This is one part of a multi-part series profiling the teams of the Pacific Division from an Oilers perspective.
It was really, really weird to watch a San Jose Sharks team without Patrick Marleau last season. Losing your franchise’s leader in virtually every major offensive category is certainly strange, but despite the change of the guard, the Sharks continued their two-decade-long trend of being a playoff team.
What did they do last season?
- 45-27-10 – (100 points)
- 252 goals for (12th)
- 229 goals against (9th)
Last season was one of change for San Jose. For the first time since virtually anybody can remember, Patrick Marleau didn’t wear a Shark on his jersey. The franchise’s all-time leader in points inked a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season, ending a 1493-game tenure. Beyond that, when Joe Thornton missed half of the season with an injury, the Sharks were without their two best players in history, two staples of the past decade.
Still, the Sharks managed to push through with a different identity. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture led the way as a one-two punch down the middle, each eclipsing the 60-point plateau. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns put up another ridiculously-good offensive campaign while Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the yin to his yang, was stable as usual defensively. Martin Jones posted a .915 save percentage and his backup, Aaron Dell, was just as good in relief.
But the story in San Jose was how a wealth of young players stepped up to push the team over the top. Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc each reached the 40-point plateau for the first time in their young careers and Timo Meier scored 21 goals in his first full NHL season. Depth youngsters Marcus Sorensen, Dylan DeMelo, and Barclay Goodrow also all thrived in increased roles last year.
The Sharks never really had a prolonged cold streak last season. They were consistently solid all throughout the year, losing more than three games in a row just twice. One of those times came right around the New Year with Thornton on the Injured Reserve and the other came at the tail end of the season, but they still ended up sweeping the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
What did they do in the off-season?
- Major Additions: None.
- Major Subtractions: Mikkel Boedker, Paul Martin, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jannik Hansen.
- Other stuff: Signed
The Sharks made a major addition for about 10 minutes this summer. They grabbed Mike Hoffman from the absolute garbage fire known as the Ottawa Senators, but they quickly flipped him to Florida in a separate deal. This deal is particularly hilarious because Pierre Dorion said he didn’t want to trade Hoffman within the division and he ended up with the Panthers. Anyways, this deal was mainly about the Sharks opening up cap room by dumping Mikkel Boedker’s salary.
They opened up that cap room in order to make a free agent stab at John Tavares, but he ended up signing a long-term deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. When they missed out on the Tavares sweepstakes, the Sharks ended up standing pat, ultimately choosing not to make any major free agent investments.
They re-signed Evander Kane, who they acquired at the trade deadline, to a seven-year deal, Logan Couture got a new eight-year deal, Joe Thornton got re-upped for another year, and Tomas Hertl got a four-year contract.
So while the Sharks didn’t make any additions, they continued to get their core locked up for the foreseeable future. They now have Couture, Kane, Hertl, Jones, Burns, and Vlasic locked up for at least four more seasons.
What’s going to happen this season?
The Sharks have been one of the most consistently-good teams ever seen in NHL history. They’ve made the playoffs in 18 of their last 20 seasons and they spent much of that time as a legit Stanley Cup contender. They obviously aren’t the contender they were back in Thornton and Marleau’s hay day, but the Sharks are still a playoff calibre team.
As Thornton and Marleau aged, the Sharks ultimately opted to retool rather than rebuild. They allowed a new core of Burns, Vlasic, Pavelski, and Couture to carry the torch and it worked out for them last season. This isn’t a new, young core by any stretch, though. Joe Pavelski just turned 34 years old, Burns is 33, and Vlasic is 31.
The Sharks are much like their division rivals from Anaheim. They’re a largely old team with an interesting blend of young talent, but you can’t help but look at their roster and think that they’re a few things going wrong away from falling off a cliff.
Still, like with Anaheim, this veteran team continues to get the job done, so I wouldn’t bet on the decline happening yet. Burns and Vlasic form the core of a very good blueline, Jones has been rock solid in net since arriving in San Jose three years ago, and the team boasts a lot of scoring options up front. Adding a full season of Evander Kane to the mix doesn’t hurt either.