, we’ll listen and see if it makes sense, and if something does come up, we’ll take it to Erik. But as it stands right now, he’s a big piece of our team. We’re gonna take and head into the offseason with that.

Grier, on how Sharks owner Hasso Plattner and president Jonathan Becher view his first year as GM:

From our conversations, I think they’re happy with the direction where we’re headed and the things that we’ve done to take the organization in a different direction and kind of push it forward and move it forward a bit from where it was the last few years. I think at this point, they’re happy with it.

They kind of understand where we’re at and some of the things we needed to do as an organization and moves we needed to make and they’ve been very supportive with everything that we’ve done as a hockey ops department. And while the results aren’t there on the ice, I think Hasso’s been happy with the style of play and the compete level of the group.

Grier, on David Quinn and the San Jose Sharks coaching staff’s performance:

I think the coaches did a really good job.

Quinny, one of his strengths was, and why we wanted to bring him in here, it’s the way he communicates with the players. The players all know where they stand, which I think is really important in this day and age. I think he takes the time to meet with each player individually and let them know why they’re out of the line-up or why they got moved down a line, whatever it may be.

I think he did a great job of communicating with them and then motivating them throughout the season. You get into January and February and you’re not having the best season, I think he and the staff did a really good job of motivating the players to compete and show up and play hard.

The players deserve credit for their competitive level. But the coaches had a huge part of that too, so they deserve credit. I think he did a really good job of handling and navigating the ups and downs of the season.

Grier, on if Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have told him they want to be back with the San Jose Sharks:

They’ve all said they enjoy it here. They want to help the team get to where it needs to be. I think they like the direction that the team’s going in. So everything was positive with that group.

As of right now, I think they’re all on board to come back and try and push this thing and get us going to back to where we want to be.

Grier, on Couture, Hertl, Vlasic’s seasons:

Logan had a really good year. A sneaky good offensive year.

Him being the captain, I think he wore it a lot, a captain of a team that finished fourth from the bottom. But I think he did a great job. I think it wasn’t easy for him.

He led the group, he showed up. He was who he is, who he’s advertised as, someone who plays hard every night, works hard, and plays every game, plays both sides of the puck.

He’s everything you want in a hockey player and a person.

I thought Tomas was kind of up and down.

I think he would tell you too, he probably wished he had a more consistent and better overall season. But at the same time, he still produced for us.

It got a little harder for him once Timo left, and he didn’t really have, for him and Logan, they never had regular wingers or consistent wingers for most of the season. So it wasn’t easy for them.

But Tomas is going home in a good frame of mind, I think he realizes that he needs to be more consistent for us.

Pickles was, he was solid.

I think he’s someone maybe was second-guessing himself over the last couple of years.

He probably wasn’t playing as much as he would have liked and was maybe not sure of his game anymore. But I think Quinny did a good job, Warsofsky did a good job of building him back up, confidence-wise.

Quinny went to meet with him soon after he got the job.

I think Pickles was kind of his solid self. He was pretty good defensively. He competed hard and he just played a pretty sound, simple game, which was what he’s done throughout his career.

He was pretty good. We were happy with his season.

Grier, on need for Hertl to keep up with the pace of the game and adjust his conditioning:

We spoke about it a little bit. For him, it’s as you get older, you have to adapt to the league and maybe change the way you train and prepare for the season. I know Jumbo and Pavs and some of the guys here who had been here in the past, if you talk to them, they all changed the way they approached the game as they got older, started doing things differently, training and conditioning in the summers and even in season, to make sure [to] keep up with the rigors of the game and the pace of the game. It’s getting faster and faster.

That’s just part of things that guys go through as they get older. Tomas is a big, strong guy, it takes some time, a little bit more to make sure he can keep up with the pace of play. He’s aware of that. It’s something I think he’ll work on in the summer.

Grier, on Markus Nutivaara’s future:

He hurt his hip, and he just couldn’t get it right.

We put in a lot of time and a lot of rehab and he just couldn’t get it to feel right.

You get to the point where you’re at a certain age and you’ve had a couple hip surgeries and he just wasn’t feeling right, you have to take into account life after hockey and being able to do stuff with your kids and be active.

