The Sharks gathered for the final time this season on Tuesday at the team’s practice facility in San Jose. Sharks players, coaches and staff cleaned out their stalls and spoke briefly with members of the media about the Detroit series and what the summer had in store for them.
“I really enjoyed every minute here in San Jose,” said defenseman Craig Rivet. “The organization has been top class, the guys are unbelievable and I enjoyed playing for the coaching staff. I only have positive things to say.”
With the conclusion of the Sharks season, Rivet, who was acquired at the trade deadline for his veteran leadership and his strong defensive play, is now set to become an unrestricted free agent. Rivet stepped into his role on the blueline with a rookie defensive partner in Matt Carle, yet his transition onto the new club was nearly seamless.
“I really enjoyed San Jose,” Rivet said. “It’s easy to be a good fit when you’re on a good team.”
Fellow trade deadline acquisition Bill Guerin echoed Rivet’s comments.
“This is a first class organization with a lot of good people,” said Guerin.
For now, Rivet will head back to North Bay, Ontario, where he makes his offseason home, and reflect on the his whirlwind season before making any decisions on where he will be playing next season.
“You [first] need to understand where you went wrong so you can be better next year.”
While Rivet’s status for next season is still up in the air, the majority of the Sharks corps remains under contract and will be back when training camp gets underway in September. One of those key pieces of the team’s regular season success, goaltender Vesa Toskala, is excited to return but was understandably disappointed with the way his season ended.
Toskala, who was enjoying a career year in between the pipes, was injured on March 24 in a 6-4 loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes. He didn’t make another start for the rest of the season.
“[It’s disappointing] because I think I was playing the best hockey I’ve ever been playing until I got hurt,” said Toskala.
Toskala is eager to return, but understands that he will likely be splitting time with fellow goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
“My first choice is to stay here and to see a lot of ice time,” said Toskala. “But that’s not in our control.”
EXTENT OF SHARKS INJURIES REVEALED
Sharks center and fan-favorite Mark Smith revealed on Tuesday that in addition to the sore groin that kept him out of the lineup for more than 30 games this season, he also suffered from a sports hernia that will be surgically repaired next week.
Smith, who is also an unrestricted free agent, expressed interest in remaining a Shark just before explaining the extent of his injuries.
“Obviously I’d like to stay in San Jose,” said Smith. “I love the city and I love the fans.”
Captain Patrick Marleau
revealed that he played the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs with a separated shoulder. The injury, which he likely sustained on Feb. 14 in a game against Nashville, kept the captain out of five regular season games.
“It just needs some time and some rest,” said Marleau.
WILSON HAUNTED BY SERIES
As were the players, the coaches were equally and understandably upset with Monday night’s outcome. Head Coach Ron Wilson suggested that it will take some time before the hurt from the early exit will completely subside.
“It’ll take until next May until we get to the same point,” said Wilson. “You look at the way this series went, it was reminiscent, almost eerily so, to last year [against Edmonton]. Last year was really disappointing. This year it’s a different feeling and I can’t explain it right now.”
“The turning point of the series was Game 4 with 30 seconds to go, end of story. There were done at that point.”
Despite leading the Sharks to their most successful regular season in franchise history, Wilson remains focused on postseason success.
“You need distance and time to get away from the emotion of it,” said Wilson. “I want to win now. That’s the attitude I want our players to have.”