The San Jose Sharks have made the playoffs in 19 of the past 21 seasons. Since Doug Wilson took over in the summer of 2003, the Sharks have the most wins in the NHL, and have only missed the playoffs once — 2014 with 89 points — but they skate into Edmonton in 26th place and on pace for 76 points. They haven’t had fewer than 89 points since 2002/2003 when they finished with 73 points.
Is this a bump in the road or are the Sharks entering a re-tooling or re-building phase?
1. They have $58.875 million committed to eight players for the next three years with Erik Karlsson ($11.5m), Brent Burns and Logan Couture ($8m), Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane ($7m), Timo Meier ($6m), Martin Jones ($5.75m) and Tomas Hertl ($5.625m). The problem for the Sharks is Meier is the only one under the age of 26. Jones is 30 and has struggled for two seasons, and he has four years remaining on his deal.
2. Injuries have been a small factor with Hertl and Couture out now, but Hertl was injured only a few weeks ago. The Sharks will have to find some cheap veterans, but more importantly they will need some of their young players to emerge and help. Their coaching staff will have to mix their young kids on lines with their veteran forwards next season. Wilson could bring back one of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, but having both again next season wouldn’t be the best strategy.
3. Speaking of Thornton and Marleau, if both agree to a trade, and my sense is they will, other NHL teams will be interested. Both are quality veterans in the room. They have loads of experience and they can play in the bottom six. They might prefer to go to one of the top teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, Tampa or St.Louis, but Thornton would be an upgrade on the Oilers bottom six centres.
4. Thornton had two assists in Calgary on Tuesday, giving him 1,500 points in his career. He is only the 14th player in NHL history to reach that lofty total. He is also 40th all time in playoff games played, 179, and his experience and leadership would help many teams. The cost to acquire him wouldn’t be much and his $2m cap hit would be easy to fit in, as the Sharks might even retain half to make the deal work.
5. Jones’ lacklustre play is a main reason the Sharks have struggled. Last season the Sharks outscored his below-average goaltending, but they haven’t been able to score as much this year. Last year he had a .896Sv% and 2.94 GAA in 62 starts. This year he’s been worse posting a .889Sv% and 3.25 GAA in 32 starts, and he’s lost his starting job. Aaron Dell has started 15 of the Sharks 26 games since December 1st. Dell has a .924Sv% in his 15 starts while Jones has an .874Sv% in his 11 starts. Despite Jones’ lofty salary the Sharks have no choice but to run with Dell at this point. Their issue is Dell is a UFA at the end of the season and if he continues to play this well he could test free agency to see what offers present themselves.
6. Since Wilson arrived the Sharks have 704 regular season wins and 1,554 points. Pittsburgh has 683 wins and 1,502 points, while Boston has 674 wins and 1,520 points. The Sharks haven’t won a Cup, despite being very competitive every season except 2014 and this year. The NHL is ruthless sometimes.
7. I’d lean towards starting Mikko Koskinen tonight. He was excellent against the Blues on Friday and really good in the loss to Arizona on Tuesday. Mike Smith has started eight of the 11 games in 2020, and I’d like to see Koskinen more frequently than three times in 12 games. I also wouldn’t want to overplay Smith. In Koskinen’s three starts in 2020 he has a .919Sv%. Smith has a .914Sv% in his eight starts, but only .865Sv% in his last three starts.
8. Despite their struggles, the Sharks have the league’s best PK at 86.9%, while the Oilers have the #1 powerplay at 28.9%. Will be interesting to see which special teams unit plays better tonight.
9. Here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, though 53 games, as well as the Sharks’ scoring.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
10. Leon Draisaitl had 65 points through 53 games last season, and this year he already has 83. He is on pace for 128 points, which would be a 23-point increase over last year.
THE HAIR MASSACURE
Hair Massacure is taking over Edmonton this winter to support the fight against childhood cancer and grant wishes to some extraordinary young patients. On February 21, 2020 thousands of heads will be shaved, once again, in honour of the journey of sick children losing their hair due to chemotherapy. All funds raised go to Children’s Wish Foundation and Terry Fox PROFYLE. You can help. Go to www.hairmassacure.com to learn more.
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