Sharks

NHL veterans likely to resist lengthy lockout

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NHL veterans likely to resist lengthy lockout

One of the prevailing philosophies surrounding the collective bargaining negotiations is that those players that suffered through the lost season of 2004-05 wont want to risk losing another years salary in their all-too-brief careers.

Thats one of the biggest reasons I still think that any potential lockout wont last more than a few weeks, or a month at the most, despite all of the rhetoric being spewed from both sides on Wednesday. At some point, the NHLs veterans and elder statesmen will step in and make sure a deal gets done. There are myriad other reasons why another lost season doesnt seem likely to me, but that may be the biggest.

The group I speak of includes a number of players on the Sharks, like captain Joe Thornton, who reportedly made plans to play in Switzerland that were promptly shot down by his agent (and brother, John) on Thursday morning in an email to CSNCalifornia.com.

Thornton is set to make 7 million in 2012-13, but lost out on more than 6 million in 2004-05, when he was still under contract to Boston. Other names that were denied their gigantic salaries that season, and are still effective veteran players in the league today, include Jarome Iginla, Marty Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Alfredsson, Patrik Elias, Teemu Selanne and a pair of Thorntons teammates, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.

In other words, some of the more respected and successful players in recent NHL history.

Of the 20 guys on the Sharks that should be locks to make the opening night roster (as it stands currently), seven made their professional debuts before that lockout. The majority of players on San Jose and in the NHL werent affected at all in terms of dollars and cents, but the ones that were are among the games best players and leaders in the last decade.

Each of the seven players on the Sharks who saw a year of NHL eligibility go by the wayside has had a long and distinguished career. Some, like Boyle, are much closer to retirement and never again seeing a bi-weekly paycheck in the six figures. As much as the younger players and rising stars desire a CBA that allows them to continue making salaries that concurrently rise with league revenues, they cant ignore veterans that have helped grow the game to where it is today.

That means getting a deal done as quickly as possible.

Much like the players are trying to pit the big market teams against the small market teams by proposing expanded revenue sharing, the owners surely know that the longer a work stoppage lasts, the louder some of those veteran NHL voices will become. And they are voices that wont be easily ignored.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

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USATSI

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.