By Carter Brooks
Joel Ward is looking for a fresh start. Between sets in the gym, mini scrimmages and off ice strength and speed conditioning, he has a lot on his mind. With a new team, city, house and coach to get used to, he knows this season will be an important test of character and hopefully an appropriate fulfillment of his recently negotiated three-year contract.
As a veteran of more than 500 NHL games, Ward has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs. He believes San Jose is the place to make that happen.
“I want to come in to this team and complement what is already going on here,” Ward said. “I hope to get some chemistry with a few guys and win a lot of hockey games. That is the overall goal.”
The Sharks haven’t had much better luck than Ward has when it comes to winning in the playoffs. This past season marked the first time in 10 years the Sharks didn’t qualify for the post season. They have only missed the playoffs twice in the past 17 years, but they have never reached the Stanley Cup final.
Ward has definitely experienced his own set of playoff disappointments in his past four seasons with the Washington Capitals. Having lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7 for the third time in four seasons, Ward is still feeling the effects of another early playoff exit.
“It was tough, it was very tough. You always want to be down there in the final, everybody wants to get to the final. So in a Game 7 to lose a heartbreaker like that, where it really could have gone either way, was extremely tough,” Ward said. “We just came up on the wrong end.”
After another lackluster season, coach Todd McLellan and the Sharks mutually agreed to part ways. This opened the door for Peter DeBoer to step in and pick up the coaching duties. DeBoer and Ward share an interesting history, dating back to 1997 with their time spent opposing each other in the OHL. Although playing out of different divisions, the two definitely got to know each other’s abilities along the way.
“I just need to be myself, and try not to be somebody else. I need to come in here and work hard, and remind him what I am capable of, and try to capitalize when I do get my chances.”
Along with DeBoer and Ward, the Sharks also added goaltender Martin Jones and defenseman Paul Martin in the off-season. Although some may say the Sharks didn’t do enough to prepare for a deep playoff run, they have taken the first steps in hopes of bringing their team back into playoff contention.
Playoffs are still a long ways away, but for the rest of the off-season, Ward has more important things to focus on.
“I need to finish up here with my training, then slowly start packing up to make the move down to California and finally start enjoying some of that weather.”