He got to the point where he couldn’t play at the NHL level without any pain. I think he’s just decided he couldn’t do it anymore, basically.

He went back home and wants to be a father and be there for his kids and feel good about himself post-hockey.

Grier, on what ended Eetu Makiniemi’s campaign:

He had a little bit of a hip issue right from training camp, his hip was bothering him a little bit. But he rehabbed it and was playing with it, but he got to a certain point in the season where he was still feeling it. We got an MRI on it and he had a little bit of a labrum tear. He could have kept playing with it and trying to push through it, but we thought it was best for him to get it taken care of so he can be ready for training camp.

Grier, on if any San Jose Sharks players will require off-season surgery:

I don’t think so. I think everyone else is okay. Vlasic’s knee turned out that he didn’t need surgery. Eklund had his surgery. I think everyone else was just regular end-of-season bumps and bruises.

Grier, on the injuries that prospects Michael Fisher and Gannon Laroque had to deal with:

Fish, unfortunately for him, he got the knee injury right in pre-season. Now he’s just back playing, he’s on a good Youngstown team, and I think they should make a good playoff run.

[Gannon] came back and felt good, and then I think he ended up overcompensating and hurt his other hip.

But I think they’re both young and will make full recoveries.

Grier, on if his off-season approach changes if the San Jose Sharks get to pick Connor Bedard:

I don’t think it’ll change too much. We’ll see what happens then. But the last thing we want to do here is be fortunate enough to get a high pick, then go out and spend money and then in three years, we’re regretting what we did. We still have to stick to our plan and be smart about any moves we make and things we do.

You were in Jersey, when I was with Jack [Hughes]. You’re still an 18-year-old kid. You could see what he could become, but that first year was difficult. We want to make sure we surround him, we have a lot of good people in the room, and we want to make sure that whoever we bring in, that we can insulate them a little bit with good veterans and good people.

Grier, on trying to strike balance between getting some cap relief in a Karlsson trade with a fair return:

Yeah, I mean, I think it’ll definitely be a balance. It’s not all about cap space. Sure, it’d be great for us to gain cap space, but you’re also looking at a 100-point right shot D who was pretty dominating and still young. We’re not looking just to give him away just to get cap space. It’ll definitely be a balance.

I think we have an idea of what we think he’s worth and what we should get in return. We’ll just kind of leave it at that. Like any deal, it’s kind of give and take on both sides and the balance of yes getting some cap relief, but also getting what we feel is a good return for him.

Grier, on if he thinks there’ll be more interest in Karlsson this summer:

I would say so. It’s much easier for teams to figure out how much money they can take in and maneuver the salary cap and move players out or not re-sign players or whatever it may be.

If it were to happen, there’s a lot of moving pieces to a deal like that. I think it’s something that’s definitely easier in the offseason where teams can kind of get themselves prepared and make the moves they need to make to take on a player like Erik. I would imagine there’ll be more interest in him, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Grier, on the goaltending and if he plans on bringing back UFA James Reimer:

In talking to both of them, it wasn’t great and I think they both were kind of disappointed with their play this year.

At the same time, there’s a lot of other things that go into it. People tend to just look at the numbers that weren’t great, and put a lot of the blame on just the goalies, but there’s a lot of other factors that go into it. The mistakes and breakdowns we had and things like that. They were seeing a lot of high-danger chances every night. It’s not just all on them. As a group, we got to be a better defensive unit.

I think as far as Kaapo goes, I think his season was really up and down. I don’t think he ever really found his footing.

He was struggling with some of the things that Speersy and Nabby were asking him to change and do differently.

Once the results weren’t what he wanted, I think he kind of relented and was open to changing a little bit more. He had a really good stretch of hockey in February where he was really solid.

You can see the traits that he has. The size. The athleticism. There’s some good tools and traits there for him and I think he’s still open to changing more.

When talking with him yesterday, he’s really willing and open to committing. He’s gonna probably put in more work than he’s ever done in any prior off-season to try and change his game and be ready for the season. I think he’s going to be here early.

He’s going to go see a different goaltending coach. He’s really trying to do everything necessary to make himself a more consistent and better goalie. From my standpoint, that was something that was really good to hear.

