Sharks

Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks biggest news of week in Bay Area sports

Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks biggest news of week in Bay Area sports

The biggest news of the week – and here we emphasize “news” in its classic sense, as an event outside our current expectations or a new development on an old subject – was not the Warriors’ crazed money-burning, or the Giants’ sudden application of proper baseball techniques to a recognizable end.
 
It was Patrick Marleau leaving San Jose for, of all places, Toronto. It violated every assumption we made of the man and his market while on a secondary level making perfect sense.

[RELATED: Iguodala shares 'a gem' when it comes to gaining free-agent leverage]
 
Andre Iguodala got a new deal, which was one million dollars per annum and one year longer than we thought the Warriors would be comfortable giving. Stephen Curry signed for the most money a fellow in his position could receive (though not nearly as much as he is worth, both to his organization and to the NBA as a whole). Kevin Durant agreed to defer his humongous payday for a bit, by a bit.
 
And the Giants caught a foundering Colorado team and a very Pittsburgh’y Pirate team at the right moment for their fading self-esteem, while making a lot of little roster moves that suggest a surreptitious rebuild that nobody believes the management would ever stand.
 
But it is Marleau, who did 18 years as a Shark, going to Toronto for three years and $18.75 million that was the biggest surprise – especially after his bosom mate, Joe Thornton, agreed to a one-year deal to stay.
 
And nobody saw that coming.
 
Marleau was a peculiarly great player in that he never seemed to fully satisfy. His skills were hailed but his consistency in exhibiting them was sometimes in doubt. He was, in that way, a bit like talented centers in the NBA, who are always judged by what we think they should always be able to do and what they actually end up doing.
 
His numbers are Hall of Fame quality, especially now that Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the HOF, but he lacks the signature moment or moments that define the word of mouth that helps make such a career. To this day, he befuddles people who learn that he scored 40 goals only once and achieved 90 points no times at all. He finished in the top three for a postseason award only once (the 2006 Lady Byng for being no trouble to anyone) and played in only three All-Star Games, and yet his numbers when compared to his fellow players puts him a group of second-level Hall of Famers with Ron Francis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Frank Mahovlich and Gilbert Perreault.
 
It also does not help him that he played for a franchise that is defined in part by its postseason underachievements. Nor, for that matter, that he was always the guy who avoided the limelight or attention on a team that needed all the sparks it could get in a crowded entertainment field. He was very good at being “there” while being virtually undetectable.
 
And his new destination is the hockey media capital of the universe, where nothing he does (or does not do) will go undissected, and the privacy he and his family so cherished in California will be a thing of the past. He will not be under a microscope as much as under a magnifying class as wielded by a bully who likes burning things, especially when you consider that he will be a 40-year-old when his contract enters its final year.
 
In other words, he went to the place where the radar doesn’t let anything fly beneath it. He is taking center stage after decades of having been used to working in the wings, at a time when most players appreciate less notice rather than more.
 
So in all these ways and probably dozens more only he knows, Marleau the Leaf is an amazing development, and at only one-third the Iguodala price and one-tenth that of Curry.
 
In other words, sometimes the biggest news comes at a bargain. Not always, but for Patrick Marleau, that seems to be the one thing that does make sense about this seemingly nonsensical bit of real news.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

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USATSI

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.