SAN JOSE - Nothing can motivate a team at the start of training camp quite like missing out on making the Stanley Cup Final the previous season.
As Sharks netminder Aaron Dell told NBC Sports California on the first day of training camp, coming that close can even make it difficult to get your summer vacation started.
"I think you're a little bitter for a little bit longer than normal when you get that close," he said. "I think it gives you a little bit more motivation to get started, actually. I think you get that little bit of an edge."
But the carryover from last season stops there. It's a brand new season, and Dell knows he has to put his previous campaign in the rearview mirror and get back to work -- which includes solidifying his job as Team Teal's defacto backup netminder.
"Every year when you come in, the last year is kind of a wash, regardless of how it went," Dell said of proving himself yet again at the start of the season. "It's kind of a 'what have you done for me lately?' kind of thing."
Both Dell and starter Martin Jones experienced a downturn in performance during the 2018-19 season. Part of the problem came from defensive breakdowns in front of the crease -- a problem the rest of the team has acknowledged on more than one occasion.
"The foundation of our game since I got here has always been about defending well," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said. "We did score last year, we did give up too much in that area. And I thought we started to find a little bit of a happy medium down the stretch and through the playoffs."
Nevertheless, both netminders ultimately gave up more than they had in past years, ending the regular season with save percentages under .900. Dell himself went from registering a 2.64 goals-against average through 22 starts in the 2017-18 season to a 3.17 through 20 starts during the 2018-19 campaign. There's understandable motivation to get those numbers down with a new season about to start.
The 30-year-old Airdrie, Alberta native may be feeling a little more heat to up his game up given he's heading into the final season of his current two-year contract with the Sharks. Not to mention the team is particularly excited about the crop of young players they have coming into this year's camp and might feel inclined to give one of the up-and-coming goalies a look. San Jose Barracuda starter Antoine Bibeau has two NHL games on his resume from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, having gone 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average.
But Dell's doing the same thing to get ready for this season as every other one -- even with that "bit of an edge" from his team narrowly missing a Stanley Cup Final bid last spring.
"You try not to let it (affect you)," Dell said. "You try to do the same things every year, do what works for you. But I think when you get in that situation, you find extra things you could've been better at."
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"I'm just excited to get going," Dell summarized with a smile. "Just excited to get some games going and get back into it again."