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Exit Interview: Vlasic Lobbies To Play With Karlsson Next Year

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Marc-Edouard Vlasic enjoyed something of a bounceback season.

Last year, the veteran blueliner averaged a career-low 15:13 played per game and was taken off the penalty kill for significant portions of the season. This year, under new San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn, the 36-year-old was bumped back up to 17:28 a night, and was one of just three Sharks defenders, along with Mario Ferraro and Matt Benning, to average over two minutes a night for the eighth-best PK in the NHL.

“I think he’s someone maybe was second-guessing himself over the last couple of years,” new San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier said. “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, [Sharks defensive coordinator Ryan] Warsofsky did a good job of building him back up, confidence-wise.”

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

Vlasic was certainly confident in his Apr. 15 exit interview. The blueline stalwart, 17 years in the NHL and with the San Jose Sharks, lobbied to play with Erik Karlsson next year, talked about what was different about this season for him, and the young defensemen in the room.

Vlasic, on how the season unfolded:

We’re not in the position we want to be. I don’t want to be here today talking to you guys on April 15. So [it’s] disappointing.

Vlasic, on his late-season knee injury:

I’ll be fine in September.

Vlasic, on assessing his season personally:

Individually, I thought it went pretty well. Very solid defensively. PK. 5-on-5. I thought my game defensively was where it has been before, and next year, [I want to] contribute way more offensively but keeping the defensive game where it was this year.

Vlasic, on if he felt rejuvenated this year:

Yeah, I had a lot of fun this year. It’s a good group. Good coaching staff. Just a lot of fun playing the game this year.

Vlasic, on having the same coaching staff next season and his play with Erik Karlsson:

Well, it’s nice. I know what to expect. Lots of skating. Lots of working. But you can be creative. If you’re working hard, trying to create, you can make mistakes. But if you’re lazy, those mistakes he won’t allow. So I enjoyed it.

In 8-and-a-half games with Karl, I thought we played very well together. In the 8-and-a-half games we played together, we were +1. He had a bunch of points, so that’s exactly where we want it to be. Him at his best offensive game, me at my best defensive game, can only make him better defensively and me better offensively. And if he was +1 after 8-and-a-half games, imagine what it would be at after 82 games? Then we wouldn’t be talking about his -24.

Vlasic, on the confidence of the front office getting the San Jose Sharks back to the playoffs:

I hope so. We have players to do that. If we build around the good players we have here. We have a lot of good players, a lot of hard-working players, but the guys in here want to turn it around. I’m sure David and Mike want to do that as well.

Vlasic, on the young players coming through the organization:

Those young players came in, on D and up front. [Henry Thrun] seemed very calm in the 12 games he played. Knyzhov looks pretty good after not playing for two years. Give him another summer. More games will be even better, Thrunner as well.

Vlasic, on if he feels different about the organization from last year:

I feel we’re in a better spot than we were.

I mean, 16 games losing in overtime. That’s too many. You have points there. A lot of losses after leading after two periods. That means you’re up. Could have finished those. That’s a lot of losses there. Turn those around. I know it’s easier said than done, but we have a better team, we’re in the playoffs.

I like where we were this year compared to last year, [I] like everything about where the Sharks are going.

Vlasic, on why playing with Karlsson this year was better than prior attempts:

Well, for eight and a half games this year, it went really well because he was at his best offensive game, and I was at my best defensive game. So when we’re at our best, put us together, I think it would work, and it did for eight and a half games. I’m disappointed I couldn’t finish the season with him.

But eight and a half games was enough to see and tell Mike and David that, hey, for 82 games, we should try it. He feels confident about his game. I feel confident about mine going into the summer. If we can come back and do that exact same thing, why shouldn’t it work?

Vlasic, on Karlsson potentially not being with the San Jose Sharks next season:

Well, I mean, it’s his last word to say. He’ll have his conversations with Mike and David, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t want to come back. He loves it here. He loves living here. He loves playing here. But ultimately, he has the last call. For now, I’ll assume he’s gonna stay, so that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m not gonna ask him about it. I’m just gonna assume he’s gonna be a Shark next year.

If that were to happen, then you can ask me. Until then, you can’t. It’s speculation, right? He’s under contract for another four years. So he’s a San Jose Shark until told otherwise.

Vlasic, on his confidence level in his place within the organization:

I feel good about my place over the next three years. Yeah, I know what my role is, and I feel good about what I can bring. I felt great this year. I felt faster. Just next year, I’ll do the exact same thing but contribute more offensively, and that’s exactly where my game has been in the past. Even with 18 points, 18 even strength points, if I can double it and keep the defensive game where it was at this year, that’s exactly where I’ve been, where I could be.

Vlasic, on if he expects more change of player personnel: 

I think they’ll bring people in. They’ll want to get better. They’ll want to add some players. I’m sure we have some cap availability. So I’m sure Mike and David will bring people in. They’ll want to get the team better. Obviously, they’ll wanna make sure we make the playoffs next year. I don’t think they want to spend another 2, 3, 4 years not making the playoffs, and neither do the players. We want to be back in the playoffs.

Vlasic, on being a leader of the San Jose Sharks defensive corps more so this year than in the past:

I’ve always been a guy that just leads by how he plays. Blocking shots. Not turning the puck over. If you have to get it deep, get it deep and not turning it over. Just leading by example on the ice to show, okay, this is how you’re supposed to play. Being accountable. Working hard in practice. Leading the way that way. That’s the way I’ve always been.

Yeah, there’s a lot more younger guys on the team than I’ve been used to. They come in, and they see me doing that. They see Karl doing that, and it gives them [OK] they do that, so I got to do it as well.

Vlasic, on maybe needing to be more vocal with more younger players in the room:

Well, if I need to, yeah, but everyone on the team, if they have something to say, can say it no matter how old you are. Everybody’s here for a reason. Everybody has something they see or something to say at some point. Some guys are more vocal in the dressing room. Some guys are more vocal on the ice, and I do my talking on the ice.

Vlasic, on playing with Karlsson during his magical season:

It was fun. I knew I could give him the puck, and something would happen. Every time you had the puck, and you were on the bench, something happened as well. He’s very creative. He had an outstanding year. Good for him because he’s got so much talent, and he’s one of the best D-men in the league.

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