McCarthy’s Leadership Is the ‘Glue’ Keeping Barracuda’s 12-Game Winning Streak Together
SAN JOSE — Barracuda coach Roy Sommer offered alternate captain Ryan Carpenter some sound advice before his team snagged its 12-straight win by knocking off the Texas Stars at the SAP Center Monday afternoon.
He warned Carpenter about the dangers of sitting next to captain John McCarthy when he’s, “heating up.”
“Your pants will catch on fire,” Sommer said recounting his message to Carpenter.
Carpenter managed to avoid his teammate’s combustibility, but McCarthy continued to play like a human torch that day, snagging a pair of goals in the Barracuda’s 5-3 win, giving him a total of 10 points (7g, 3a) during the team’s 12-game winning streak.
Although McCarthy’s recent offensive surge has helped the Barracuda (31-11-4) climb up to the top of the AHL standings, Sommer insists his captain’s quiet leadership is ultimately the “glue” that binds the young squad together.
“What can you say about the guy?” Sommer asked rhetorically. “He works out hard, never complains. He’s been a good extension of (assistant coach Ryan Mougenel) and I.”
With 13 rookies on his opening night roster, Sommer knew that McCarthy’s veteran leadership would be a valuable asset this season, which is why the organization re-signed the 30-year-old forward over the summer.
Unlike former-captain Bryan Lerg, McCarthy isn’t a rah-rah, give-an-emotional-speech-to-fire-up-the-troops type of a leader. Instead, he goes about his business quietly, showing the young Barracuda team how to be professionals by bringing a consistent work ethic to the rink and playing a detailed game in all three zones.
“I’m not one to be the loudest guy in the room and all over people. Actions speak louder than words,” McCarthy said. “If something’s not going the way that it should, you’ve got to speak up and say something. But for the most part, it’s showing them how to be professional — come to the rink and treat it like a job.”
Apparently, McCarthy’s mild-mannered leadership is exactly what the impressionable Barracuda need at this stage of their development. Up and comers, such as Danny O’Regan, Rourke Chartier and Marcus Sorensen are thriving in the AHL because they came into the league approaching the game with maturity and seriousness. But bearing witness to McCarthy’s professionalism on a day in, day out basis just reinforces the idea that good habits will breed success on the ice.
When asked what kind of captain McCarthy is, O’Regan responded by saying, “what an easy question.”
“He’s just the best guy ever, honestly,” he said. “People really look up to him. Obviously, he’s been around the league for a while. Literally, on the ice, he does everything right. He’s just such a good guy to have on the team, look up to and try to play like.”
O’Regan suggested that the consistency of McCarthy’s game might be the best lesson he’s passing on to his younger, highly-skilled teammates. In some ways, McCarthy is a cliché on skates because he does everything right: contributing offensively, playing a shutdown role, leading the forecheck with hard plays on the boards, providing support in the defensive zone and quarterbacking the Barracuda’s third-ranked penalty kill.
“We’ve got a lot of skill on our team, but you can see in some games guys get away from our game. We try to play simple and hard,” O’Regan said. “Sometimes it just takes watching him chipping pucks deep, working hard and grinding it out to follow along with that.”
As of late, McCarthy is getting rewarded for playing such a detailed game. Although McCarthy brings the same game to the rink every day, his offensive production tends to ebb and flow.
Over the first 14 games of the season, McCarthy picked up just two points as guys, such as O’Regan, Tim Heed and Kevin Labanc led the Barracuda’s offensive charge. But over the team’s last 14 outings, McCarthy has earned 12 points, a sign that puck luck is finally starting to bounce his way.
“Everyone forgets, they just weren’t going in,” Sommer said, referring to McCarthy’s scoring drought earlier in the season. “There were games he’d have five or six shots and nothing. But you know what, he’s always hanging around, he knows where to go, and he’s gotten big goals for us on this streak we’re on here. He’s been a big part of it.”
McCarthy, who suited up for his 500th professional game on Feb. 14, also caught fire down the stretch last year, collecting 29 points over the Barracuda’s last 28 games, helping the team earn a playoff spot in the last game of the season.
“I try not to gauge my game based on points just because there’s a lot of other things you can do out there to help the team,” McCarthy said.
“A lot of my goals aren’t pretty, but it’s about getting to the net and scoring from the net front.”
Regardless of whether he’s scoring or not, McCarthy is embracing his role as the leader of the high-flying Baby Sharks, just more proof, according to Sommer, that the captain will eventually make, “a really good coach,” himself.
“It’s been fun,” McCarthy said. “It’s been good to see the young guys come along. They’re getting it, as our record shows. Everybody’s buying in.”