Sharks fans remember Brian Boucher as the backup netminder who came at the trade deadline last spring and had a prime seat to watch Evgeni Nabokov on his run to becoming a Vezina Trophy finalist. So from their viewpoint, not much has changed with Boucher this season.
However, to Boucher there’s one very big difference from this year to last year. He’s playing on an NHL contract instead of an American Hockey League contract.
“I was on a one-way deal – to the AHL,” said Boucher of his training camp last year with Philadelphia. “I stayed the whole camp with the Flyers and played in two games, but had no chance of making the team unless there was an injury.”
Boucher and his agent were smart enough to keep the contract an AHL-only deal and not a two-way deal, thus allowing Boucher to pick up and leave when the Sharks made the call.
“That’s why I had the contract in the minors,” Boucher said. “That was the benefit of a minor league deal. I was a free agent when San Jose called. If I had a two-way deal, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
When summer came this year, Boucher realized he liked the fit in San Jose and re-signed when given the opportunity.
“It really worked out for me,” Boucher said. “I never explored another (NHL) team.”
As for playing time in 2008-09, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan has talked with both netminders about his plans.
“I’ve sat down with both about goals for the team,” McLellan said. “The No. 1 is clearly ‘Nabby,’ but it’s really important for Boucher to understand how important he is. He has to come in and be ready to play at any point.”
How many games Boucher will see isn’t clear yet.
“Nabby has proven he can play every night, but we want to keep him healthy and refreshed,” McLellan said. “It’s not easy (sitting and waiting), but he’ll be prepared and ready.”
When he’s called upon, Boucher knows he can backup Nabokov.
“A lot hinges on how I play and I have to do my job,” Boucher said. “I want to do a good job for this team. I want to give Nabby the proper rest so he can stay sharp like last year.”
Staying ready can be difficult for the backup netminder. Even a third liner who has to move up to the first line due to injuries has played in the recent games. A backup netminder can easily go eight or nine contests without playing a minute.
“My work has to be done during the week,” Boucher said.
Boucher’s life is a little less hectic this year. When he signed last season, Boucher, his wife and two kids crowded into a two-bedroom apartment after his signing and didn’t know a lot of people. They now have a house in San Jose and Boucher’s family has been out here since he arrived.
“It’s great to have them out here,” Boucher said. “The living setup is better instead of the two bedrooms downtown. The kids are here, we’re all settled in and we know people from the schools.”
The family has made the usual adjustments from the northeast to Northern California.
“It’s a little warmer than Philadelphia,” Boucher said. “It’s been a home run.”
McLellan said being settled from day one of camp will be beneficial for Boucher.
“From what I can tell, hockey players like routines and they don’t like surprises,” McLellan said. “To have his family out here and set in the community, I’m sure it will affect him positively.”
Fans shouldn’t try guessing how often Boucher will exchange his baseball cap for his goaltender’s mask, but they’ll be able to count on him when they see him.
BYE-BYE SPECTRUM The old Philadelphia Spectrum will be torn down for an entertainment center after the 2008-09 hockey season. Boucher is among the many players who’ll miss the original home of the Philadelphia Flyers. Boucher, who grew up in nearby Rhode Island, played in the old barn last year with the Phantoms, Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate.
“I have a lot of good memories from there,” Boucher said. “It would have been cool to have played there with the Flyers. It would get loud for our games and I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for the Flyers.” OAKLAND ICE Several members of the Sharks current training camp roster participated in an on-ice program Monday at Oakland Ice, which is managed by Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment. SHARK WEEK Comcast SportsNet Bay Area will show some classic Sharks games heading up to opening night. Beginning on Oct. 6 and following on Oct. 7, 8 and 10 at 7 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 27, CSN Bay Area will pick a to-be-announced classic game to broadcast each evening.
SHARKBYTE The first 2008-09 episode of “Shark Byte,” hosted by Sharks Television Color Analyst Drew Remenda, will air on Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. NEXT GAME The Sharks will play hosts to Phoenix at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at HP Pavilion in their final home preseason contest. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com