SAN JOSE, (AP) — For the first time in seven years, there was a new coach at the front of the room when the San Jose Sharks opened training camp.
Coach Peter DeBoer held his first practice Friday since taking over for Todd McLellan following last season. DeBoer is tasked with getting the Sharks back into the playoffs and contention for that elusive Stanley Cup after San Jose missed the postseason for the first time since 2003.
DeBoer brings a new voice and some tweaks to how the team plays but said there is no need for wholesale changes for a team that for years was one of the best in the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs.
“The bottom line is not everything here is broken,” said DeBoer, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. “We’re going to concentrate on the areas that need fixing right away. There are some other things that are really good here.”
DeBoer started his regime by keeping together some familiar line combinations and defense pairs. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski still anchored the top line, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture were together on the second and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun formed the top defensive pair.
But he said there was extra emphasis on 5-on-5 play, the forecheck and defensive zone coverage — areas that needed work last year. DeBoer hopes improvements in those areas will make San Jose a more difficult team to play against and bring back the success that was missing last season.
The biggest difference came in who delivered the message with McLellan gone after seven seasons.
“I think it can be huge. I think he has a powerful voice,” Thornton said of DeBoer. “He comes in and tells us right away this is how we’re going to play. But it’s going to be nice. Nothing against Todd but maybe it was time to get a new voice in here.”
Those aren’t the only differences. After general manager Doug Wilson responded to blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs in 2014 by making few upgrades and talking of becoming a “tomorrow” team, the Sharks made some key roster additions this offseason.
Martin Jones was brought in to replace Antti Niemi as starting goalie after a successful stint as Jonathan Quick’s backup in Los Angeles. Paul Martin brings a needed presence on defense and will give Brent Burns the reliable partner he needs to be able to be an offensive force. Joel Ward is a playoff-tested power forward who can play who will add depth to the front line.
Along with renovations to the team’s facility and the move of the AHL team from Worcester to San Jose and there was an added level of excitement to start camp.
“There is a feeling. There’s good energy in the room,” Pavelski said. “When you walk into the building and you see the new hallway and new locker room, it just adds that energy. Even when we were away in the summer and we added those pieces, there was an energy I could feel.”
The main task between the start of camp and the season opener on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles will be for the players to get up to speed with DeBoer’s changes and for him to better learn his team.
DeBoer also said he wants to name a captain before the season starts after San Jose rotated four alternates last year with Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau and Vlasic sharing the role.
Neither the players nor DeBoer think that will take long.
“It’s relatively the same as Todd’s (system),” Thornton said. “Hopefully the more we play games, get six or seven exhibition games under our belt, we’ll be ready to play his system.”