Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks


Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks

SAN JOSE Anyone who has read about or paid attention to the recent NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining negotiations knows theres been a dearth of optimism. The two sides remain far apart on core economic issues with just five days to go before the expiration of the current deal on September 15, and no formal meetings between the two sides are scheduled this week.

Ryane Clowe, however, offered a glimmer of hope - faint as it is - on Monday, after an informal practice at Sharks Ice that featured more than 20 NHL players and prospects.

I think when you get to these situations, people say why didnt you start negotiating sooner? But, it always seems to come down to the last minute anyway, Clowe said. Im guessing thats whats going to happen.

My feeling is that both sides want to get something done. I strongly believe that. When, and how soon? Maybe sooner rather than later, but thats just my gut feeling.

Make no mistake though, Clowe doesnt think a deal is imminent, and by no means is he declaring that he expects the season to start on time. Like every other member of the players association, the rugged Sharks forward of seven NHL seasons views the owners initial CBA proposals as unfair. The owners would like to significantly reduce what they are paying out in terms of player salaries from the 57 percent that was agreed to under the current CBA.

Increased revenue sharing from the big money makers, to the smaller clubs that struggle to generate enough money, remains a key issue for the players despite Gary Bettmans declaration that that particular issue is distracting.

We understand that if were going to give something back, we want the owners to do that also, and contribute, sad Clowe. We feel like with the proposal we made, it takes care of some of the issues as far as having a strong league in the future, and a healthy league.

Clowe doesnt foresee the players waiving that revenue sharing request, and is hopeful that the owners will reconsider their stance on the issue when they meet on Thursday.

We feel strongly about that. I dont feel like thats something thats going to change or come off the table.

The owners took some time, I think, to think about that one, and theres a Board of Governors meeting this week in New York, and I think what they discuss in there will be key for how we go ahead here.

Its believed that some of the big market clubs are, not surprisingly, reluctant to write bigger checks to some of the small market teams despite record revenues and the fact that theyve cashed in on extravagant expansion and relocation fees over the years. The league also has a new 10-year, 2 billion television contract with NBC set to begin.

The NHLPA will be holding meetings of its own in New York, and several hundred players are expected to attend. From the Sharks, Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns and Douglas Murray will be boarding a cross-country flight to sit in on the meetings led by union boss Donald Fehr. Murray, the Ivy League graduate from Cornell, has been involved in a number of sit-downs with Fehr and Bettman in recent weeks.

How do players not directly involved in the meetings stay up to date? Well, theres an app for that.

No, really.

You log in and read what went on for the day, and Fehr keeps us really informed, Logan Couture said.

Like Clowe, Couture is trying to remain optimistic as the deadline approaches. He recently returned to San Jose, as has most of the roster, in the hopes that training camp opens on time on September 21.

Were all here ready for the season to start, Couture said. Thats why you see so many guys here. We all came out early, working out together as a team and skating as a team. Were all getting ready for the season to start so well see what happens when the time comes, but right now were all getting prepared.

We all want to play the game we love. We play in the best league in the world, and we want it to start on time. Im sure all of us are optimistic, but as time gets closer and nothing happens, you can only start to get a little pessimistic.

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


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.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines


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.