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.

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.