Nash gone, what's next for Sharks?


Nash gone, what's next for Sharks?

The Rick Nash saga is over, ending on Monday when he was traded by the Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers for a moderate-at-best return of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick.
RELATED: Jackets trade Nash to Rangers

Its not all that surprising when you consider the report here last week that the Sharks and Blue Jackets hadnt spoken in months about the winger, who had San Jose on his list of acceptable destinations. Columbus insisted on Logan Couture, the Sharks said no, and that was that. The Rangers appeared to be the only viable option the Blue Jackets had left.

So what happens now for San Jose?

The most likely answer may benothing major. At least for now.

Those hoping Doug Wilson would play the role of Ty Pennington and give the roster an extreme makeover are probably a bit disappointed at the moment despite some nice moves by the club this offseason. The Sharks were able to trade for and sign veteran d-man Brad Stuart; brought in a pair of veteran assistant coaches, including the highly respected Larry Robinson; added some personality and grit with forward Adam Burish; and locked up young and improving defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to a long-term deal at a very reasonable price.

Still, a core group that hasnt been able to take that necessary extra step to the Stanley Cup Final, remains. And, in fact, the Sharks took a pretty big step backwards in 2011-12 with an inconsistent regular season and first round defeat to the St. Louis Blues, who were then swept in the second round by Los Angeles.

While there are some big name forwards left in the free agenttrade market Shane Doan, Alex Semin and Bobby Ryan are at the top of the list dont expect San Jose to be in the running for any of those players.

The unrestricted free agent Doan has already made it be known his preference is to stay in Phoenix, and has reportedly given former Sharks executive Greg Jamison until Friday to see if he can make some more progress or get close to finalizing the sale, according to the Phoenix Business Journal (via Doan has already visited with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, and as of Tuesday, had no other visits scheduled.

Furthermore, after snagging Nash, the Rangers seem much closer to a Stanley Cup than do the Sharks. Doan is undoubtedly looking for a team that has a chance to win it all, and the Rangers may now be the preseason favorites after making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

As for Semin, also unrestricted and a former 40-goal scorer just three seasons ago, he simply wouldnt be a good fit in the Sharks locker room even if they were willing to dish out the likely 5-6 million per season that would be necessary to sign him. Wilson has already said he would like to change the Sharks identity next season and see his team play a more aggressive style.

In fact, the day they signed Burish, Wilson said: Were trying to re-establish our identity of going at people, and playing that way.

Semin wouldnt help in that regard, and the fact he hasnt seemed to generate all that much interest around the league this late in free agency, suggests that the questions about his desire to win may be valid.

Turning to Ryan, who has been on the block for what seems like forever now, Ducks GM Bob Murray would never trade him to a division rival, and his hometown of Philadelphia is probably Ryans likeliest destination at this point if he gets moved.

As for the rest of the trade market, the Sharks dont have many options there, either. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Marty Havlat and Michal Handzus all have some form of a no-trade clause, while Dan Boyles limited no-trade clause kicked in on July 1. The remaining players that are fair game, at least among the forwards, are the kind of players that the Sharks would probably not have any interest in moving. Joe Pavelski is coming off of a career-high in goals with 31 and has a cap-friendly hit of just 4 million over the next two seasons, while Ryane Clowe, despite a down year last year, is still among the teams more vocal leaders in the locker room and embodies that "go after them" style that Wilson is talking about more than anyone else.

It was reported last week by CBCs Elliotte Friedman that Boyles name is generating some interest around the league, but moving Boyle wouldnt seem to make much sense for the Sharks as we discussed here a few weeks ago. Sure, hes at the back end of his career and has a hefty 6.67 million price tag for the next two seasons, but the 36-year-old blueliner was arguably the Sharks best defenseman in the second half of last year and helped to quarterback the second-ranked power play in the NHL.

Collective bargaining agreement questions are also likely to quell any more big paychecks from San Jose, which was one of the few teams after the previous lockout with the room to acquire a hefty contract like Thorntons from Boston. Its very possible the Sharks will give their current group one more shot at it this season before exploring the UFA or trade market more aggressively in 2013, when other teams may be looking to shed salary to fit under what may be a much lower cap.

In other words, if youre waiting for that big summer splash it could be a year away.

Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form


Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

The Sharks witnessed firsthand the emergence of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native Nathan Mackinnon as a legitimate superstar in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Naturally, their reward is to face the NHL's first superstar from the area on Saturday. 

And of course, much like Mackinnon, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is playing some of the best hockey of his career. 

In 2018, no player has scored more points than the three-time Stanley Cup champion (15). In fact, three of the top five scorers in the new year skate in the Steel City: Evgeni Malkin is tied for third with 13 points, and Phil Kessel is right behind him in a tie for fifth with 12 points. 

The trio has powered the Penguins to a three-point lead on the Eastern Conference's final Wild Card spot. As recently as New Year's Eve, though, the Penguins were seventh place in the loaded Metropolitan Division, and three points back of the postseason. 

It was always a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' Pittsburgh would turn it on. Fatigue was always a possibility, as the back-to-back champions have played at least 13 more postseason games (49) than any other team in the league over the last two seasons, but any concerns seem firmly in the rearview mirror at the moment. 

The same cannot necessarily be said about the Sharks, whom the Penguins dispatched in six games in San Jose's first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Yes, they've won three out of four since the bye week, but haven't played all that well in the process.

Two of those wins came against the lowly Coyotes, and San Jose has barely out-possesed their opponents (50.74 five-on-five corsi-for percentage; 51.22 fenwick-for percentage, according to Corsica Hockey). They're scoring nearly a goal more per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.69) than before the bye (1.85), but are allowing nearly one-and-a-quarter more goals (3.58 five-on-five GA/60) than before the bye week (2.24).

The latter is, at least in part, because Martin Jones is not playing well. The Conn Smythe-like form that kept the Sharks in it against the Penguins two Junes ago has largely eluded him this season, and injury may have played a part. 

Jones is day-to-day with a minor injury, according to the Bay Area News Group's Paul Gackle, and the team recalled goaltender Troy Grosenick from the San Jose Barracuda on Friday as a result. That leaves Aaron Dell in net as the last line of defense against the Penguins. 

With Pittsburgh looking a lot like the team that celebrated a Stanley Cup win on San Jose's home ice two postseasons ago, stopping them will be a tall task. 

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture


DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now.