Rumblings: Sharks' leadership, MacKinnon's position

It was only one game, but opening the season with a convincing victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions in Los Angeles is about the best way possible to help turn the page on a summer full of drama for the San Jose Sharks.

Just playing games again should help change the focus from all that has transpired.

"Yeah, it’s just nice to play games now," Sharks star Joe Thornton told ESPN.com Thursday. "All that stuff that happened in the offseason is finally over. And now we can just play hockey."

The summer’s lowlight for Thornton was getting the captaincy stripped. Veteran teammate Patrick Marleau also had his alternate captain's "A" taken away.

But when they hit the ice for warm-ups Wednesday night, there was Thornton and Marleau each wearing an "A" as one of the four alternates for the season, along with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Interesting, right?

"They want Patty and me to be part of the leadership group again, which is certainly cool by us," said Thornton.

What matters most to Thornton is that his own teammates wanted him to get a letter.

As Vlasic explained to ESPN.com, the players on the team were involved in giving feedback to the coaching staff, and it resulted in identifying a number of leadership candidates, not just the four players who ultimately received an "A," but also guys such as Logan Couture, Scott Hannan and Tommy Wingels.

"We waited until warm-up yesterday to put the actual letters on the sweaters, but we had been working on it throughout training camp," Vlasic said. "The coaching staff wanted to get feedback from the players to see what they thought. We were working on it until the very end. I think we did a good job with what we decided.

"Obviously we only have four players wearing letters, but Couts [Couture] has as much responsibility as us because the players believe in him. The players believe in other players as well, even though they don’t have letters on their sweaters. We took our time and we made a good decision. And you know, we could have a captain within the next couple of weeks, the next couple of months, there would be a captain eventually named."


Interesting to see Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy decide to move Nathan MacKinnon to the wing to start the season and play Ryan O'Reilly at center on that line.

There was no hiding MacKinnon’s excitement last month at the players' tour in New York when he talked about going back to his natural center position this season.

And certainly, he may very well end up back at center soon enough. But for now, he starts on the wing -- not that the kid would ever complain.

"It’s not that big a deal, I think the media is making it bigger than how we feel about it internally as an organization," Roy told ESPN.com in French on Thursday.

Roy explained the move in saying O'Reilly is strong on faceoffs, which should help that line in terms of puck control off the draw. But once the puck is dropped, Roy says, MacKinnon still has lots of freedom around the ice to do his thing.

"And who knows, if he isn’t back at center in a couple of weeks, I mean, it’s not a big deal," Roy said. "It just means we’ve got different options on that line."

MacKinnon continues to work hard at faceoffs in practice. It reminds me of when a young Sidney Crosby made such an effort to improve himself in that area as well.


Nazem Kadri's goal Wednesday night resulted from a zone entry that was offside.

It’s a play that remains outside the scope of video review, at least for this season.

But a league source confirmed Thursday that the hockey operations department is cataloging those types of plays and will present to the general managers at the November and March meetings clips of plays that could be handled with expanded video review. The Kadri goal is already part of what will be a long file of clips. It’s as if there’s a shadow video operation happening all season. It’s a neat idea.

It could result in a coach’s challenge, long debated, finally becoming reality next season.


Veteran winger Erik Cole had a strong training camp with the Dallas Stars and was slated to start the season on a line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.

But he was in street clothes Thursday night when the Stars opened their season against the Chicago Blackhawks, scratched by coach Lindy Ruff because he missed a team practice Monday.

Cole had flown home to see his family in Raleigh, North Carolina, and his flight back to Dallas on Monday was apparently delayed.

This is a team trying to become a contender, and this was the coach sending a message to the whole team with his decision on Cole.