Sharks

Analysis: Which Sharks player will end up in Vegas?

Analysis: Which Sharks player will end up in Vegas?

There weren’t any major surprises on the Sharks’ expansion protected list that was unveiled on Sunday morning. The team protected the maximum number of players possible, choosing the option of seven forwards, three defensemen and goalie Martin Jones. Pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were left unprotected, which was expected.

Vegas will have to take one player - and one player only - from each of the 30 NHL teams. Let’s examine who might be on the move from San Jose.

Brenden Dillon

Why he will go to Vegas: Dillon is a young, improving defenseman under contract for the next three seasons. Although there isn’t much offense to his game, he brings a physical/toughness element, and has become more and more reliable in his own end with each passing season. Last season, it was evident he worked on his speed and skating over the summer. That’s the other thing about Dillon: he’s tireless in his effort to improve.

Why he will not: There were some talented young defensemen left available by other clubs, including Sami Vatanen, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Jack Johnson, Jason Demers and Nate Schmidt. Dillon may not make the cut among the nine defensemen that Vegas is required to select.

Verdict: Dillon is probably the most likely player that the Sharks will lose. And, make no mistake, the Sharks would hate to lose him.

Joel Ward

Why he will go to Vegas: Ward previously played under Vegas GM George McPhee in Washington, so McPhee is surely aware of how respected Ward is around the league. If you’re looking to build a young team, as McPhee surely is, Ward would be the perfect guy to serve as a role model. Heck, he could even get consideration to be the first captain. 

Why he will not: At 36 years old, Ward’s best playing days are behind him. He went from 43 points in his first season with the Sharks to 29 last season. Ward has just one year left on his contract, too.

Verdict: Several people I've talked to think Ward will be the guy that goes to Vegas. I'd give him second-best odds behind Dillon.

Mikkel Boedker

Why he will go to Vegas: Boedker has already played nine years in the NHL, and had a couple 50-point seasons before joining the Sharks as a free agent and struggling to adjust in his first year in teal. Still, if there’s one player the Sharks would surely hold the exit door open for, it’s Boedker. Perhaps they even try to swing a deal with Vegas to include a pick or a prospect to entice the Golden Knights to select Boedker. If the Golden Knights need help getting to the salary cap floor, which they might, Boedker could make sense.

Why he will not: Boedker managed just 26 points in 81 games last season, and was a healthy scratch in two of the Sharks’ six playoff games against Edmonton, putting an exclamation point on his disappointing campaign. He has three years and $12 million remaining on his contract, which should scare away any suitor, Vegas or otherwise.

Verdict: Unless the Sharks are willing to part with a high-end prospect or high round draft pick - which I think is unlikely - I don't see why Vegas would be interested in Boedker and his contract unless they're desperate.

Paul Martin

Why he will go to Vegas: Just like Ward, Martin is a respected veteran that would bring instant credibility to the dressing room of what will surely be a young team. Perhaps, like Ward, he’s even captain material. Martin is also a guy McPhee surely knows well as he spent his entire career in the Eastern Conference before joining the Sharks two seasons ago. And, he can still serve as a reliable, defensive-minded defenseman.

Why he will not: Like we mentioned in regards to Dillon, there are probably better options on the blue line than a 36-year-old in the twilight of his career. And, although he’s remained generally healthy in San Jose, Martin has missed significant time in the past due to injury.

Verdict: Unlikely. That's probably just fine with the Sharks, as Martin remains an ideal partner for Brent Burns.

David Schlemko

Why he will go to Vegas: Schlemko is signed at a resonable $2.1 million salary for the next three years, and is a nice third-pairing defenseman who can contribute at both ends of the ice when he's on his game.

Why he will not: At 30 years old, he's not exactly young anymore, and there is no single part of Schlemko's game that stands out. There are better options around the league for the Golden Knights, including two defensemen on the Sharks' roster that are probably more appealing.

Verdict: I'd be surprised if Schlemko is Vegas' choice.

