Mailbag: Is it time to change the Sharks' power play units?

Mailbag: Is it time to change the Sharks' power play units?

A few trade deadline related questions in our mailbag today, ahead of March 1…

Do you think [Nikolay] Goldobin's call-up has anything to do with showcasing him for a potential trade? Or was it just his time to be called? (Adam Smith @kickback408)

It’s fair to wonder if this is a showcase situation. It’s telling that there were six other Barracuda forwards recalled this season before Goldobin, and although some of them like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier were clearly more deserving earlier in the year, and others like Ryan Carpenter and Danny O’Regan are centers rather than wingers, Goldobin seems to have been pushed down the organizational depth chart.

To be fair, though, Pete DeBoer said that Goldobin was the Barracuda’s best player on Tuesday, as evidenced by the youngster’s one goal and two assists in that game. According to the coach, recalls have been made purely on merit this season, including this one.

I asked DeBoer on Friday morning – what took so long for Goldobin to get a recall?

“Well, you would have to ask Doug [Wilson] and Roy [Sommer]. When we need a player, my policy with Doug is, give us a guy that deserves to be up here that’s earned it on merit. I think for the most part every decision we’ve made [has] been on merit so far this year that I’m aware of. 

“I don’t think that’s a testament that [Goldobin] was playing poorly, but there were some guys down there that have had some exceptional years.”

Still, if the Sharks are going to try and make an upgrade to their roster before the deadline – either for a scoring winger or a backup goalie – they’re going to have to part with some combination of draft picks and/or prospects. They already surrendered their first round pick last season due to the Martin Jones trade, so they may not want to deal this year’s first rounder, too. Their organizational depth right now is at wing, and Goldobin possesses elite level skill. He could be an attractive target for another organization, and the Sharks would still have other wingers in the system.

Thoughts on looking for a possible third line center at the deadline, and then moving [Tomas] Hertl back to the first line? #SJSharks (Brett Itatani @Brett_T_Itatani)

I don’t see that happening, just because it’s harder and more costly to find a center, and then integrate him into the team’s system so late in the year. DeBoer has mentioned dozens of times that he likes the team’s strength down the middle with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Hertl and Chris Tierney, and that’s unlikely to change. Hertl is the third line center for the foreseeable future.

That said it’s still an audition on the left wing of the Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, as far as I’m concerned. Labanc has done some nice things there lately, but the jury is out as to whether he can play there on an every game basis. I thought at the start of the year that Meier would be the most likely player to take over that spot, but he’s now back in the minors and maybe hasn’t had the kind of effect on the team that the front office and coaching staff had hoped he would.

It could make sense for the Sharks to look around for a veteran scorer to plug in on the left side of the top line, if they can make the numbers work.

Play armchair coach, what should both power plays look like if it was your choice? The current ones just don't gel. (Cameron Halbert @CameronHalbert)

I can understand why DeBoer has been patient with the Sharks’ top power play unit. After all, they’re only one season removed from helping the club to a 22.5 percent success rate, third in the NHL, last season. But if these guys don’t get it going coming out of the bye week, something has to change. I was recently chatting with a former player that watches the Sharks on a regular basis, and he thinks it’s overdue that they alter the units. 

The guy I’ll be watching – again, coming out of the bye week – will be Thornton. A well respected Eastern Conference scout told me last week that he thinks Thornton’s hands are starting to go a bit, which is only natural for a 37-year-old. That’s been most evident on the power play. It would be an eye-opening move, but perhaps it’s time to give Hertl a chance on that top unit in place of Thornton for at least a game or two, just to see how it looks. The team will need more from the power play in the postseason than it's shown so far.

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.