With Reims, I’m sure he probably told you guys, he was probably disappointed with the season overall. I thought he was excellent to start the year. He had a little back issue, and then from there, it was ups and downs. We’ll see what happens with him in the off-season, if we bring him back or not.

If I’m being honest, I would say we probably won’t bring back the same goalie tandem as we had this year.

Grier, on if not bringing back Reimer is directly related to his Pride Night jersey stance:

No, they’re two completely separate things. This is just a hockey decision that we think we need to make.

I have nothing but respect for James in the way he handled the Pride Night thing. We live in America. He has his views and it does take some courage to kind of stand up and say what you believe in and stand by your religious beliefs. It wasn’t anything that was malcontent or coming from a bad place in his heart. I think he’s a good person.

It kind of is what it is, as far as that goes. If we don’t bring him back, it has nothing to do with that.

Grier, on if he plans on bringing back UFAs Jeffrey Viel and Andreas Johnsson:

I’ll meet with the coaching staff here today and tomorrow. I’ll meet with our scouting staff this week as well. We’ll make decisions on those guys on the roster. I haven’t ruled out anything as far as those guys go.

Grier, on if Kevin Labanc will be back and if Labanc has requested a trade:

He didn’t express any interest in leaving.

We’ll see how things play out in the off-season. He didn’t have the greatest of years. I think he knows he can be better and play better and be more consistent. I think he lost his confidence along the way this year.

I can’t say whether he’ll be here or not be here. We’ll see what happens in the summer and what presents itself. As I’ve said, I’ll always look to improve the roster or do things that I think are right for the organization. I don’t know if he’ll be here or not, but as of right now, the plan is that he’ll be back.

Grier, on if pending RFAs Jacob Peterson and Noah Gregor did enough at the end of the season to ensure that the San Jose Sharks will want them back:

I think they both did play well down the stretch.

I think Petey was a pleasant surprise. I think he did a good job and kind of took advantage of his opportunity, which was nice to see.

Noah had an up and down season. To start the season, he didn’t really play well. Another guy I think lost his confidence and was trying to I kind of figure out his role here and how to play and how we wanted him to play and how we thought he needs to play to be effective. Down the stretch, he played a little bit better. He’s got lot of attributes you’re looking for in NHL players, with his size and speed and he can shoot the puck. It was a good finish to the season for him.

Both those guys are guys that kind of aren’t too dissimilar from our UFAs. We’re going to sit down and go through the roster, with the coaches and the scouting staff and make some decisions on players. They’re both in the same bucket.

Grier, on why San Jose Sharks prospects Filip Bystedt and Mattias Havelid didn’t come over to the Barracuda:

No, they didn’t come over. As unsigned players, we don’t really have much control over what they do back home. We had discussions and had some hopes that maybe they would come over and be around the Barracuda a little bit. Even if it was just practicing. I don’t think we thought they would play games.

At the end of the day, their club teams have their rights. They sent them both down to play in their junior team’s playoffs.
I guess their team won the playoffs last year and they were sent back down to try and win it again this year. I think they lost in the semi-finals.

We don’t have any control over it. We didn’t really have any control over that situation. I think their club teams did what they thought they should do with them.

Grier, on Finnish report that the San Jose Sharks were signing defenseman Valtteri Pulli:

I would say that’s someone jumping the gun over there.

REPORT: Sharks Sign Finnish Defenseman Valtteri Pulli

Grier, on if buyouts are on the table for the San Jose Sharks this summer:

Right now, I would say no. It’s not something we want to continually down the road with. So I would say no, but things can obviously change if there’s moves that we need to make or deals that happen. But right now, I would say probably not.

Grier, on if San Jose Sharks need to get bigger and faster:

Ultimately, that’s the style of hockey I would like to play, play fast, be in your face. Have some heaviness to it, to be able to possess pucks and have extended O-zone time and things like that.

Ultimately, that’s where I’d like to get to at some point.

Maybe size isn’t necessarily the right [word]. I think we could use probably a little bit more sandpaper and grit, in your face, pushback-type players that I think are effective in this league and ultimately win in this league, when push comes to shove playoff time.

Special thanks to Max Miller for his help transcribing

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