Joe Thornton

Why he will to go Vegas: Thornton, like teammate Patrick Marleau, is now free to negotiate with the Golden Knights. While adding a soon-to-be 38-year-old might not make sense for Vegas hockey-wise, this is still a small market team that has to sell tickets. Adding a future Hall of Famer to serve as the first real face of the franchise would do wonders from a marketing perspective. You'd have to think they’ll at least call Thornton’s camp to see if he might be interested.

Why he will not: Thornton wants to stay in San Jose, but if that doesn’t work out, he’ll want to go to a contender. The impression here is that at the very least, Thornton will want to see what kind of interest there is around the league when other teams are allowed to start speaking with him on June 25.

Verdict: No chance Thornton ends up in Vegas.

Patrick Marleau

Why he will to go Vegas: Like Thornton, Marleau would be a name that hockey fans in Las Vegas would instantly recognize, and he’d sell some tickets. Unlike Thornton, though, I’m not convinced Marleau wants to stay in San Jose. If he’d like to extend his career close to home, perhaps he’ll at least listen to what Vegas has to offer – if it is interested.

Why he will not: Also like Thornton, Marleau likely wants to play for a team that’s a contender if he doesn’t return to the Sharks. He’ll also want to see what other options might be out there on June 25, so signing with the Golden Knights wouldn’t make much sense – at least not yet.

Verdict: I think there's a slight chance Marleau ends up with the Golden Knights, but if he does, it wouldn't be until July 1 at the earliest.

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought? 

Pavelski a shootout hero in midst of a career-worst cold streak

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Pavelski a shootout hero in midst of a career-worst cold streak

The shootout has been kind to Joe Pavelski all season.

After scoring the shootout winner in Tuesday night’s win over the Coyotes, Pavelski has now scored the fourth-most shootout goals in a single season of his career, and there’s still 39 games left in the season. Only Artemi Panarin has scored more shootout goals (four) than the Sharks captain (three) on the year.

The Sharks have needed Pavelski more than they have after 65 minutes far more than in recent memory. San Jose’s won three games in the shootout this season, one more than last year and one shy from matching their total from the prior two seasons.

Again, there’s still 39 games to go.

San Jose is on pace to win their most games in the shootout since the Todd McLellan era, when they picked up no fewer than five shootout wins each season. This season, those wins are currently the difference between home ice advantage in the first round, as the Sharks are tied for second in the Pacific with two games in hand, and missing the playoffs.

They’ve needed every one of Pavelski’s shootout goals, too. File this under “statistics that are too good to be true,” but the proven postseason performer has scored each of his three shootout goals in San Jose’s three shootout wins, while failing to score in both of their losses.

Pavelski’s needed to deliver in the shootout at least in part because he often has not delivered when actual hockey’s been played. Injuries, age, and an at-times unfathomable lack of luck have all contributed, but the Wisconsin product is in the midst of one of the longest scoring droughts of his career.

He’s not scored an even strength goal since Dec. 1 against Florida. For those keeping score at home, that’s 19 games, a month, and a calendar change ago.

If Pavelski doesn’t score at even strength on Thursday against Colorado, he’ll have matched the longest even strength goal-scoring drought of his career. In 2010-11 and the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Pavelski went 20 games without an even strength tally.

To further put things into perspective, is tied with Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson for sixth on the team in even strength goals. Thornton’s enjoyed a nice shooting resurgence, but this is an instance where the setup man scoring as much as the sniper is not a positive development.

You can’t only fault for Pavelski for struggling so much, of course, as his team has scored the second-fewest even strength goals in the league this year. He’s also a victim of his own success, and subject to further outsized expectations because of the letter on his chest.

Tuesday showed Pavelski’s still found ways to contribute, even if he hasn’t found the back of the net at even strength. But if Pavelski’s drought lasts beyond Thursday, he’ll be on an unprecedented schnide as far as his career is concerned.

More performances like the former may ultimately be enough to get the Sharks into the postseason. More like the latter won’t get them much farther than that.