The San Jose Sharks have one of the NHL’s most rookie-influenced teams. In all, five Sharks rookies have contributed on the stat sheet in 2006-07 and they have amassed an impressive 78 points, almost 20 percent of the season’s total.
On Sunday night in Vancouver, the Sharks played a Canucks squad with zero points from first-year players who dressed that night. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins have a higher percentage of points produced by rookies than the Sharks.
And it’s not as if the Sharks are playing like a team headed for the lottery. Team Teal is within four points of the Pacific Division lead and still within striking distance of the Western Conference’s top overall seed.
In the old NHL, Stanley Cup-aspiring clubs would rarely trot out rookies when going for the NHL’s top prize, but times have changed and rookies aren’t around anymore just to be the butt of some jokes and to buy a big rookie dinner.
“At the end of the day, it’s about winning and losing,” said Curtis Brown. “They are going to war with you. The more you help them out, the more they can help you.”
“I think some things rookies went through would be illegal now,” Brown added.
Being a rookie can be harder than many imagine.
“You’re in a new city, new country, maybe there is a new language. If you’re (veterans) not helping them, they may not reach their full potential,” said Brown.
“I’m playing a lot more games that last year,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, who leads all NHL rookies in ice time. “It feels like we’re playing every other day. Some games in the CHL (against a bad team), you didn’t have to do much. Here, the gap is so small between winning and losing. It is much more physical.”
Still, having a lot or a limited amount of rookies can be cyclical.
“Some teams that have been together a while may not have any,” said Brown.
The Sharks rookies definitely appreciate the help they get and the feeling that they are equals.
“The guys like to ‘jab’ us, but they do every thing to help out,” said Vlasic.
While enjoying the veteran help, Vlasic definitely knows there is comfort in numbers.
“It’s nice that we have 5-6 rookies,” said the 19-year old blueliner.
And even though there is more travel, the comfort of a chartered plane always beats the long bus rides of Canadian junior hockey.
Vlasic has found that his adjustment came much easier simply by living with a San Jose family that has previously housed Sharks rookies.
“The food is great and I don’t have to worry about anything,” said Vlasic. “Off the ice, I rest as much as possible.”
Then Vlasic and his fellow rookies simply go help the Sharks continue their winning ways.
ENJOYING THE JERSEYS
The Sharks wore specially made Valentine’s sweaters for their pregame skate Tuesday and the one-of-a-kind jersey will be auctioned off at a blind auction at Feb. 3 and 6 Sharks games. Net proceeds will benefit The Sharks Foundation.
For fans of Team Teal, or Team Valentine’s Day Red in this case, it’s a good thing the rough and tumble hockey players have no problems wearing hearts instead of Sharks.
“That is great,” said Curtis Brown. “The sentiment of our players is we like doing things for good causes. And it doesn’t take a lot from us.”
The Halloween pumpkin jerseys raised more than $25,000 for The Sharks Foundation earlier this season.
Sharks players know the good in everyone and are more than happy to be the excuse for some giving.
“America is one of the most generous countries in the world and people like to give,” said Brown. “This gives people a chance to give and to get something unique.”
The Sharks will play the first of two against Dallas tonight at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com
. The contest will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.