Analysis: Quiet but effective trade deadline for Sharks

Analysis: Quiet but effective trade deadline for Sharks

SAN JOSE - Other than a maybe a handful of players, there probably wasn’t too much apprehension in the Sharks’ dressing room in the days and weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday. The team has a comfortable lead in the Pacific Division, is a lock to make the playoffs again, and is, of course, coming off its first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final last June. The core has shown it can make a deep run.

There were not going to be any drastic overhauls of the roster, considering, too, that the team prides itself on having a tightly knit dressing room.

Still, the biggest hole – which we mentioned here a few times leading up to Wednesday’s deadline – was at the wing position. Yes, the Sharks have some depth there in the system, and a few young players like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier that could arrive shortly on a full-time basis. But for a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations again, it would have been a risk going into the postseason with that kind of inexperience in the top six, or even the top nine.

Just how Pete DeBoer utilizes new acquisition Jannik Hansen remains to be seen, but the guess here is he’ll be the latest player to get a chance on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Last season, that line, with Tomas Hertl on the left wing, was the Sharks’ most consistent throughout the playoffs. This season, with Hertl likely to be the third line center, they needed another body since no one's locked it down yet.

Labanc has done some good things there, including Tuesday against Toronto when he was among the Sharks’ more effective players. But he’s still on the small side, hasn’t scored in 23 games, and it’s questionable whether he can hold up during the rigors of a March schedule that will see the Sharks play 16 games, or a physical playoff series against a heavier team like Anaheim or St. Louis.

Meier isn’t even on the team right now, remaining with the Barracuda. Although he oozes talent and has good size, one scout recently told me that he needs a little bit of work on his hockey sense at the pro level.

The addition of Hansen increases that tool that coaches love – internal competition for playing time. While that’s been palpable since the start of the season, with Hansen’s arrival and Joonas Donskoi nearing a return, it’s about to be ramped up even more in the final 20 games.

“Our goal was to acquire depth, and good depth, and then have competition up here to play every night,” DeBoer said. “That’s my goal, it’s not to put guys down in the minors and get more games. Everybody that’s here right now I think looks like NHL players, to me. If they end up falling out the bottom and going down there, that’s the last resort, but I think the goal of putting this group together was to create a lot of depth and competition and see what happens.”

Doug Wilson simply wants the Sharks’ young players to “continue to grow their game,” and didn’t shoot down the possibility that guys like Labanc and Meier could spend more time now in the AHL with the addition of Hansen.

“You see when Labanc went down and got some games under his belt he came back rejuvenated. Same thing with Timo,” Wilson said. 

“We have a lot of ingredients that Pete can draw upon on a daily basis. Ultimately we have a lot of depth and a lot of options, which is competition. … We’re trying to build this in a way that allows us to go a long, long way. We’re going to need 30 players. The young guys, we need them on top of their game so they can give us a boost.”

Considering the schedule, and the fact that the Barracuda are in the same building, it should allow the Sharks’ young players – including Marcus Sorensen, who is currently on recall and was effective against the Maple Leafs – to get some valuable practice time on the AHL side while the NHL team will likely opt mostly for days off between games. That luxury for the organization should make the young guys much more ready for possible NHL playoff action than if they were forced into the Sharks’ lineup on a nightly basis, as Wilson indicated.

* * *

The development and potential of guys like Labanc, Meier, Sorensen and Danny O’Regan are what made former first-round pick Nikolay Goldobin expendable. 

Goldobin could end up becoming an NHL regular at some point, but he wasn’t a fit in San Jose anymore. His two-game stint earlier this month did nothing to change his position within the organization. Frankly, it’s a wonder what Vancouver saw during that showcase that made him a target of theirs.

The 21-year-old is simply not NHL ready, and the Sharks are a team pushing for a Stanley Cup. There was no reason to believe that if they needed him at some point in the playoffs that he was going to be able to handle it. Dealing him for a feisty, gritty player that can contribute now was a no-brainer, as far as I'm concerned.

Wilson acknowledged Goldobin’s potential on Wednesday, saying he’s “a good kid who we think will have a heck of a career,” but also indicated that he wasn’t an option for the current group, either.

“The roles that we were looking to fill, maybe he wasn’t the perfect match at this time,” Wilson said. “He’ll go into Vancouver, he’ll pay a lot and do really well. We want him to do well.”

* * *

In goal, it became more and more evident with every passing day that the Sharks weren’t likely to replace Aaron Dell as the backup. Although they acquired James Reimer last season, allowing Martin Jones added rest for the playoffs, there are too many differences between this season and last that a comparison is misguided.

