Demers' confidence grows with Sharks


Demers' confidence grows with Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Tuesday in our Sharks Talk blog, we mentioned that Justin Brauns reassignment to AHL should be viewed as a vote of confidence in Jason Demers. After sitting out for eight of 10 games, Demers has played in four of the last six and been a much steadier presence on the teams blue line.

I ran that theory by Todd McLellan on Wednesday morning.

Yes. I think thats a real good point, he said. Since Demers extended stay out of the lineup, his play has improved, remarkably. Hes been much more consistent and much more reliable. Thats got to make him feel good, and it makes us feel good, to the point where we feel we can go to seven defensemen and make sure Brauny stays sharp and keep playing.

Demers himself also senses an improvement, after he struggled with turnovers and positioning for essentially the entire month of October. He sat for five straight games to start November, finally getting back in on Nov. 17 against Detroit.

I think Ive felt a lot better and looked a lot better the last few games Ive been out there, he said. Its a process. My game just wasnt where I wanted it to be, so I just had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what made me successful and then apply it on the ice. I think its been getting better, and I feel more and more comfortable out there.

Demers, a native of Dorval, Quebec, will play for the first time in his career on Thursday night against the team he grew up rooting for as a kid. In fact, his family members are still huge fans of Les Habitants, a.k.a. the Montreal Canadiens.

I grew up really watching them and cheering for them, he said. Now, I get to try and beat them, and hopefully beat them.

The hardest convert may be his grandfather.

My grandfather is a huge Montreal Canadiens fan, so Ill probably be calling him after, said Demers. If we win or lose, well be talking hockey, thats for sure.

And which jersey will he be wearing for the game?

Hell be wearing teal tomorrow. If hes not, hes going to hear about it.

As for Braun, the 24-year-old will get a chance to play much more regularly in the American Hockey League. Braun struggled in Mondays 2-0 loss to the Kings, including a turnover that led directly to the first goal, but McLellan wanted to make it clear that was not the reason he was sent back to Worcester.

I know Brauny made some mistakes in L.A., but thats not why he went down, said the coach. We werent going to play him against Montreal, and he needs to play some games.

McLellan had nothing but praise for the 24-year-old Braun and made sure to pass that along to the player himself.

Brauny came in here to McLellan's office, and Ill keep what I told him between us, but you might be surprised what I told him how much we believe in him and where I think he fits, said McLellan. But, he needs to play. He needs to play.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.


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.