Sharks

Locked out -- NHL enters labor stoppage

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Locked out -- NHL enters labor stoppage

The NHL is closed for business.

The collective bargaining agreement officially expired at 9:00 p.m. PST on Saturday, putting the 2012-13 season in jeopardy. The NHL and its players association remain far apart in negotiations for a new deal, and have not yet found a way to divide revenues that reached 3.3 billion last season despite several meetings and proposals in recent weeks.

Details of the divide have been well-documented, but the main sticking point seems to be how to handle current player contracts. The owners would like an immediate reduction in salaries, whether it be actual dollars or a percentage of revenues, while the players believe they deserve every penny of the deals they signed with their respective owners.

I think there needs to be some honor in the contracts that were given out, or else dont give them out, Dan Boyle said on Thursday.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: They asked for a huge chunk of our salaries, and the attitude is I dont think theres one player that wants to give back any percent of their salary, which guys already did eight years ago.

RELATED: Several Sharks to consider Europe if lockout out

The NHLPA would also like to see increased revenue sharing between the big market and small market clubs in order to maintain a healthy, 30-team league.

While other issues remain, such as the owners request to limit lengths of future contracts to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap, its believed those issues can be resolved quickly after the core economics are decided.

But, that could be awhile, as press conferences on Thursday in New York by commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Donald Fehr only added an exclamation point to how far apart the two sides remain when it comes to money.

The dominoes will fall, I think, but obviously the main issue is the money they want back, essentially. Lets call it a rollback it is what it is, said Boyle, who is one of several Sharks that were in the NHL during the last work stoppage. I think thats the one where were sticking to it. I was there in 04 and we gave back a lot. We agreed to their model, essentially. There are flaws, were all aware of that. But, thats one of those sticking points where we cant really move on it.

While there is little optimism that the season will start on time, it is still a remote possibility. Saturday was the official end of the current CBA, but training camps were not set to open until Sep. 21 while the regular season starts on Oct. 11 (for the Sharks its Oct. 12 in Anaheim). Players would likely need at least a 10-day to two-week training camp with one or two exhibition games minimum prior to the start of the season, and the league will likely not cancel any games until the end of September at the earliest.

That is a best-case scenario, though. Its much more likely that the season will be delayed until at least Thanksgiving, or possibly New Years Day when the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium for the Winter Classic.

Without a place to play, several NHL players could set their sights on Europe, including a number of Sharks. Joe Thornton has an open invitation to return to the Swiss team with which he suited up with during the last lockout in 2004-05, while young players like Justin Braun, Logan Couture and T.J. Galiardi all said this week that Europe is a definite possibility for them, as well.

Their first choice, of course, would be to wear their teal and black sweaters and play in the National Hockey League.

Youd like not to miss another year, or three months, but thats just the reality. Its part of business. The owners just dont want to let us play right now, said Thornton.

Speedy Sharks and Golden Knights ready to fly on the ice in second round

Speedy Sharks and Golden Knights ready to fly on the ice in second round

Speed kills, and it claimed another two victims in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The "heavy" playing style that powered three combined championships in Southern California since 2007 was left in the dust by a pair of speedier division rivals, the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, en route to the only sweeps so far this postseason. 

San Jose learned this lesson firsthand. In a six-game series loss during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks could not keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins' team speed.

Pittsburgh deployed three, mobile defensive pairings and sprinkled speed on all four forward lines. San Jose, meanwhile, had a few fast forwards in the lineup and strong skaters among its top-four defensemen, but its speed was only a relative strength against teams in the Western Conference.

Following the loss in the Final, the Sharks have infused their lineup with speed and skating ability. Mikkel Boedker was signed the following summer, and Evander Kane was acquired at this year's trade deadline. Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Marcus Sorensen debuted last season. Dylan DeMelo, Tim Heed, and Joakim Ryan played extended NHL minutes this season, and there's nary a Roman Polak in sight. 

Take it all together, and San Jose played at a high pace this season. Using team-level shot-attempt rates as a proxy for pace of play, as Sean Tierney of HockeyGraphs and The Athletic did with the graph shown below, the Sharks played at the league's third-highest pace this season. 

The Ducks were pretty far behind the Sharks on the season, at a rate of about five fewer shot attempts per hour. Keep in mind that data includes 67 games of Cam Fowler, one of Anaheim's best skaters on the blueline who missed the entirety of the first round with a shoulder injury. The Golden Knights don't rank as highly as one might expect, but still played at a faster pace than the Kings.

Vegas didn't have the same inciting incident as San Jose to fill its roster with strong skaters, considering the expansion team didn't play its first game until October. Instead, the Golden Knights saw the writing on the wall, and placed a premium on skating ability in the expansion draft, and in adding to their team afterward. 

"That was our basis for who we chose," Vegas pro scout Kelly Kisio told NBC Sports California in a February interview. "Guys that had hockey sense, and guys that could skate. If you have those guys, they will somehow make it happen."

43-goal scorer William Karlsson is a burner, and they acquired another one, Tomas Tatar, at the trade deadline. Blue-chip blueliners Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore were prized for their mobility well before landing in Sin City. Even bottom-six forwards like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and depth defensemen like Jon Merrill are good skaters. 

The disparity was clear in Vegas' first-round series with Los Angeles. Five-on-five, only three teams in the first round have accounted for a higher percentage of expected goals entering Friday (Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals) than the Golden Knights, according to Corsica Hockey. 

Neither Vegas nor San jose will enjoy gap in skating ability against one another, however, setting up a what should be a standout second-round matchup. The games will be fast, but the length of the first-ever playoff series between the two should be anything but. 

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

SAN JOSE -- Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer thought Tomas Hertl’s series-clinching goal on Wednesday, in the midst of the best season of his five-year NHL career, was a long time coming.

“He would’ve gotten to this level earlier than this year if he had been healthy,” DeBoer said after San Jose swept the Anaheim Ducks out of the first round with a 2-1 win in Game 4. “He’s had some really bad luck with some really bad injuries. He’s healthy and he’s playing at another level, and I still think he’s got another level he can get to, too.”

Hertl deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot through Ducks goaltender John Gibson’s legs for the game-winner with 10:51 remaining in regulation, and just over a minute after Anaheim tied the game. As NBC Sports California statistician Darin Stephens noted, it was the Czech forward’s second career game-winning goal in the postseason.

Since entering the league in 2013-14, Hertl’s tied for 37th with 22 game-winning goals in the regular season and playoffs, according to STATS. Only Joe Pavelski (32) and Logan Couture (23) have more during that time, and Hertl’s played 85 fewer games than Pavelski, and 26 than Couture.

Were it not for recurring right knee issues that caused him to miss 45 games his rookie season, cut short his Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and forced him to miss another 33 last year, he’d almost certainly be higher on the list.

Five-on-five, only 11 players that played a minimum of 500 minutes have generated expected goals (xG), or shot attempts that account for quality, at a higher rate than Hertl (0.95 xG/60, according to Corsica Hockey) since he entered the league. If you include the postseason, he jumps into the top 10.

DeBoer’s right to think Hertl can reach another level, too. The 25-year-old’s 21 non-empty-net goals matched a career-high, no player underperformed their expected goals total across all situations more than Hertl, as Sean Tierney of HockeyGraphs and The Athletic pointed out.

With health back on Hertl’s side, DeBoer doesn’t see this as the young forward finally maximizing his potential. Instead, the head coach thinks Hertl is just beginning to reach it.

“This wasn’t about anyone pushing him…[He’s] been healthy and he’s starting to find the level that he’s capable of being at, I think, for a long career.”