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The Future's So Bright?
Sharks' brass bullish on the team's prospects
7/7/15 - By Paul Krill -

These past two seasons have not been kind to Sharks fans. The 2014-15 campaign ended with the Sharks missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, as we know all too well. And before that, the Sharks had a historic choke against the Kings, losing a playoff series when they had been ahead three games to none. But all of that is behind us now.

A "town hall" session for Sharks season ticketholders, held at the arena on Tuesday evening, had Sharks executives, including GM Doug Wilson and Chief Operating Officer John Tortora, taking the stage along with the new coaching staff and scouts including former Shark Mike Ricci. Also onstage were members of the San Jose Barracuda (formerly the Worcester Sharks) staff and, to open the evening, the Sharks three most-recent first round draft picks: Timo Meier (2015), Nikolay Goldobin (2014) and Mirco Mueller (2013).

We got a bit of news on Meier: He has signed his first pro contract with the Sharks. Terms were not revealed by master of ceremonies Dan Rusanowsky, the Sharks radio play-by-play man.

Meier seemed personable enough during Rusanowsky's brief questioning. He was not expecting to be selected by the Sharks, who took him ninth overall last month. "I actually was kind of surprised," Meier said. He also stressed he likes to "shoot the puck" after Rusanowsky listed Meier's impressive stats for the season in junior hockey: 44 goals, 90 points, 23 power play goals and 10 game-winners.

When Rusanowsky said Meier speaks four languages, Meier downplayed this, saying the Swiss language was actually just German with a Swiss accent. (Who knew?) Mueller, meanwhile, said it was a great experience breaking into the NHL this past season, although missing the playoffs of course was a disappointment.

In other highlights during the evening:

* Wilson revealed his dismay with missing the playoffs. "First of all, we had too much time off this summer. We're not planning on that happening again." Players can't wait to get back on the ice in September he said. In a smaller, group meeting after the main panel session, Wilson downplayed what became a very public dispute with center Joe Thornton last season over the captaincy, which was taken from Thornton.

Wilson likened it to two brothers who argue and then are best friends again immediately afterward. Wilson also had high praise for new goaltender Martin Jones and said he thinks forward Raffi Torres, sidelined for most of the past two years with a torn ACL and a subsequent staph infection, will play this year. Wilson also expressed frustration with the team's poor at-home record this past season as well as its tendency to lose to bottom-feeder teams like Buffalo, even as the Sharks were beating topnotch Anaheim.

* New head coach Pete DeBoer believes the Sharks are not far off from getting to the Stanley Cup Final and winning the Cup. "I think we're very close." But he added the Cup is probably the toughest trophy to win in all of sports. As far as San Jose itself, he recalled his first experience in San Jose was when he coached the Florida Panthers. The Sharks had a very loud building, he noted. The Panthers? Not so much.

Tortora congratulated the fans in attendance for making last season's outdoor game at Levi's Stadium, which attracted more than 70,000 fans, a success. He said the Sharks will try to get an outdoor game scheduled every three to five years. That next game could be at Levi's or maybe AT&T Park or even a theoretical baseball stadium in San Jose, he said. (This stadium will never be built, though, if the San Francisco Giants, who claim San Jose as their "territory," continue to have their way.)

Tortora also said the Sharks would have special guest appearances by alumni as part of the upcoming 25th anniversary season along with a throwback jersey akin to what the team wore in 1991. (I believe I already have one of those - purchased at the long-since-closed Sharks store at the Vallco Park Mall in Cupertino around that time frame.)

* Panelists noted the genesis of the Sharks' moving their minor league affiliate to San Jose, saying the move had been in the works for years and was clinched when four other teams - Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles and Anaheim - agreed to move their AHL affiliates west also. The move means the Sharks no longer have to shuttle players back and forth from the AHL to the NHL on cross-country flights. (I'm not so sure about this move, though. The last two Bay Area attempts at minor league hockey - the San Francisco Bulls and San Francisco Spiders - both flopped. Can the Barracuda do any better? I guess we're going to find out.)

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