10 Questions about the 2013-14 Sharks
Will expiring contracts play a role?
The Sharks’ three highest paid players – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle – are all entering the last season of their contracts. Doug Wilson had talks with agents for all three this summer, but so far none of them has been signed to an extension. Perhaps the three of them – especially Thornton and Marleau – will be a little extra motivated to earn one final, hefty payday.
Will Logan Couture become a superstar?
The Sharks are transitioning from Joe Thornton’s team to Logan Couture’s team, and if you have any doubt about that, read some of the comments from his teammates and head coach late last season. Couture could potentially eclipse 40 goals, establishing himself among the NHL’s elite.
Will Marty Havlat play for the Sharks again?
The Sharks have already said Marty Havlat won’t start the season on time after pelvic surgery, but the bigger question is, will Havlat play at all for San Jose? The Sharks surely don’t want his inflated $6 million salary on the books in 2014-15, and the only way to keep him healthy (and buyout eligible) is to not play him. He doesn’t fit in the Sharks future plans, and may not be in their current plans, either.
How many games will Antti Niemi play?
Antti Niemi likes a heavy workload, and he’ll start the season with an unproven backup in Alex Stalock or Harri Sateri. Niemi said he figured out a way last season to optimally balance work with rest, but that was only a 48-game slate. How he holds up over a full campaign could be vital to the team’s success.
Can Niemi duplicate last season?
Speaking of the goaltender, Niemi was the Sharks’ best and most consistent player last season, resulting in a nomination for the Vezina Trophy. We already know he’ll play a ton, and for the Sharks to be among the NHL’s elite, Niemi will have to be just as good this season as he was in 2013.
Who will be on the second power play unit?
The Sharks’ top power play unit is one of the best in the NHL, featuring Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. Unfortunately, that leaves slim pickings for the second unit, which was ineffective last season. This could be a trial-and-error experiment for the coaching staff until they find the right combination.
How will Raffi Torres’ absence affect the team?
Raffi Torres was the biggest reason the Sharks found their identity after the trade deadline in 2013. Now that he’s out of the lineup to start the year with an ACL injury, another player (or more likely, combination of players) will have to fill the role left vacated by the speedy agitator. That’s much easier said than done.
Is Tomas Hertl a Calder Trophy candidate?
Tomas Hertl’s two seasons in the Czech league, and his six-foot-one, 210-pound frame, should have him prepared to play against NHL competition. He’ll likely be used in a top six role, and may even be on the wing of the Joe Thornton line with Brent Burns. If he can withstand the rigors of an NHL season, he could pile up the points and be in the mix for the Rookie of the Year award.
Will Dan Boyle start to show his age?
The Sharks coaching staff cut back Dan Boyle’s minutes last season, and the now 37-year-old defenseman was still arguably the team’s best blueliner. Boyle prides himself on working hard and staying in shape, but at some point, he won’t have the skating legs that make him such an effective player. When that happens, remains to be seen.
How will Brent Burns perform as a full time forward?
Brent Burns was a beast up front last season after he was moved up from the blue line. He tallied 20 points in 23 games, and the Sharks hope he picks up right where he left off on a line with Joe Thornton. A full year on Thornton’s wing could result in a huge season for the massive, free-spirited Burns.