10 observations from Sharks Training Camp


10 observations from Sharks Training Camp

The Sharks will hit the road for their final two preseason games this weekend before the real season begins on Wednesday against Los Angeles. Here are a few observations after two full weeks of training camp…

1 – I’ve seen a fair amount of consternation on social media and elsewhere that Chris Tierney will likely start the season as the third line center, while Tomas Hertl returns to the top line. I don’t understand why. Hertl was not only great in that spot in the second half of last season, but he’s coming off of a knee injury. Putting him with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski should allow him to reestablish his confidence quickly.

As for Tierney, I understand that perhaps his possession and faceoff numbers aren’t spectacular. But, here’s the thing, and let’s be clear – he’s 22 YEARS OLD, and he keeps GETTING BETTER. To those that are irrationally upset at these line combinations, stop analyzing it with a calculator, folks. They are only a starting point, they are always fluid, and it’s a long season. Tierney has earned a chance for more responsibility, and that’s a good message to all the young players in the system, too.

2 – There’s no question in my mind that Dylan DeMelo is higher on the depth chart than Mirco Mueller. That’s not to say Mueller is having a bad camp, but DeMelo is a guy that already proved himself as an NHL player to coach Pete DeBoer. The coach has been highly complimentary DeMelo while suggesting that Mueller still needs to find that game-by-game consistency. If it’s Mueller that ends up going on the Sharks’ first long road trip instead of DeMelo, my guess is it will be for purely cosmetic purposes, and would lead me to believe that they might be shopping him.

3 – The Sharks obviously mishandled Mueller the year after they drafted him, keeping him around the NHL team in 2014-15. Having him play nearly a full season in the AHL for almost the entirety of last season was the right thing to do, and Mueller finished the year playing very well. That’s why it was so surprising to see his locker stall in the Sharks’ main NHL dressing room at the start of camp, while DeMelo was relegated to dressing with the prospects. It may seem like a minor detail, but how will Mueller take it when all his equipment is likely relocated to the Barracuda side after he’s been with the NHL guys for so long?

4 – I remember thinking that when the Sharks signed Mikkel Boedker that at least one regular forward would be jettisoned, either for salary cap reasons or a young player would earn a place instead. Timo Meier’s illness makes it less likely that someone like Matt Nieto or Tommy Wingels will lose his job, though. After all the offseason and training camp talk that the best players would make the team regardless of past experience there is still a slight chance that one of those two – or maybe even Melker Karlsson, who hasn’t done much in the preseason – is headed for the waiver wire after the weekend and won’t be in the lineup on opening night. But probably not. 

5 – Defenseman Tim Heed is an interesting case, and one NHL scout not affiliated with the Sharks mentioned him to me as looking good (that was before Heed was dangled by Joe Cramarossa for a Ducks goal in Wednesday’s game). Heed signed a one-year deal in the offseason after a couple strong years in the Swedish league (he’s a former Ducks fifth round draft pick in 2010), and the 25-year-old has shown to be a smooth skater with a quick release and a hard shot from the point. If San Jose is in need of an offensive defenseman at some point, don’t be surprised if Heed makes an appearance in a Sharks sweater.

6 – I was a little surprised Marcus Sorensen didn’t get a longer look before he was reassigned on Oct. 3. DeBoer suggested the speedy winger needs a little more time on the smaller ice surface, and he’ll get that with the Barracuda. 

“You like his speed and the work ethic, the tenacity. All those things are there. But, it’s in an adjustment," DeBoer said. "You’ve played your whole life on big rinks and it’s a different style of hockey. Things happen quicker, there’s less room, the guys are bigger. … It’s nothing that we didn’t anticipate. It’s nice that he’s close here and can get that experience right next door.”

Sorensen is off to a good start, scoring a hat trick in the Barracuda’s 4-2 preseason win on Thursday.

7 – Brent Burns was paying attention to Colorado’s head coaching vacancy in August, when Sharks assistant Bob Boughner was being considered for the gig. Burns is always quick to point out how much Boughner helped him during his phenomenal 2015-16 season, so Sharks fans should feel a sense of relief that Boughner is still here to guide the Wookiee.

“I texted [Boughner in August] and said you better not be leaving,” Burns said Thursday, tongue-in-cheek. “But, obviously it’s for a good reason. He’s a great coach, and he deserves that, but selfishly that would be tough to lose him after one year. I think he made a big difference in my game. … You want him to do well and stuff, but selfishly I know how much he did for me, and it would have been tough to have to go through another [coaching] change.”

8 – Joe Pavelski said that the loss in the Stanley Cup Final was something that he might not ever get over. Joe Thornton, though, moved on fairly quickly.

“We didn’t win the Cup. It sucked. It stung for a while. But, I’m really excited for this year. I had a good offseason.”

It was a short offseason, though. As is his yearly routine, Thornton went back to Switzerland over the summer but was only able to stay for five weeks due to his daughter starting first grade in mid-August. He started skating abroad mid-July.

“I just did my regular little routine that I do. … Nothing really changes, it was just a couple weeks later this year.”

9 – On paper, the Sharks have one of the best defense groups in the NHL. It may even be the top unit in the league, one-through-six. Marc-Edouard Vlasic thinks so, too, but believes they may not get the credit they deserve. 

“If you asked me, I’d say we’re up there,” Vlasic said. “If you asked anybody else that’s not in this locker room, we’re not up there.”

I’m not sure that’s the case, as the Sharks have a higher profile after their run to the Stanley Cup Final, but Vlasic pointed out that the Sharks really only have “one offensive defenseman” in Burns. Is the Sharks’ defense as sexy as, say, the Predators, who feature both P.K. Subban and Roman Josi? Or the Blackhawks, with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook? Maybe not. But this is plainly one of the best blue lines in the NHL, starting with Team Canada representatives Vlasic and Burns.

10 – Finally, one final note about Dan Boyle. This is the first one of these retirement press conferences in San Jose that I’ve witnessed in which it was a player that I actually covered here, and I can safely say that in five seasons, Boyle was my favorite post-game interview. Yes, he had a tendency to snap at reporters on occasion, and I was disappointed by his final press availability in New York. But Boyle could always be counted on for an honest assessment of what was going on, and no one on the team in the three years that I covered him wanted to win more than he did. Although he doesn’t have any post-playing career plans yet, he would seem to be a natural for media work, in my opinion. (You hear that, CSN/NBC bosses?)

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.