SAN JOSE—On Friday, September 22, a day after their win over the Vegas Golden Knights, Sharks players Brandon Mashinter, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Brenden Dillon, Paul Martin, Chris Tierney, Martin Jones, and Tomas Hertl spoke with San Francisco News about their expectations from the NHL’s newest addition, as well as the potential and contributions of San Jose’s up and coming players.
San Francisco News: Do you have any expectations for the Golden Knights? For those of you who have played them already, were your expectations met during Thursday night’s game?
Mashinter: They’re going to work hard. They’re a new team, so they kind of want to set the standard for the organization; I think they are going to come up pretty hard.
Couture: They’ve got NHL players on their team, I expect them to be competitive. For an expansion team, you hope they do well. It’s like any team, they’ve got young guys, they’ve got new guys to be competitive. You don’t take it easy on them, they’re an expansion team, you play to beat them.
Thornton: I expect them to be good, I expect them to be competitive and work hard. I think all teams, especially a new team like Vegas with 23 guys new to one franchise, I think they’re going to work hard for each other and they’re going to compete every night.
Dillon: I think in preseason there’s a lot of uncertainty; you’ve got different guys coming in, guys that are probably going to be going back to junior, some guys that might be in the American Hockey League, and I think overall, everyone is just trying to show their stuff. Last night, I think [Vegas] had a couple guys who will probably end up being regulars for them, some that might not be. They’ve got a new coach, new systems, and whatnot. I think in the preseason you’re just trying to get the rust off and get back into the swing [of hockey].
Tierney: They had a lot of guys who have played in NHL on the lineup last night [September 21], so they had a pretty good defensive core. They look like they’re a really good team, they’ve got a lot of skill, a lot of experience, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they do in the regular season.
Jones: Every team is competitive now, we’re not going to be surprised by them and how they play. Yeah, it will be interesting to see how the season progresses for them. Obviously it is a unique situation having all new guys in there, but I expect them to be competitive, that’s for sure.
Hertl: We’ve played against this coach [Gerard Gallant] a couple times, and some coaches keep a system. [Gallant] used to be in Florida [with the Panthers], it goes pretty similar, and there are a lot of guys we have played already in the NHL, just different teams. It’s pretty cool, seeing different colors and different jerseys.
SFN: We all know that the Sharks have to improve this season, so how do you feel you will try to contribute? How do you think the younger guys will contribute to improving overall? Do you think anyone in particular has improved now that you’ve gotten a chance to play with them in practice and on the ice a bit?
Mashinter: I’m a big body, so I’m going to have to have a physical presence out there and use my size to my advantage, and also make room for myself and my linemates and teammates.
Thornton: [The younger players] had a good summer into training, they look really good and really strong. We expect a lot of big things out of our young guys. It’s going to be an exciting year if you’re a Sharks fan. I think Chris Tierney looks really good; he looks like he had a good offseason. [Kevin] Labanc looks very strong. A lot of the younger guys put in some good work this summer, and it is paying off so far, it’s no surprise.
Tierney: A lot of young guys looked good last night [against Vegas]. I thought a lot of them played a good game, played the system well, and worked hard. It’s going to be exciting to see these guys come up throughout the season and the next couple of years.
Jones: Our young guys need to bring their energy every night, lots of speed. We’ve got good, fast young legs. They need to bring energy, and I think this year we’re going to expect a little bit more from some of our younger guys in terms of production and putting up a couple points.
Hertl: It’s a big change for the young guys, and we hope that everybody gets to play; the younger guys want to play in the NHL and they’re fighting for the spot, they play great.
SFN: How do you think the addition of Vegas is going to change the conference/division?
Thornton: Nothing really, I think it’s just another team that’s going to be competitive. They’re not going to give away points. They’ve got good coaching, I really think they are going to be competitive this year.
Martin: Any time you add another team to the division, it gets a little tough to get those points and make sure you’re putting yourself in a good position for the playoffs. Obviously, even though it’s a new franchise and a new team, they’ll have decent players. They had the expansion draft, so they’ve got a solid team. If you don’t come to play, you’re not going to win, so I think it will be interesting. Any time you add another team it makes it more tough.
Dillon: I think it’s great for the league any time you’re getting another opportunity, another city that’s going to grow the game of hockey. For [Vegas], there might be a little growing pain, it’s early, a lot of young guys and guys who are coming together, new coaching staff. For our division specifically, it’s great. Another short flight at least, instead of having to go to a Midwest team on a couple hour [long] flights, so I can’t complain about that. But I think overall it will be great.
Jones: Obviously we have another division game that we are going to be playing. I don’t think anything really changes; it’s tough to make playoffs, you’ve got to play well all season long if you want to have a chance. So, yeah, I don’t think too much changes.
Hertl: For us, it’s nicer because [Vegas] is a bit closer. Everything else is pretty far, our flight and everything. It will be different, we don’t know what to expect from this team because it is their first time in the NHL, we’ll see. They have a good team, they have as good of chances in the NHL now as anyone, it will be exciting to play there.
SFN (to defensemen Martin and Dillon): What kind of expectations do you have for the new defensemen like Heed, Ryan, and Simek this season?
Martin: I think anytime you lose a defenseman [David Schlemko, who was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft then traded to Montreal], it gives these other guys an opportunity to step up. The guys we’ve had from the Barracuda seem very promising like Ryan and Heed, and [Dylan] DeMelo is doing a good job filling in when he can, so I think it is a healthy competition. It’ll be good whoever fills [Schlemko’s] spot.
Dillon: I think the same thing [as Martin]. It’s been good having that competition in camp. We’ve got a couple guys in the same area [as us], practicing every day. We’ll see what happens.