May 26, 2022

Hello, Cuda country. I hope everyone is doing well. I write today’s blog with a heavy heart. It was announced on Tuesday via social media that the original voice of the Barracuda, Eric Lindquistpassed away last weekend.

I only met Eric once. But that experience, coupled with the endless stories told by those who worked for or with him, made me feel like I had known him for years.

He was a real character in the game and a larger than life figure. Taking over from Eric in 2016 was a huge responsibility that I did not take lightly. Nine years between San Jose and Worcester, he has become an integral part of the fabric and identity of the organization.

Eric will be greatly missed and I personally want to offer my deepest condolences to his friends and family. Rest in peace, E!

This offseason has already been historically busy, which isn’t bad when you’re blogging and hoping to have content to discuss in the summer months.

With the looming opening of Tech CU Arena in August, the announcement of the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose, player signings, the upcoming draft, free agency and development camp, and most recently the hiring of John McCarthy as head coach, we have plenty to say to each other.

Although he had never been a head coach before, McCarthy was destined to play that role one day. The way he handled himself as a pro, the way he thought about the game from an x’s and o’s perspective and his experience as a captain are just some of the things that made you think that he would have a future as a coach. He has also played over 600 professional games, is highly respected within the organization and the league, and has served as both an assistant and development coach since his retirement. Above all, he’s a great person and will be an amazing face for the Barracuda.

The next step for McCarthy is building a coaching staff. The entire group, apart from Roy who will take on a role of main adviser and Nick Gialdini who will remain the team’s video coach, will not return. Coach’s Assistant Jimmy Bonneau was reassigned to his former position as a professional scout with the Sharks and assistant coach Michel Chiasson accepted an agent position with CAA Hockey with Pat Brisson. And goalkeeping coach Dany Sabourin decided not to return to the Barracuda to be closer to his home in Quebec.

It will probably be different without Roy behind the bench next year and moving forward, but he leaves behind a legacy that will one day put him in the AHL Hall of Fame and maybe even the American Hockey Hall of Fame.

His historic tenure as head coach of the Sharks’ top affiliate ranks him first in AHL history for wins, games coached and seasons coached. Being an Oakland native and a member of the Sharks organization for the past 26+ seasons only adds to his incredible resume and legacy. I want to thank Roy for his patience with me, his honesty and his friendship. He is a legend in the sport and it was an honor to have worked with him for six seasons. Maybe he has a future in broadcasting?! I wouldn’t mind if he joined me in the booth for color commentary. We can only hope.

In my last blog, we talked briefly about the fact that the Coachella Valley Firebirds will begin their first season playing at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena while the finishing touches on their new arena in Palm Springs are complete. The AHL released more news from the Pacific Division this week, announcing that the Stockton Heat will be moving to Calgary after the 2021-22 season. There had been rumors for the past two years that the Flames wanted to move their main affiliate to places like Colorado Springs or even Boise, but in the end, the Heat will move to Calgary.

I’m sure the Flames have been keeping a close eye on the Abbotsford Canucks over the past year, and with the Heat playing in Calgary in 2020-21 due to COVID, the move seemed much more “doable” than previously.

Beyond the simple convenience of having prospects so close, there are added benefits like the ability to manipulate the salary cap, call players on the same day, expose prospects to the market and base fans, etc.

With Stockton’s move, the NorCal rivalry between the Barracuda and Heat will sadly come to an end. It also means no more day trips, which is a staple of AHL hockey in the Northeast and before expanding west.

The rivalry was very one-sided in favor of the Barracuda for the first four or so seasons, but the Heat turned the tables by going 9-1 against San Jose last year. All-time, the Barracuda finished with a 35-26-4-3 record against Stockton.

This decision could also mean a realignment of the division. If everything were to stay the same for next year, the Pacific would have 10 clubs, the top of the league. If I had to guess, Colorado would be the most likely team to leave the division, based on logistics alone. With each team playing 72 games next year, compared to 68 for Pacific and 76 for the rest of the league, that makes realignment a bit easier.

So, with the Heat leaving California, who becomes the Cuda’s biggest rival? I posed this question on Twitter and as I expected, the overwhelming response was Bakersfield. Logical due to the distance between the cities. For me, it’s San Diego. There’s just something about these games, especially on the road. The atmosphere at Pechanga Arena is unparalleled in the Division. It’s an old building but it’s often packed and the fans are inside. Add to that the number of times teams play each year, the NHL rivalry between the Sharks and Ducks, the number of players who once played for the Barracuda and are now on the Gulls, the playoff game in 2017, etc .

We end this week’s blog with some player news. The Sharks announced they had signed Mitchell Russell to an entry contract. The undrafted free agent was blasted this year with the Brampton Battalion in the OHL alongside the Sharks prospect Brandon Coe. In the regular season, Russell finished 10th in league scoring with 88 points (41 goals, 47 assists) in 64 games. He led all skaters on the team in goals, plus-minus (plus-33, tied for first with Coe), power-play goals (13), shorthanded goals (three) and shots (241). The forward set new career highs in every offensive category and was one of 15 skaters in the league to eclipse the 40-goal mark.

He joins forward Max Veronneau and guardian Strauss Man as pre-draft/pre-free agency additions by the organization.

Hope everyone is having a great memorial weekend. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you in two weeks.

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