Anyone who follows hockey during the offseason knows how easily one is dissuaded by the annoying squeaks of the rumor mill. Someone get some WD-40 for that thing already…
As of late, the rumor mill squeaks the loudest for San Jose. It seems we’re the only kids on the block without cool new shiny toys to play with…but while we wait for Mr. Wilson to come through for us, maybe its time to take a look at a few things that we should be looking forward to…you know, be grateful for what we DO have?
Over the past few weeks, the Sharks have had little to report in the way of signings, but if you have watched closely you might remember way back to the end of March (back when Shark fans’ eyes were still dry and the walls in their homes lacked kick/punch holes) when we signed a couple of collegiate defensemen, Joe Loprieno and Nick Petrecki. Now, at the time we might have been preoccupied with bigger things…but now’s a good a time as any to get acquainted with these guys.
Loprieno and Petrecki have a few things in common – they’re both 6’3, both weigh in around 220, both are US born defensemen and both are coming off hot careers with Hockey East in the USCHO…but the fact that they are former rivals (Loprieno from Merrimack and Petrecki from Boston College) may quite possibly be what brings these two together more than anything. The whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing may mean these two know each other’s playing style better than anyone else does. Does this mean that with all the veteran blueline leadership in San Jose, we could possibly be seeing the next generation’s Boyle/Lukowich dynamic? One can only dream.
Joe Loprieno is certainly coming to the right place when it comes to undrafted defensemen. We all know not to be fooled by the “undrafted” status in San Jose – after all, to guys like Dan Boyle and Brad Staubitz (who spent most of his time with the Sharks organization as a defenseman) it certainly has nothing to do with their successes…but so far Loprieno seems to be well aware of his job description. Just last year, Loprieno recorded 50 penalty minutes in just 22 games…not to mention his 07-08 season in which he saw 74 minutes of bad-boy time in just 34 games. We know he has the brawn…but it’s the brains and finesse that he will undoubtedly be perfecting with San Jose.
Similarly, Nick Petrecki also has quite the resume. Drafted in 2007 as the Sharks’ first round pick, 28th overall, there is a lot expected of this edgy d-man. If you thought Loprieno stocked up on PIMs in college, perhaps you need to take a peek at Petrecki’s record. In his freshman year, he played in 42 games and found himself with 102 penalty minutes…but even that pales in comparison to his most recent season (his sophomore year) where he registered 161 minutes in just 35 games…welcome to San Jose Mr. Petrecki. After a modest showing of just 7 points his last season, if he concentrates more on puck handling and getting comfortable in front of the net Nick can hopefully start tallying points with the same emotion he does tallying penalty minutes.
Adding to the stockpile of talented defense in San Jose, these two guys will find a suitable home in the hearts of Worcester fans (and possibly San Jose)this season if they play their cards right. Losing Brett Westgarth and Riley Armstrong means the loss of a good honest instigator for San Jose…something they have lacked for quite some time. With the right development, we could very well see Loprieno or Petrecki filling those shoes, although some fans could argue that what we truly need are a couple of good, solid, two way defensemen.
Either way, what these two may find the most challenging is adapting to an 82 game schedule. Their ability to keeps their foot on the gas will come from rigorous conditioning and intensive endurance training, but the “live and learn” aspect of professional hockey may very well be the only way they get used to the culture.
With Hockey Training Camp waiting only one month away, the National Hockey League and fans everywhere look on in anticipation of new talent and a newer, bigger, better, stronger, shinier, indestructible hockey club in San Jose. Every fan has high hopes for the coming season, but jaded Shark fans know better than to approach with such naïve optimism. We all know the Sharks are going to have to earn their milk and cookies this year…but the real fun is going to be seeing how hungry they truly are and how willing they are to blow the world away.