The San Jose Sharks have done everything they can to avoid using the word “rebuild” when talking about changes to the team. However, it’s not hard to forget that the Sharks have missed the playoffs for the past two seasons, and changes were coming one way or another. San Jose has not been the powerhouse it was a few seasons ago, and an aging core certainly contributes to the problem. Eventually, they will be looking to the future generation of players to be the ones to play on and handle the load veteran players have been carrying. San Jose has done well in the past few drafts, so the future is bright. However, they need to get through this season and maybe a few more before that future arrives.
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It’s a wonder anything got done with the drama of Evander Kane‘s life plaster across hockey and sports sites everywhere. Questions about his gambling and accusations of betting on his own games and possibly throwing games have plagued him and the Sharks all offseason. Although he’s been cleared of hockey-related issues, there are still other distracting things going on in his life. So it will probably be a while before we see him on the ice, if he plays at all.
Lost in all the hoopla is the fact that Nick Bonino joined the team, coming from the Minnesota Wild, and Andrew Cogliano played last season with the Dallas Stars. Bonino will give the team depth at the center position, and Cogliano is a great defensive forward who is a good penalty killer. Other players like Tomas Hertl and captain Logan Couture will need to step up their game, especially if the playoffs are the goal.
Poor play has been a hallmark of the Sharks’ defense the past few seasons. Players like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all on the backside of thirty and their careers. San Jose is hoping players like Mario Ferraro and Nikolai Knyzhov are able to carry more of the load and get more ice time. The group of defenders San Jose has is average; they’re decent players, but otherwise, nothing to write home about.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Martin Jones had the final three seasons of his six-year contract bought out by San Jose. Since his departure, it leaves James Reimer and Adin Hill as the dynamic goaltending duo the Sharks will depend upon this season. San Jose acquired Hill in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes for Josef Korenar, and Reimer signed with the Sharks after playing last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Reimer’s NHL experience can offset the inexperience Hill has. However, both will need to be on top of their game if they want to make a difference.
Despite being ready to play and score for the Sharks, the talent around him will have to also level up and play better. Hertl might need to be the one to spark the offense into becoming more than what most are expecting out of San Jose. Last season was a strange one for Hertl, but if he can continue to get back on top of his game, San Jose will be better off for it.
Despite not being the great player he once was, thanks to injuries, time, and location, Karlsson still has a lot to offer the team. He needs to find his game again where he drives plays and produces more than he has in the past for the Sharks.
Biggest Question Facing the Sharks
Can the veterans step up and be the players they were, perhaps at least for this season? The youth movement hit every team eventually, and it’s making its way toward the SHarks. It’s actually already begun. The marked decrease in the level of play in some of the veterans is the main driving force behind the idea that the Sharks won’t make the playoffs this season or that they’re going to end up in the bottom half of the division. Teamwork and self-accountability need to spread like wildfire among the players, no matter the age. Perhaps there will be something to create a spark, and we’ll see something beautiful on the horizon of the ice.
The Sharks want to be more competitive this season, as indicated by all the franchise’s moves. Although it’s hard to imagine, they’d have a deep run unless they get lucky. If San Jose gets their act together, it’s not far-fetched to imagine them making the playoffs. However, questions remain about how far you can go with an average or slightly below-average team.
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