SAN JOSE -- First came a historic first-round collapse for the San Jose Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then came the shockwaves during a long offseason of discontent.
There was talk of a locker room divide, and early in the offseason general manager Doug Wilson called the Sharks a "tomorrow team," one that was headed for a major rebuild and a leadership shakeup. Joe Thornton lost his captaincy, and alternate captain Patrick Marleau lost his leadership role.
But when the captain-less Sharks took the ice Friday for their first training camp practices, the roster was largely the same as it was last spring when they took a 3-0 series lead against the Kings before losing four straight.
Forward Tommy Wingels said the team was very excited to get back to work and stop dwelling on the past.
"There was a lot of talk off the ice," Wingels said. "From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are. I think obviously last year ended on as bad of a note as there could be, and this team has regrouped, addressed some things and we're as tight-knit as we've ever been."
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Thornton said he's confident the Sharks still have a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. Although Wilson has softened his dire predictions for this season, Thornton bristled about his description of San Jose being a "tomorrow team."
"That's Doug's opinion," Thornton said. "I think if you'd ask anybody in here, I don't think they have the same feeling. We're confident with this group. Just ask these guys. I think we're pretty confident we can get the job done."
After Wilson finished his exit interviews, he said quite a few players told him they felt like co-workers instead of teammates, which indicated something was askew in the locker room.
Before training camp, forward Adam Burish and defenseman Jason Demers organized a weekend retreat to Lake Tahoe. It gave the Sharks a chance to bond and work through any lingering conflicts or bitterness.
"Clear the air a little bit if you have to," forward Joe Pavelski said. "It was a fun trip, it was a good trip. I think we learned a lot on that trip about each other and we had some fun."
Marleau said he's not worried about a chemistry problem.
"We've got a really good group of guys here," Marleau said. "I think a lot of that stuff was cleared up and it's been talked about already. I think we have a great bunch of guys. I don't think it was as big an issue as it was made out to be."
"I think we're a pretty close team," forward Logan Couture said. "I think a lot of us have played together for a lot of years. Obviously it's not an ideal situation what happened this summer, but that's the way it goes. We're going to have to build from it."
Coach Todd McLellan said he doesn't have a timetable for naming a captain and hasn't decided if he'll single out one player or have a number of alternates without a designated captain.
"I'll talk about the 'C's' and 'A's' again today, we'll beat that horse up a little bit more, but I'm not going to talk after today," an irritated McLellan said. "The 'C' and the 'A' situation, you immediately focus on Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, which naturally we will because of them not possessing those 'C's' and 'A's' right now. But that was done because a number of individuals spoke at the end of the year. And if they had a voice at the end of the year, why didn't they have it during the year?
"We're opening it up. If you're prepared to speak after, it's time to speak up during. It's not an indictment of Joe and Patty, though it's turned into that because of their 'clean slate,' if you will. Leadership for me -- I think the two best leaders in the League are (Kings general manager) Dean Lombardi and (Kings coach) Darryl Sutter last year. Simple as that. Every year it ends up being that way. Those two guys led their team to a championship, so Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan are also culpable, and they have to do a better job of leading. We're all responsible for it."