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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
40-33-9, 89 points, fifth in Pacific Division, missed playoffs
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
After a head-scratching summer in 2014, GM Doug Wilson improved his squad heading into the 2015-16 season. Joel Ward was brought in on a three-year deal to help provide some secondary scoring. After scoring 19 and 24, respectively, in each of the past two seasons for Washington, he should help just fine.
Shoring up the defense, Wilson reunited Paul Martin with Larry Robinson after the pair spent time together in New Jersey. The 34-year old Martin spent the last five seasons in Pittsburgh and signed a four-year deal. He’ll be a solid veteran presence in a defensive group that features of a mix of youngsters and veterans.
Troy Grosenick’s extension means he and Alex Stalock will battle for the backup job behind Martin Jones, who was acquired in June after going from LA to Boston to San Jose in the span of a few days. That was after the Sharks sent long-time no. 1 Antti Niemi’s negotiating rights to the Dallas Stars, where he eventually signed.
Also saying bye-bye were defensemen Taylor Fedun and Matt Irwin, along with Scott, who would sign in Arizona.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Martin Jones, G
Wilson has faith in the gamble he’s taking by giving Jones a three-year deal and the no. 1 job. The 25-year has all of 29 starts in two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings under his belt. He performed fine in spot duty while giving Jonathan Quick a breather, but will he be able to handle the workload of 60-65 games and the pressures that come with being a starter?
2. Brent Burns, F/D
Wilson and new head coach Peter DeBoer both said that Burns will start on defense, likely with Martin. But with his experience up front, will we see the bearded one back at forward, if needed? He’s coming off a career year with 17 goals and 60 points.
3. Joe Thornton, F
Have “Jumbo” and Wilson moved on from their spat last spring when Thornton said the GM should “shut his mouth” and “stop lying” after comments made about why the team went captain-less? Thornton still has two years left on his deal and at age 36 is coming off a 65-point season, his lowest during a full slate since 2000. Same goes for Patrick Marleau. Both have been leaders for the team for a decade, but declining production and a need to look toward the future could reignite trade rumors again.
4. Logan Couture, F
At 26, Couture represents the next phase of Sharks star players. When Thornton and Marleau are gone, and Joe Pavelski is beginning to age out, Couture will be hitting his prime years. He posted 27 goals and a career best 67 points last season.
5. Joel Ward, F
With Thornton and Marleau’s production in decline, Ward was brought in to help out an offense that watched its goal total shrink from 239 to 224 last season. With 78 goals in the last two seasons, Pavelski doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, and with Ward in the fold his 20ish goals could help provide some offensive balance up front.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
They made enough improvements over summer, and coupled with the continued development of youngsters like Melker Karlsson (13 goals), Tomas Hertl (31 points), Matt Nieto (27 points), the Sharks could take advantage of some Western Conference teams primed to take a step back this season.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The goaltending could hinder any sort of step forward. Grosenick and Jones are inexperienced as starters and Stalock struggled last season. The Sharks paid a first-rounder for Jones, only adding to the pressure he faces as he handles the no. 1 reins for the first time in his career. If Thornton and Marleau continue to drop off offensively and no one is there to back them up, it could be another frustrating year.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
Pavelski, Thornton and Martin would make a pretty balanced line to cover the scoring, playmaking and defensive roles. Three fully healthy Tomas Hertl’s would be pretty fun, too.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
One. DeBoer will get some time with the Sharks as their “transition is over,” according to Wilson. Going by his history, DeBoer’s teams excel in his first year behind the bench. In Florida, he led them to a 93-point season, only missing the playoffs due to a tiebreaker with the Montreal Canadiens. With the Devils, he guided them to the Stanley Cup Final. An improved Sharks roster should help DeBoer’s streak of first-year success continue.
Awkward Old School Video Break
When was the last time you saw a Pat Falloon highlight?
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
They take advantage of some regressing teams in the West and slip back into the playoff picture with their strong core, improved secondary scoring, and solid defense. In the process, they find their new no. 1 goaltender for years to come in Jones.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
Jones can’t handle the responsibility of a no. 1, Thornton and Marleau continue their offensive decline and no one can help Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks find their way into a wild card spot in the West. Wilson had a better summer in 2015 than in 2014. The hope now is for San Jose’s young players to take their next step. Their possession numbers were middle of the pack. If those can improve, along with the penalty kill (78.5-percent), they can slip in.
PUCK DADDY 2015-16 NHL PREVIEW
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