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Exit Interview: Sturm Details Where He Can Improve, Excited To Play for Germany at Worlds

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Nico Sturm set new career highs in virtually every stat this season.

Sturm, who signed a three-year, $6-million contract last off-season with the San Jose Sharks, totaled 14 goals, 12 assists, and 26 points. He averaged 14:44 of ice time per game and led Sharks’ centers in Faceoff Win % with 55.8%. These were all career highs for the 27-year-old.

Previously, with the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, Sturm was used mainly as a fourth-line center with penalty killing duties. But with the San Jose Sharks, he became their third-line center for most of the year, and relied upon for a depth scoring role on-ice in addition to a leadership role off-ice.

Coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche last season though, the German forward had to adjust to a lot more losing with the Sharks.

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Sturm is hoping to turn that around in the upcoming World Championships, representing Team Germany.

The straight-shooting Sturm spoke on that, how he can improve his game, and more in his Apr. 15 exit interview.

Sturm, on the changes he expects this offseason:

If you want to see a different result at the end of next year, I would assume that the coaching staff and management are going to make the changes they think are necessary. Certainly there is change necessary, otherwise we can’t expect the result to be any different next year.

That being said, there was so much new this year in terms of the whole staff and players coming together. The level of expectations that everybody has for themselves and for the group has to rise for next year. Whether that’s 10 new players coming in or three new players coming in, every single one of us has to find a way to elevate their game at the end of the day.

Sturm, on the role he wanted to take when he signed with the San Jose Sharks last offseason:

I wanted to take on a bigger role last summer, play more minutes. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m sure my ice time probably went up two-three minutes a game on average. I liked that. There was a little more confidence there in terms of my offensive potential. I love being part of the penalty kill and being relied upon there.

And, taking a step into a leadership role. That was also something new and really fun for me…a couple of guys try to take a peek at what I do and how I tried to be successful. That’s fun. That makes me proud and I’m going to continue to do that next year.

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Sturm, on if he considers himself an NHL third-line center:

Yeah. I still think offensively— I obviously missed eight to nine games — I think there’s still more output to be done. I like my defensive part of my game, my faceoffs.

I think with the puck, I can have more poise especially coming into neutral zone. Sometimes, I tend to throw pucks away a little bit too quick. [I need to] just use my body and my size a little more. Protecting pucks down low. I look at what other centers that play a similar style or have similar body composition as me do in this league and, and how they handle the pucks below the goal line.

I’m always looking for things to improve. That being said, the core of my game is not going to change. My effort level, my faceoffs, my grittiness of the game, that’s always something that has to be there. But I’m certainly looking to increase my offensive output somehow.

Sturm, on his offseason plans:

I’m gonna go play World [Championships]. That’ll keep me on the ice a couple of weeks longer.

Otherwise, I think of this summer being very, very long, and that’s something that’s unusual for me, staying out of competition that long. I’m gonna go and join camp next week and play that tournament. Once the tournament is over, I’m gonna take two weeks off and then start summer workouts in Germany in the middle of June.

I’ll be in Minnesota at the end of August, back with my skating coach and finishing up my summer there. Taylor [Turnquist]’s brother is getting married this summer in Colorado, so we’ve a short trip there too. Quite a couple of things to do.

For me, it’s always about staying in good shape. I actually love summer workouts. I’ve always been interested in fitness and stuff like that. For me, it’s about not staying off the ice for too long.

Also, I haven’t played for Germany ever since World Juniors. Feels like many moons ago. It’s certainly something that I look forward to, something that’s a milestone in my career and I haven’t experienced yet. Especially after a tough season like this one, I think it’s good to have some joy in that again.

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Sturm, on his Stanley Cup winning experience helping the team moving forward:

It’s tough on one hand, because you realize that we’re still pretty far off and there’s a long way to go. But at the same time, having experienced it, it also fuels the fire a little bit going into summer workout. Especially after having a tough season like this, you don’t want to experience that two, three years in a row. You want to see some improvement at the end of next year.

Are we going to contend for the Stanley Cup next year? Probably not. But we’ve got to make the push in the right direction to push towards the playoffs. We all have our exit meetings with coaches, strength coaches, and Griersy [Mike Grier], and it’s up to everyone to show up here in September and put the team in a good position to have more success next year.

Sturm on the advice he gave to younger players this season:

I remember when I played my first couple of games in the NHL, coming from college, how nervous I was. I [was walking] on eggshells a little bit.

I certainly never liked being the new guy in the locker room. When you’ve got Henry [Thrun] coming in, for example, I think it’s similar [to the] path that I’ve taken. So the first couple of days, I just tried to walk up to him and be like, “Hey, you got any questions or anything that you don’t know? Just just try to be yourself” because I know how tough that was for me.

Every player is different. Every personality is different. For some players, it takes a lot longer to come out of their shell. It took me probably one or two years to be a little more vocal. Looking back at it, once I started feeling comfortable and being myself more, it certainly translates a little on the ice as well. Like I said the other week, it’s of a game of confidence and that goes for both on the ice and off the ice.

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