The San Jose Sharks entered last summer in a deep funk affecting the entire organization. First off, the Sharks’ summer break started prematurely after they became just the fourth them in NHL history to lose a seven-game playoff season after winning the first three games – to add insult to injury, it happened at the hands of their in-state divisional rival Los Angeles Kings, who adding even more insult, went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Organizationally, the Sharks responded by … dismissing a television analyst?
General manager Doug Wilson had a pretty uneventful summer last year, and gripes from the fans rained down all year. This year, however, Wilson has been proactive, making moves to strengthen the team. It will be months, if not years, before the moves can be fully evaluated, but fans are at least cautiously optimistic, for the fact remains tough moves had to be made to a team that missed the playoffs in spring.
Thus far in the post season, Wilson has:
- Replaced Todd McLellan, the most successful coach in Sharks history, with Peter DeBoer, who has lead only one of his past squads to the playoffs.
- Drafted promising power forward Timo Meier in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, further building a stable of young, playmaking forwards.
- Let go of longtime number one goalie Antti Niemi and replaced him with Martin Jones.
- Signed unrestricted free agent Paul Martin and re-signed restricted free agent Brenden Dillon to bolster a defensive corps that bid farewell to Matt Irwin and Scott Hannan.
- Signed free agent forward Joel Ward to bring a physical checking presence to the ice.
- Let tough guy, and funny dressing room guy, John Scott leave via free agency.
Where does Wilson’s move leave the Sharks? Below is a position-by-position breakdown.
If Jones shows the form he displayed as a rookie two years ago, the Sharks are set in goal for many goals. As a replacement for injured Jonathan Quick in 2013-14, Jones was a beast, posting a .934 save percentage and a 1.81 goals against average while going 12-6 in 18 starts. The likely number two goalie, Alex Stalock, also had a gem two years ago as a rookie, going .932 and 1.87 while posting a 12-5-2 mark.
Both players fell back a little last year, so it’s anyone’s guess which year is more indicative. My guess is the Sharks will have bigger issues to address than who’s playing between the pipes.
Martin was a solid pick up, and needed to be as Wilson seems intent on keeping Brent Burns, one of the better power forwards in the league, on the blue line where he’s one of the biggest defensive liabilities on the Sharks. Martin can take care of the Sharks’ zone when Burns misses assignments, and he’ll be an asset in improving the suddenly poor Shark penalty kill.
The rock of the unit will be Marc-Eduard Vlasic, but who he will be paired with remains uncertain. The Sharks will need second-year player Mirco Mueller to step up big, and there will be opportunity for AHL-NHL ‘tweener Matt Tennyson too. But, the Sharks could use another veteran shutdown defenseman, so Wilson might not be done here quite yet.
If the Sharks have trade bait, it’s at the forward position. They’re solid along the center with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, and Tommy Wingels. They be even better with Joe Pavelski centering a line, but that’s unlikely. Good, young prospects include Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson, and don’t forget the trusted veteran presence of Patrick Marleau and Ward, and if he returns from injury, catalyst Raffi Torres.
Prospects include Meier and last year’s number one pick, Nikolay Goldobin, along with Barclay Goodrow and Daniil Tarasov, and with the AHL team relocated to San Jose for the coming season, opportunities to play for the big club will present themselves.
Seemingly out of the picture is forward Mike Brown, who was mysteriously re-signed to a two-year contract just a year ago. Moving him, either by trade or assignment to the AHL will free up cap space for Wilson and the Sharks. With that space and trading a younger player who has limited top end potential, like perhaps Nieto or Wingels, then Wilson will have room and money for another defenseman.
Photo Credit: Len Redkoles/National Hockey League
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