The San Jose Sharks return to the SAP Center tonight after what on paper will look like their most successful season, yet in more ways than one was a let down. Losing the Stanley Cup in 6 games shows that the Sharks definitely had the talent and drive to be there, but they just ran out of gas. Certain players stepped up, many by surprise, but yet the boys in teal couldn’t get it done and now sit on what could be the last run with core parts of this team. With that, I give you some talking points going into the 26th San Jose Sharks season:
1) Is this the last ride for Marleau & Thornton?
In short, maybe. Although on the players’ sides of things, there’s really not much incentive to want to leave as both players have nestled into the San Jose lifestyle. Both are in their last year of a 3 year deal at basically $6.7m AAV and the Sharks are not going to reinvest that money back into two 37 year olds at the cost of over $13m AAV. That being said, I expect one (Thornton) if not both to return to the Sharks after this season, but at much lower cost. Thornton lead the team in points and I think has finally eased into the “Father Time” figure that the Sharks need him to be, letting the young leaders like Pavs/Vlasic/Couture lead and stepping in when appropriate.
Marleau is a bit different. Yes he’s spent his entire career with the Sharks (yeah, since 1997) but with a declining game, a -22 +/- last season, and the inane ability to disappear offensively at a moment’s notice, don’t expect the Sharks to reup at a significant figure should the Sharks not win the Cup when it comes to Marleau. They need to save that money for the subject of topic 2.
2) Brent Burns is about to get PAID.
Currently, Brent Burns is in the last year of a contract paying $5.76M AAV, 17th highest amongst defenseman. Will his money eclipse Subban’s $9m AAV (highest amongst Defenseman)? That’s for my good friend Doug Wilson to figure out, but Burns is coming off of a year that saw him 1st in goals, 3rd in assists and 2nd points amongst defenseman, You could potentially see a lot of Marleau’s money going to Burns after this season and that’s assuming he stays. I would argue he is the Sharks most popular player and if that means he’s gonna get $10m+ AAV to retain him after next year, that might be a tough pill to swallow.
Speaking of other signings…
3) Mikkel Bødker will be a surprise present
Much like a present from a random family friend during childhood, this could be clothes or this could be a cool toy. No idea yet. The 8th pick in the 2008 draft for the Coyotes hasn’t been what you would call electric in his time playing hockey in the desert, with his best season being a few years ago tallying 19 and 32 in 2013/2014. Now, obviously this Dane is talented but how much of that has been held up playing for bad teams? We shall see but the Sharks offense attack should only help Mikkel’s numbers and if he crept up to 25/40, that’d be grrrrrrrrrrrreat. Maybe he can kick it with Donskoi and Melkman and create a Nordic super group. Which leads me to my next point…
4) Can Donskoi and Melkman keep improving?
If you look at the Penguins team who won last year, or many of the past winners from the last 6 or 7 years, it’s been minor players stepping up in big scenarios. To win that memorable OT game against the Pens it was Melkman losing his stick on the forecheck that opened up the opportunity for Joonas to slot one home. IMO, this is my greatest memory as a fan but it goes to show that to win the cup, you need everyone firing on all cylinders and maximum effort, especially from these non-first line guys. Hopefully with more familiarity and no injuries to Melker, we could see both of these guys knocking at 20 lit lamps a piece. You know who’s going to light the lamp a lot this year?
5) Logan Couture is going to go off this year.
Having missed 30 games because of injury and coming off a Stanley Cup Final/World Cup of Hockey, Logan is primed for a great year. There’s no major additions to the team, he’ll have another year to get used to DeBoer’s style of play and most of all he’ll be healthy. More than anything, couture had 10G/20A in 24 playoff games, that tells me he’s chomping at the bit to put those “Sharks are choke artists” stories finally to bed. I’m sure he’s sick of hearing his buddy Drew Doughty talk about the cup, so expect Couture to come out laser focused this season to get back to the cup. Unfortunately, I think some of this success will come at a teammate’s expense.
6) Joe Pavelski is going to come back to earth this season
He’s too high profile for other teams not to put bodies on him, after a Cup run and being named Team USA captain, G.I. Joe Pavelski is a house hold name and will be treated as such this season. While I don’t think he’ll be as productive early, expect him to be streaking towards the end of the season for the playoffs. Hopefully this doesn’t involve any injury bouts. He’s probably one of the more important players that can’t get injured. The first?
7) Martin Jones needs to be Martin Jones (and stay out of harm’s way)
…..seriously, don’t get hurt. This all depends on you being healthy, because outside of you, well, just try and be healthy. You’re a top 10 NHL goalie now.
8) Will one of the young guys make an impact this year?
Whether it be Barclay Goodrow, Timo Meier, Mirco Mueller or Nikolay Goldobin, these are names we’ve been hearing about and not seeing for some time now and no pay off. With the Sharks only left with ~ $325,000 under the cap room, I would expect that Wilson will steer away from picking up a veteran late in the season purely because of financials so that leaves it up to one of these young guys step up and make a case to play with the big boys, perhaps challenging a veteran or two for playing time. That extra bit of youth and speed, something that was missing for the last series of the year, may just be what the Sharks need to go over the top and lift the cup.
Now let’s drop the puck and watch some Sharks hockey.
P.S. Never forget