Sharks

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

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NBC Sports Bay Area

Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

The Sharks are in Vegas Thursday night for Game 1 of their Round 2 matcup with the Golden Knights. And Evander Kane has something to say. Or as Kane is better known by his real friends, Alan Garner.

Kane, no longer a lone wolf, scored three goals and one assists in the Sharks' Round 1 sweep of the Ducks. He agrees where he stands in this wolf pack too. 

Game 1 starts Thursday night with puck drop at 7 p.m. Pregame coverage starts with Sharks Playoffs Central at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports California. 

Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas

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AP

Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas

Either the Sharks or Golden Knights will take the Stanley Cup.

That’s what history suggests.

Both teams swept their prior rounds, which has only happened seven times before. 

And in six of those seven instances… the winner of this dual-post-sweep series has gone on to hoist the Cup.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. 

But entering this Round 2 series, there are no shortage of hopes and storylines on both sides.

1: There could be some rough beginnings on both sides.

Hockey players aren’t programmed to have seven days off between games.  The Sharks and Golden Knights will be resuming game action after their longest respective layoffs since last summer.  Does one team suffer from rust more than the other?  Does everybody go back to feeling normal after 20 minutes?  Timing, hands, lungs and legs are all bound to be affected by the inability to replicate game speed in respective practice sessions.  That’s just about the only thing we DO know.

2: There’s an unbelievable goalie matchup in this series.

In Round 1, Martin Jones allowed only four goals with one shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed three goals and pitched two shutouts.  How can anyone rightfully predict a high scoring series here in Round 2?  Logan Couture called Jones, “…a great goaltender that no one talks about”.  On the other side is Marc-Andre, formerly of Penguins fame.  He’s got three Stanley Cup rings, but is largely not credited for the last two.  After being exposed by Pittsburgh in the expansion draft, Fleury has the fresh start with a storybook team that any goaltender would dream of.

3: The adversity factor.

It’s not how you take defeat, it’s how you respond the next time.  Losing a playoff game (especially in multiple overtimes) can be mentally deflating.  And it is something that one side will experience on Thursday night for the first time.  Short memories are imperative here in the second season.  We know the Sharks (largely together for several years) have been through that kind of situation many times before.  We also know the Golden Knights (as an expansion team) have individual experience, but have never really had to rebound as a group.  Think about this, their longest losing skid even in the regular season was ONLY three games (twice).

4: If you’re the Sharks, stay the course.

San Jose looked really good in their first four games.  Not just getting winning results, but actually seeming to further galvanize as the series progressed.  Far as matchups with Vegas and all the small tinkering a Head Coach could possibly do… there is no better way for Pete DeBoer to start his Round 1 lineup card, than exactly how he ended it in Round 1.  His (amusing) quote in a press conference gives the best perspective: “We just won four straight against a great hockey team and I’d be an idiot to make lineup changes. We’ll let you guys overthink that. Make as many lineup changes as you want… but unless we find it necessary, why would you mess with how we’re playing right now?”

5: Maybe this is the start of something beautiful?

What if the Sharks remain a perennial powerhouse in the Pacific Division, and the Golden Knights are more than just an inaugural season surprise?  Wouldn’t it be outstanding if San Jose and Las Vegas could cultivate a long-standing future rivalry that truly began with this Round 2 series in 2018?  No offense to Los Angeles or Anaheim, but we’ve been down those roads many times before.  Finding a new team that you love to hate is almost a gift in itself.