NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer:
Four years later, San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer is in the same place, his cottage in Bayfield, Ontario, contemplating the same "what ifs," because he's coming off the same type of wild ride that ended with an equal level of disappointment.
Except this summer, which came on the heels of San Jose's six-game Stanley Cup Final loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, feels nothing like the one DeBoer experienced four years ago after steering the New Jersey Devils to the championship round, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings.
This summer is all about optimism and the excitement to go for it again. In 2012, DeBoer was dealing with pessimism surrounding a pending lockout, the loss of his captain, Zach Parise, to free agency, and the impending loss of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk to the Kontinental Hockey League.
"It's totally different," DeBoer said by phone from Bayfield. "There were so many question marks and so much turmoil around the situation that we were in, in New Jersey coming back. There was a lot going on. I think probably the biggest difference is just my excitement level about getting back behind the bench with this group. We've got pretty much the same group intact, and we've added a couple pieces, which we think will help."
The Sharks return their top 16 scorers from last season, from Joe Thornton and his 82 points to defenseman Brenden Dillon and his 11 points, as well as No. 1 goalie Martin Jones, coming off of a breakout season with 37 wins, a .918 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average. They added forward Mikkel Boedker and defenseman David Schlemko via free agency.
Boedker, who signed a four-year contract worth a reported $16 million, played for DeBoer in Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League in the 2007-08 season. Schlemko comes to San Jose from New Jersey, where DeBoer still has enough friends to get a positive scouting report.
There is reason to believe Boedker and Schlemko can help the Sharks get the big prize in 2017.
"Any time you get that close, it leaves a taste in your mouth to want to get back there," DeBoer said.
DeBoer spoke about the challenges the Sharks will face in trying to do that, as well as the mindset he has had this offseason and how he has dealt with another loss in the Stanley Cup Final, during a recent phone conversation with NHL.com.
Here are Five Questions with…Peter DeBoer:
One thing about this season that is totally different for you and every coach is you'll be missing many key players at the start of training camp, and maybe all the way through Oct. 1, at least potentially several of them. The Sharks have seven players going to the World Cup of Hockey 2016. How do you prepare for that? Does it matter that much that these players are many of your top players like Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and you might not have to see as much from them in training camp? Or is there a real concern about reestablishing chemistry?
"The guys you mentioned, obviously you don't need to see. The guys you want to see that are going are [Tomas] Hertl, Boedker and [Joonas] Donskoi. There's a secondary group of guys there that are all going too, that are in a different position than Burns and Vlasic and Thornton and Pavelski. You'd like them to be part of the training camp. They're still working to prove themselves as NHL players and they're still looking to take another step in their careers. It's a fact of life, and we're going to deal with it. I think the nice part for me is I'm not a new coach coming in and implementing a lot of new systems in this situation. We know how we want to play, we can start where we left off last year, as opposed to where we started in training camp last year. It really took us a couple months to find our identity as a team and start playing seamlessly and moving around the ice seamlessly. That's the good news … there's no big system adjustment or implementation. It's just a carry-on or a pickup from last year."
Boedker is the interesting one because he hasn't been with the group before. However, he has been with you, so do you think that puts him ahead of the learning curve for a player coming to a new team with the expectation to make a big impact? Or are you worried at all that he will be behind when he gets back and it could take him some time to catch up?
"I would be worried if I hadn't had him before. He knows how we want to play. He's a very intelligent player. He grasps systems very quickly. I have a real comfort level that it's not going to hold him up at all."
This offseason, have you spent time thinking about regrets and where it went wrong? Or have you spent time remembering all the positives and trying to build your mindset around that?
"I think my summer has been a little divided. I'm starting to get to the latter of that, remembering the good stuff, but for sure, even now, you're still searching for why. Why did we look so good and play with such confidence going into the Final and look a little disjointed in the Final? Part of that was obviously Pittsburgh, but we're daily looking for internal reasons on what happened because I don't think any of us felt like we played the way we did against Nashville and St. Louis and L.A. in that Final. Again, I'm sure a big part of that was how Pittsburgh played and the pressure they put on us, but we're also looking for the things that we could have done differently or handled differently. As a coach, you get that far down the road and you're that invested, you feel horrible for the guys for getting that close and not winning. You're second guessing all summer what you could have done differently to help them."
Have you discovered anything that really has stuck with you?
"There are some little things, but again, I don't want to make excuses and minimize anything that Pittsburgh did because they deserve it and they were the better team in the Final. We're looking at our travel to that point and whether fatigue and the miles caught up to us a little bit by the end. That's something that we're looking at. From a style of play point, obviously Pittsburgh put more pressure on us than any team we had seen to that point, and we're looking at some of the ways we could have handled that a little bit better."
You mentioned your excitement to get ready, to get ramped up and do this again. Clearly, you had to be excited last summer too, because you were getting ready to coach a new team. What's the difference? Can you describe the difference from what you felt last summer to what you feel now?
"The excitement last summer was based around a new group and there were a lot of things that I wanted to establish early, including leadership and getting to know the guys and style of play. But I was really flying blind going in. It's a different excitement this year in that we know this group intimately. We know what they're capable of doing and you're excited about taking that next step. You've got to be careful, because everybody starts again from the beginning and you can't just expect that you're going to be playing for the Stanley Cup again. It's a long journey, so it's going to be our job to reset, but the fact that I know what's inside this group and I've seen them in tough situations, under pressure, how they handled it, that gets you excited."