Sharks

Analysis: Sharks GM Wilson has made the right moves, so far

Analysis: Sharks GM Wilson has made the right moves, so far

SAN JOSE – It’s been a whirlwind few days around the Sharks organization. To quickly recap for those that have been sunbathing, scarfing down hot dogs or sparking up fireworks: Joe Thornton is back for another year, Patrick Marleau is off to Toronto, and crucial pieces Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are locked up long term.

For the 15th straight summer Doug Wilson is overseeing the transition from one year to the next. And so far, he’s looking pretty good.

Marleau’s departure, of course, is the most emotional moment for the fan base since the 2016 Stanley Cup Final – maybe even more so. I get the impression many Sharks supporters would have preferred to keep him around at any cost. Detractors will point to the team’s inability to win a Stanley Cup in the 19 seasons has was on the roster, and his frustrating nature of going extended stretches without having an impact, but my sense is that they are in the minority.

But Wilson offering him anything close to the three-year, $18.75 million contract that Marleau got in Toronto would have been nonsensical. Frankly, the two-year, $10 million offer that was reportedly on the table for Marleau might have been too much for a team that has $52.5 million tied up in contracts for just 11 players in 2018-19 (and Thornton a pending free agent again). 

Wilson may have only tacked on that second year in his attempt to placate Thornton, who was desperately trying to keep Marleau in the dressing room. Frankly, it’s fair to wonder if the organization is a bit relieved that Marleau didn’t take that final two-year offer.

Offering Marleau a third year in 2019-20 at the age of 40 was a deal breaker for Wilson for good reason. Not only will the Sharks have Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones making big money, but Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are both due to be unrestricted. If Tomas Hertl develops into the player the organization still hopes he’ll become, he could be making a pretty penny by then. Mikkel Boedker will potentially still be on the books. Prospects like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc will have expiring entry-level deals, and if they or others in the system become full time NHL’ers, they could be getting big raises, too.

Paying an old, declining winger $5 million or more that season was a risk that Wilson was rightfully not willing to take.

As for Thornton, we predicted here before the NHL draft that Wilson might be making a calculated risk, knowing that Thornton – who originally wanted a three-year deal – was too committed to the area to sign anywhere else. That seems to be how this played out. Thornton’s one-year, $8 million deal is an expensive one, but it still makes sense from a team perspective considering his importance on and off the ice. The Sharks have the cap space to give Thornton that kind of money, and they are also protecting themselves with the one-year term in case Thornton has any problems with his surgically repaired left knee.

And if Thornton comes back strong next season, Wilson now knows for certain that the future Hall of Famer doesn’t want to play anywhere else. Getting Thornton to agree to another one-year deal, if that’s what Wilson wants, shouldn’t be nearly as complicated next time with Marleau already gone.

Don’t overlook, either, how Wilson managed to painlessly extend Jones and Vlasic to contracts that are fair for both sides. Had those contract talks lingered into the season it would have been an unnecessary distraction.

That’s not to say that the general manager should now pack up his bags and go on a two-month vacation until training camp begins. The Sharks still have cap space to add another impact player, and I would argue they should be on the lookout for another forward, probably though a trade now that the free agent market has dried up. I would be surprised if they paid the kind of price that Colorado reportedly is seeking for Matt Duchene, but perhaps others like Vegas’ James Neal or Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk are possibilities.

So far, though, Wilson has made the right moves in what has already been an eventful offseason.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

sharks_usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

luongo_hertl_ap.jpg
AP

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.

UP NEXT

Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.