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John McCarthy Named New Barracuda Head Coach

John McCarthy has replaced Roy Sommer as head coach of the San Jose Barracuda after 24 seasons. Sommer started coaching in the AHL in 1998 with the then affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. He moved with the Sharks affiliate to Cleveland, Worcester, and finally, San Jose. During his time as a head coach in the AHL, he amassed a record of 808 wins, 721 losses, 48 ties, and 159 overtime losses. The Barracuda finished last place in the Pacific Division in their final season under Sommer with a 20-42-4-2 record. Roy Sommer will remain with the franchise as a senior advisor.

McCarthy has been an assistant coach for the Barracuda since he retired as a player during the 2019-20 season, where he played 18 games. McCarthy will have the opportunity to pick his own staff as the current staff has either moved on to new positions within or outside of the organization. Assistant Coach Jimmy Bonneau has been reassigned to his role as a professional scout. Assistant Coach Michael Chiasson has taken on a new job as an agent with CAA Hockey working with Pat Brisson. Goaltending Coach Dany Sabourin had already decided not to return in order to be closer to his family. Nick Gialdini will continue with the team in his role as video coach and hockey operations manager.

“I think in talking with Roy, he knew at some point this would come.” – San Jose Interim General Manager Joe Will

During a media call, Sharks assistant general manager and Barracuda general manager Joe Will stated that he was excited as he feels that McCarthy is the best teacher that we can possibly have in place for the prospects that are coming into the system this year.  When asked about Sommer’s reaction, Will said that Sommer will continue to play a big role in the organization and knew that this day would eventually come. When asked about what he liked about McCarthy in consideration of this new role, Will stated that McCarthy has so much poise and hockey IQ along with the patience and knowledge to teach.  Will stated that a problem the Barracuda had this year is that when the Sharks had to call up as many players as they did there was a void of veteran leadership among the players, with the influx of new talent coming into the system this year they want to make sure they have best possible environment between the players on the ice and coaching staff for the coming season. When asked if this move was a result of the past season’s performance of the team, Will said that it wasn’t based on an evaluation of this year due to injuries at both levels of the team as well as the number of call-ups to the Sharks. He said the Sharks lost 400-man games between Covid-19 and injuries alone, and that caused a lack of veteran players on the Barracuda team.  When asked about the goaltending coach, Will said that it will fall under Evgeni Nabokov and potentially 2 to 3 more people.

“Goaltending development will fall under Nabby. We’ll see if that develops into a 2 or 3 man group.” – Joe Will

John McCarthy said that he was excited by the opportunity to bring more value to the franchise as well as the opportunity to develop NHL players. When asked about his philosophy for coaching, McCarthy said that he’s looking to find the right balance between the firmness of the message he would send to players along with the message itself when communicating with players. He says that players in today’s games want honesty not only about their game but where they stand within the organization. McCarthy also said that his looking to establish a standard of play that players will be held accountable to maintain. The goals of both he and the players align as his team will be players who want to become NHL players and he wants to see them fulfill that goal. On the topic of filling out his staff, McCarthy claimed that this was all very new and there was nothing to report right now on that front. When asked about how he’d define opportunity in the AHL drawing on both his experience as a player and a coach McCarthy replied, It’s a chance to earn, with a lot of emphasis on earning, nothing is given, more responsibility with the team.  He stated that while the younger players coming in are going to be a priority it’s on the veteran players to show them how to be professional hockey players. When asked about the challenges the team faced due to the injuries at both levels of the club, McCarthy said that life in the minors is a grind filled with adversity, and they are looking for players who can respond to that adversity in a positive way. Asked how familiar he was with the new players coming in, McCarthy said that he was very familiar with all of the players, as he traveled to see them with their junior teams and took the opportunity to get to know them. On the topic of systems, McCarthy said that the goal is to be on the same page as the Sharks and he expects the team to play a similar system to the NHL club.

Ian’s Take

The emphasis for the Barracuda going into next season is refresh, refresh, refresh. The Barracuda is opening their new home at the Tech CU Arena, with new sweaters and most importantly an influx of potential new players including, Tristan Robbins, Brandon Coe, Ozzy Wiesblatt, and Strauss Mann. A change behind the bench was probably a bit overdue at this point. During the call there was an emphasis on the idea that winning breeds more winning, meaning that success at the AHL level should foster success at the NHL level. I can certainly buy into that idea. The AHL team was absolutely pillaged, especially on the blueline. However, the new coaching staff will hopefully remove the stink of this past season and help encourage people to support the team in their new home. I think the Barracuda should be an exciting team to watch this coming season and is something that I’m personally looking very forward to following.

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