Boughner believes road-heavy start could be good for Sharks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The 2021 NHL season schedule was released Wednesday, and it laid out a daunting road ahead for the Sharks. Aside from the fact that three of the four best Western Conference teams from last season are members of the new West division that San Jose is now a part of, 14 of the Sharks' first 18 games will come on the road.
That would never occur in a typical season, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Santa Clara County's resulting ban on contact sports has left the Sharks without the use of their usual home. The hope is that SAP Center will be available to them again at some point, which played a significant role in how San Jose's schedule was constructed.
The Sharks will hold training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona and will remain on the road throughout all of January. And even then, it's certainly possible their "home" games will be held far outside of the Bay Area. It will be an immense challenge for a Sharks team hoping to rebound from a last-place finish, but coach Bob Boughner actually thinks it could work in their favor.
In fact, he wishes the Sharks had a similar beginning to last season -- to a degree.
"I guess in this new world without any fans, walking into an opposition's building may not be quite the same as it was before," Boughner told reporters Wednesday. "It doesn't really give you a home-ice advantage. You're sleeping in your own bed maybe and those things are big and those things count, but if you were to ask me last season what this team could have used from a chemistry standpoint, from a culture standpoint, I would have said a training camp where we all get away together and have no distractions, and probably a good, long road trip to start the season.
"This is a little bit more than I wished for, but I think it's gonna be a good thing for us. I think we really need to spend some time together. I think the guys realize how grateful we are for a chance to get back on the ice, how much we missed it. As much as it's a challenge to start on the road early on, it could be a tool for us."
Aside from the potential team-building benefits the Sharks could experience starting the season on the road, Boughner sees another silver lining to the situation.
"The good thing is, if you come out on the good side of that, you're looking at our schedule and you look at parts of February and March and April and it's heavy home games," Boughner continued. "You hope that you're in a position, getting off to a solid start, that it's going to be an advantage for us in the end."
No matter how difficult of a start the Sharks will have this season, it can't end any worse than the last one.