Partly Cloudy
97.9 ° F
Full Weather
Sponsored By:

New Sharks coach Ryan Warsofsky looks to bring ‘light’ to a struggling franchise

Sponsored by:

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Ryan Warsofsky had a front-row seat to some of the worst hockey played by the San Jose Sharks since their expansion days as an assistant under David Quinn the past two seasons.

Now the 36-year-old who was hired last week as the youngest coach in the NHL will be tasked with overseeing a youth movement led by projected No. 1 overall draft pick Macklin Celebrini that Sharks general manager Mike Grier hopes can get the franchise back into contention.

“We just went through two really tough years. I know what they need,” Warsofsky said at his introductory news conference Monday. “They’re beat up a little bit. We need some new light. We need some energy. We need some positivity. Now we have some hope with the prospects that are coming. This is a really exciting chapter in this franchise with the prospects that Mike’s brought in and drafted and we’re starting to develop and now with this draft coming up. So exciting times are definitely ahead.”

Those exciting times have been lacking since San Jose made a run to the Western Conference Final in 2019. San Jose has missed the playoffs for five straight seasons and bottomed out the past two as Grier began a teardown that now seems primed to bear fruit in a rebuild.

Grier traded away several star veterans such as Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier to help restock a prospect pool that was bereft when he took over and now will add the No. 1 overall pick after winning the draft lottery last month to a group that has several talented young players.

Grier believed Warsofsky was the perfect fit to lead a young group with his ability to communicate and relate with young players and his experience developing them as a successful coach in the AHL before joining San Jose.

“He’s a great communicator, which is going to be important,” Grier said. “We’re going to have a young group here. Connecting and speaking with and bonding with these young players is going to be super important. It’s going to be a big part of us taking the next step forward. He just checked every box to us.”

Warsofsky previously had been head coach of the Chicago Wolves for two seasons in the AHL. He led the Wolves to the AHL’s best regular-season record with a 50-16-5-5 record in 2021-22 and captured the 2022 Calder Cup.

That kind of success has been lacking in San Jose.

The Sharks went 41-98-25 in Quinn’s two seasons for the worst mark in the NHL in that span, including a league-worst 47 points this past season. San Jose’s 19 wins this season were the fewest in a full season since the franchise’s second year as an expansion team in 1992-93.

The Sharks were non-competitive at times, allowing at least six goals in 18 games, including back-to-back games early in the season of 10 goals allowed.

“There will be some changes,” Warsofsky said. “Obviously, the numbers weren’t great, the analytics weren’t great. We have to make changes. There has to be a system in place that our players know what’s going on. They understand the system. … When we have the puck we know what to do with it and when we don’t, we know how to get it back.”

San Jose has had the worst record in the NHL the past five seasons and has struggled to fill the Shark Tank with fans turned off by the poor play on the ice. The fan interest started to change as soon as the Sharks won the draft lottery.

Team president Jonathan Becher said the season ticket renewal rate is the highest it’s been since the team made a Stanley Cup run in 2016 and that new sales are also trending at a record pace. Becher said the team is on target to sell out its draft watch party and could double the previous high attendance for it by any team.

“Obviously the mood around the franchise substantially changed after the number one pick went our way,” Becher said.

Grier ended the news conference by making a point to shut down rumors that he is looking to trade captain Logan Couture, who played just six games this past season because of injuries.

“That is absolutely false,” Grier said. “If you look at us bringing in young players here and having a young team, he’s exactly the kind of person you want to have around your young players. He’s our captain. He had a tough year but we love him, as a person most importantly but he’s also a heck of a hockey player.”



AP Sports Writer