Tierney Steps Into Leadership Role At Sharks Development Camp
SAN JOSE — The times they are a-changin’ for Chris Tierney.
Tierney used to be the quiet kid in the locker room at the San Jose Sharks’ annual summer development camp. He was shy, nervous and somewhat unsure of his place among roughly 40 prospects, each guy trying to leave an impression with the coaching staff and eventually stamp a ticket to the NHL.
But after an impressive rookie campaign, the 21-year-old center is one of the marquee names at his fourth development camp, which concludes with an open scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday, and he isn’t afraid to make his voice heard anymore.
“There’s a couple of us that kind of want to be leaders at this camp and are going first in drills and taking questions from some of the young guys,” Tierney said. “So it’s a nice change of pace to be the old guy.”
As the Sharks attempt to integrate more youth into their leadership group, Tierney stands out as one of the young guys who has the potential to wear a letter on his teal sweater in the future. He wore the ‘C’ for the London Knights during his final season of junior hockey and was also named the smartest player in the OHL’s Western Conference in a coaches poll that year.
With Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture on the roster, Tierney won’t be giving any rah-rah speeches in the locker room anytime soon. But he’s playing the captain role at development camp this week, alongside fellow veterans Barclay Goodrow and Mirco Mueller.
“That’s kind of what the coaching staff and [general manager] Doug [Wilson] expects out of us older guys,” Tierney said. “When I was a young guy at the camp, you saw other older guys lead that way, so you kind of take it upon yourself to be a leader and show guys what to do.”
San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer, who’s running the camp, said Tierney’s proving to be a “great” leader this summer.
“From the get go, we’ve told the guys that have been around here, that have done a couple of these development camps, to be the leaders,” Sommer said. “Be the first ones in line, take care of these guys when they’re off the ice and show them downtown San Jose. Him and Goodrow, and the other guys, the Mueller’s, they’ve done a great job of that. They’ve been really good. I think it’s been one of the better camps we’ve ever had, as far as talent-wise and leadership-wise.”
But before he earned a spot on the Sharks’ opening-night roster last year, Tierney recalls being nervous at development camp in the summer.
“Especially if someone calls on you in video or a coach asks you to demonstrate something when you’re in front of 20 guys you don’t really know and five coaches that you know you want to impress,” Tierney said. “It can be very nerve-wracking.”
Having experienced the nerves first hand, Tierney is reminding younger players that development camp is for learning and trying new things that might be out of their comfort zones. They aren’t competing for jobs yet, that will come in the fall.
“Whenever you see somebody who, maybe, gets a little down or there’s something wrong, you can always give him a pat on the back and just let him know it’s alright,” Tierney said. “I was that guy, too, trying something and falling or missing a shot. It happens to everyone.”
In addition to working on his leadership skills, Tierney is adding strength to his game this summer. He works out in the weight room five or six days a week and is improving his physicality with former-NHLer Gary Roberts in Toronto.
After opening the 2014-15 season with the Sharks, Tierney spent two-and-a-half months in the AHL during the middle of winter. He worked on his body positioning and his stick work, and wound up scoring 29 points (8g, 21a) in 29 games.
When he returned to the NHL on Feb. 4, he showed maturity, collecting 19 points (6g, 13a) in 29 games. He also locked down the Sharks’ third-line center position toward the end of the season, a glaring hole on the team’s depth chart throughout the 2014-15 campaign.
While his positioning and stick play improved dramatically last year, Tierney is still looking to add some grit to his game, so he can win battles against older, stronger players.
“That’s what it comes down to, a game of battles, a game of inches in the end,” Tierney said, adding: “Winning battles, winning loose pucks in front of the net and in the corners is usually the difference in one-goal games.”
While Tierney is playing a leadership role in development camp, his goal for next season is to simply regain his spot on the Sharks’ roster and continue to improve. The letters, the speeches can wait.
“I had a pretty good finish and I just kind of want to try to take that momentum and carry it into the start of training camp,” he said. “It was good for me to play those minutes and I got a lot of confidence.”
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