Last season’s original backup, Alex Stalock, was having a disastrous campaign. He didn’t look like an NHL goaltender anymore. 

Jones, while having a decent season as a first-year number one, was an unknown as far as the playoffs. Now, the Sharks know he can steal games when they are most important. 

Dell is signed through next season, too, so they can expose him for the expansion draft while protecting Jones.

In danger of overworking Jones, DeBoer should give Dell more starts down the stretch, and hinted on Wednesday that he will. Based on the way Dell has played that shouldn’t be an issue, although I’d like to see Dell get at least one or two games against higher quality teams than he’s faced so far. Now that he’s here to stay, give him more experience in case he actually is needed.

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.

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Sharks winger Evander Kane returns to his hometown of Vancouver on Saturday, fresh off of doing something a Vancouver-born player had not done in nearly 30 years. 

On Friday, Kane became the first such player to score four goals in an NHL game since Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, who scored four goals with the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 1988. It was also the first hat-trick of Kane's career, and just the fourth four-goal game in Sharks history. 

The latter point got us thinking, where does Kane's four-goal effort rank among those games? Using a rigorous, highly scientific process (read: the thoughts of this writer), we've come up with the definitive ranking. 

Without further adieu, we start with another power forward acquired in a midseason trade. 

4. Owen Nolan (Dec. 19, 1995 at Anaheim)

The Final Line: Four goals (Three power play goals), One assist, Six shots on goal

You never forget your first, so we begin with Owen Nolan, the first player to accomplish the feat in franchise history. If not for Kane and another entrant on this list (no spoilers), Nolan would still be the fastest to do it, scoring four goals in just his 27th game and just under two months after the Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche.

Nolan struck quickly throughout. He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game against the then-Mighty Ducks, then scored his second only 57 seconds into the second period. His third and fourth, both on the power play, came 34 seconds apart in that same period. 

Just as Kane did on Friday, Nolan scored as many goals as the opposing team in a 7-4 win. It didn't quite have the same impact on the playoff race, however, as San Jose picked up its seventh win....of the entire season (in its 34th game) thanks to Nolan.

3. Patrick Marleau (Jan. 23, 2017 at Colorado)

The Final Line: Four goals (including the game-winner), Six shots on goal

The 1,459th time was the charm for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, and the then-37-year-old Marleau became the second-oldest since 1987 to score four in a game. The oldest, Martin St. Louis, actually reached the feat against the Sharks as a 38-year-old in 2014. 

Marleau scored all four goals in a span of 13-and-a-half minutes in the third period, which began with the game tied at one. Three of those goals constituted a natural hat trick, in just a 7:42 stretch.

This game also jumpstarted Marleau's pursuit of a major milestone, as the goals were No. 494, 495, 496, and 497 of his career. He scored No. 500 a week-and-a-half later, but the four-goal game gave Marleau yet another signature moment in teal. 

2. Evander Kane (Mar. 16, 2018 at Calgary)

The Final Line: Four goals, Seven shots on goal 

Of all the players to score four goals in Sharks history, Kane certainly had the best timing. With San Jose in the thick of a playoff race and in need of a win, the newly-acquired forward delivered. 

He only needed eight games to score four goals for the first time in teal, but needed 565 for the first hat-trick of his career. The exuberance (and relief) was palpable after Kane scored his third, and that goal put the Sharks up by two. 

The desperate Flames, now four points out of the playoffs, would never get closer than that again, and Kane essentially put the game out of reach with his fourth goal 62 seconds into the third period. No Sharks player has scored four goals in a playoff game, but this one comes the closest. 

1. Tomas Hertl (Oct. 9, 2013 vs New York Rangers)

The Final Line: Four goals (One power play goal), Seven shots on goal

In just his third NHL game, and in front of his griflriend and mother visiting from the native Czech Republic, Tomas Hertl became then the fourth-youngest player in NHL history (now the sixth-youngest) to score a hat-trick-plus-one. If not for Auston Matthews scoring four in his debutHertl has arguably the most memorable four-goal game by a young player to his name. 

Of all the Sharks to score four in a game, Hertl did it the most efficiently. He only played 11:12 in that game against the Rangers, and still scored four goals on seven shots. 

Yes, it was in an October blowout, but no other four-goal game has had the same impact on the rest of the hockey world. From a fourth goal tailor-made to go viral, to the ensuing Hot Takes ("Hertl's disrespecting the game!") and subsequent jokes (Joe Thornton's still looking for four goals) it spawned, Hertl captivated the hockey world in a way no other Shark that's scored four has, and all by living his "dream, no reality."