The Sharks won the Consolation Game on Sunday in the third annual Pacific Division Shootout by virtue of a 5-2 win over Phoenix, but don't feel bad for the men in Teal for bringing home the Bronze.
Hosted this year by San Jose and played at Logitech Ice at San Jose, the tournament consists of a four-team (also Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim), round-robin tournament which culminates with a Championship game on the final day.
"The purpose of this tournament is to evaluate our players under a variety of situations," explained Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "Wins are nice and of course we would like to win all the games, but the key is seeing these players amongst their peer group, competing in individual battles in an environment that raises the bar from where they are used to playing."
Most players in the tournament have recently been drafted or are just about to start their professional careers. Some will go back to juniors for another year of seasoning. Though the occasional "ringer" slips in such as San Jose's Milan Michalek (drafted in the first round, sixth overall in 2003), who has now fully recovered from a serious knee injury and was playing more in a rehab role, most players are in the boat of Sharks 2005 first rounder (8th overall), Devin Setoguchi., playing in his first "Pacific Division Shootout."
"It is fun to compare yourself with some of the guys who have been here before and see where I'm at in my development," said Setoguchi at the beginning of the tournament. "I'm going to try and do my best. Whatever happens at the end of the week, I'll take and learn from it and come back next year."
For posterity and stats freaks out there, the leading scorer in the tournament was Anaheim's Ryan Getlaf, who posted nine points (tournament leading 4 goals, tournament leading 5 assists) in being named Tournament MVP.
For San Jose, Josh Prudden, who signed as a free agent in August and Mike Iggulden, in camp on a tryout contract, led the way with three goals apiece while a pair of recent draft picks, 2004 seventh rounder Michael Vernace and 2005 second rounder Marc-Edouard Vlasic, each led the team with 4 assists. Other strong performances were turned in by Setoguchi, Michalek (2 goals, 2 assists in just two games) and 2003 second rounder Josh Hennessy (2 goals, 1 assist).
Logitech Ice was a buzz of activity throughout. Each team arrives with a bevy of scouts and team personnel, including general managers, who watch each game intently. Scouts from more than a dozen other NHL clubs were in attendance. In addition, Logitech staff needed to juggle the needs of four NHL teams in terms of locker room assignments, ice time for practices and of course, staging the games with the proper personnel and ushering staff-all while running its regularly scheduled events such as public skating sessions, speed skating clubs, adult and kid hockey and figure skating. Large crowds filled the stands at each Sharks contest.
It was s challenge met head on by the entire Logitech staff.
Brian Burke, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim says it's a luxury for a lot of the teams to put their young players into a tournament like this.
"A large number of NHL teams don't do this," said Burke. "They don't have the proximity or the financial capability to do it. In Vancouver, we tried to do it every year with the Alberta teams and we weren't successful. So, I think it's a real luxury for a team to be able to put their young players and rookies into a game like this. It gives you a real good, quick look at your young guys. You can make some early assessments. You can do some team building among the guys that are there, as far as getting them to stick together and think of themselves as Mighty Ducks. I think it's great."
Burke has this message for the young players and rookies who participate in the tournament for the first time.
"You have to dance with the girl that you bring to the dance," added Burke. "We drafted you for a reason. If you are a goal scorer, we want you to score goals. Don't think, all of a sudden, you have to be crazy out there. If you are a tough guy, we want you to play tough. Don't think, all of a sudden, you have to score goals."
The key is that these players are competing against their peers, you are not having a recent draft pick battle against a 15-year veteran.
"This is a great opportunity for players to showcase their skills against peers of their own caliber. A lot of these guys are the best players these organizations have and they are all young. It gives you a good idea on where they are at and where their talent level is."
"We view this tournament as a great opportunity to evaluate our young players and prospects," said Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dave Taylor. "We appreciate the hospitality shown to us by the Sharks and the city of San Jose, we look forward to continuing this relationship that is mutually beneficial for the development of all of our prospect.