SAN JOSE- As a reporter, you never know what to expect when you walk into an NHL locker room. Usually you’ll have a topic in mind that you want to write about but often times you have to quickly change the plan of attack “on the fly” (to borrow a popular hockey phrase).
Depending on the insights from players and coaches, articles can write themselves. And Tuesday’s morning skate at the HP Pavilion was one of those occasions.
The idea in mind was to focus on T.J. Galiardi’s relationship with good friend and former teammate Dan Winnik. Teammates and often linemates with the Colorado Avlanche, the two forwards were traded together to San Jose at the trade deadline last season. Winnik however, left for Anaheim as an un-restricted free agent this summer and when I caught up with T. J. I forgot to ask if there was any casual pleading for his good friend to return to the Sharks.
The full conversation that did take place with T.J. can be seen at the end of this column but first on the agenda are the comments from head coach Todd McLellan that altered the direction of this piece.
*Note: I prefaced my question to McLellan about the importance of Galiardi getting off to a good start by mentioning the fact he did not get off to a good start with the Sharks last year and how the man he was traded for in Jamie McGinn was a fan favorite.
“I think a player like T.J. is at a crossroads in his career” commented McLellan. “He’s got to make a decision to make good on the opportunity that he gets. I’ve liked his response so far. He’s been very competitive and he understands how we want to play and his speed and energy is something we need.”
Thus far on the season Galiardi has a pair of assists through five games and while he and his linemates Michal Handzus and Tommy Wingels have yet to score, they seem to be slowly getting better each and every night.
“Some consistency forming there” confirmed McLellan about his third line. “They’ve been able to stay together for five nights now and I like their energy. When you look at the fore-checks, they are one of the better fore-checking lines on the team so they’ve been able to create time in the zone. [Handzus] is winning a lot of face-offs so they start with the puck a lot. I’d like to see them get rewarded for their offensive play because they have created a lot of chances but I think that will come.”
As for T. J., himself, the winger says he doesn’t worry about last year, but here is the full text of our conversation:
Q: Did you play against good friend Dan Winnik when you were on Colorado and he was with Phoenix?
“Yeah I played against him when he was in Phoenix. Main thing I remember about that was that he had the biggest shoulder pads in the league but he was coming off some shoulder injuries. You know Winnie is having a good start. He’s got a big body, he’s getting [the puck] to the net and he’s been rewarded for it so far.”
Q: Can you talk about your line? It seems like you guys have been getting better and better each game.
“Yeah, I think that’s something that we’ve been trying to build on every game and play in the [opposing] zone more and more, I think last game was probably the best game we’ve had so far. We probably should have scored, personally, [I] should have [scored] a couple times but it’s coming. You know what they say when your not getting chances is when you start to worry but we’ve been getting a lot and we haven’t given up much either so that’s good.”
Q: You came in last year and didn’t have the start you wanted and fans were pretty bummed to give up a fan favorite in McGinn, is there a chip on you shoulder to put last year behind you?
“I’m not really worrying about last year. It didn’t go obviously the way anyone wanted it to and I’m not going to make excuses about it but it’s a fresh year and I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team to win. I feel good this year and it’s nice to be winning every game so I think if we keep that up nobody is going to be worried about any past trades or anything like that.”
Q: I know it’s early but can you talk about how deep this team is? It’s only five games but do you get the feeling there is not much missing on this team?
“Like you said it is early but you look at our team here and we’ve been pretty good for a long time in this organization and if you think if any year was going to be our year it would probably be this year, shortened season, and our big boys are doing their jobs. We’ll see if we can keep it up the whole year. It’s a sprint right, 48 games? We like it, we like the way our mix is here and we just want to keep going and building off of it every day and getting better.”
Q: The lack of roster change over is really helping you guys out here early with the familiarity?
“Yeah absolutely, you get certain friendships and get your chemistry going and that’s a big thing for a team like this in the short year so we’re just trying to build off it.”
*For more locker room sound and other Sharks news, you can follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch