SAN JOSE – Defenseman Mario Ferraro made it clear near the start of training camp what the Sharks’ mentality needed to be this season when it came to standing up for teammates.
“That’s something we can all do as a team,” Ferraro said on Sept. 28 after he fought Jacob Doty in a game with the Los Angeles Kings. “We’ve got to be a wolfpack out there.”
With one game left in the preseason, it seems that message is hitting home.
Whether it’s been Ferraro or Tomas Hertl, or a more seasoned fighter like Jeffrey Viel or Jacob Middleton, the Sharks have tried in their preseason games to become a tougher team to play against and establish a culture of standing up for one another.
Too often over the past two years, the Sharks felt that other teams have taken liberties against their own players, particularly early in each season.
In a Dec. 2019 game in Florida, Evander Kane didn’t appreciate it when no one came to his aid after a high hit from MacKenzie Weegar. Kane and Weegar fought later in the game.
Last season in the Sharks’ home opener, Jonathan Marchessault didn’t have to answer to anyone after he went after Radim Simek with a couple of heavy hits. Simek was injured after one of the hits and missed four games.
Eventually, former Sharks forwards like Barclay Goodrow in 2019-2020 and Kurtis Gabriel in 2020-2021, respectively, would play that type of role. But the Sharks want to have that “wolfpack” mentality right from the start of this season on Oct. 16.
“Obviously we need to stick up for each other and the last couple of years, we haven’t,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said. “The coaching staff has made their point numerous times, so it’s up to us as players to really stick up for each other. We have so far in the preseason, and I think that’s going to carry over into the regular season.”
“It shouldn’t be that complicated,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “You can’t have all of the same kind of players and I think coming into the season, I think you look at what we have left here, and I think we have a good balance of some skills, some speed, and some team toughness.”
Someone who might be able to play with a certain physical presence is forward Jonah Gadjovich, who was claimed Thursday off of waivers by the Sharks from the Vancouver Canucks.
Gadjovich, 22, is listed as 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds. He played 100 games over the last three seasons with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, and collected a combined 45 points and 81 penalty minutes
A 2017 second-round pick of the Canucks who helped Team Canada win the Gold Medal at the 2018 World Junior Championships, Gadjovich had 15 goals and three fights in the AHL last season.
Canucks coach Travis Green said this week after Gadjovich was waived that he still has to continue to work on his skating, but that a lack of penalty-killing experience put him behind some other players vying for the depth forward jobs.
The Sharks don’t know yet what they’re going to do with Gadjovich, whether he’ll stick as a 14th forward or be put through waivers again to try and get him to the Barracuda. But Boughner feels Gadjovich checks a couple of boxes, including the willingness to drop the gloves.
With Gadjovich coming from Canada, Boughner wasn’t sure if he would be able to arrive in San Jose in time to play Saturday when the Sharks host the Vegas Golden Knights in their final preseason game.
“He gets a lot of his goals the same way – he’s going to the net and standing in front,” Boughner said. “He’s another guy that we’re going to have to make a decision on the next few days. But he definitely adds that element to our team that we need.”
With Gadjovich coming in, the Sharks reassigned forward Adam Raska to the Barracuda. Raska, 20, made his presence felt throughout camp and in preseason games with his grit and energy.
The Sharks, though, feel Raska, a first-year pro, can benefit from some time in the AHL. The Barracuda’s first games are Saturday and Sunday in Colorado.
“That strictly was a move to tell a kid, ‘hey, you did everything you had to, and we need your element in our lineup,’” Boughner said. “But for right now, for his career, the best thing is to let him go play a little bit and fight to get back up here.”