Sharks

Recapping the past few weeks of the Sharks offseason

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AP

Recapping the past few weeks of the Sharks offseason

Hockey fans in the Bay Area know by now that Joe Thornton is returning to the San Jose Sharks and Patrick Marleau is not. That was the headline news coming out of free agency shortly after the calendar flipped to July.

Of course, the dog days of the NHL offseason kick in after that, without much news between 4th of July weekend and the start of training camp in September. General managers, front office staffs and, most importantly, hockey writers all squeeze in some significant vacation time during that period.

Still, there are always items of interest that pop up from time to time, so let’s briefly recap the notable announcements the Sharks have made over that span and what they mean.

July 3: Sharks name Rob Zettler assistant coach

What it means: The Sharks were in need of a replacement for Bob Boughner, who left Pete DeBoer’s staff to join the Florida Panthers as their new head coach. Zettler, a former Sharks defenseman as well as an assistant coach under Ron Wilson, will oversee the defense and penalty kill, as Boughner did.

Zettler, of course, will work with Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns. Burns and Boughner had a special relationship, and Boughner told me at the NHL draft in Chicago how thrilled he was for Burns taking home the award as the league's top defenseman. Coaching Burns can be no easy task at times, so Zettler will likely have his hands full right away.

July 4: Sharks sign Brandon Bollig

What it means: From the NHL team’s perspective, probably not much, as Bollig is not expected to make the Sharks roster. Instead, he’ll bring some muscle to the AHL Barracuda. 

Still, don’t be shocked if he makes a handful of appearances in the big club’s lineup. Now that Michael Haley has moved on to Florida, Bollig could be an asset in a physical or nasty regular season matchup against a division rival like Los Angeles, Anaheim or Edmonton.

July 13: Sharks re-sign Chris Tierney to one-year deal

What it means: It was odd that the Sharks, according to a source, didn’t want to negotiate with Tierney after qualifying him as a free agent. The former second round pick got just a modest raise, and will be a restricted free agent again next summer.

The message, therefore, is clear: Tierney had better come to camp in tip-top shape, and ready to prove that he is deserving of a bigger role and a multi-year contract. If he struggles from the outset, he could end up getting pushed out of the lineup by someone like Ryan Carpenter.

July 18: Sharks re-sign Marcus Sorensen to two-year deal

What it means: Sorensen is in a great position to make the opening night roster, and should have some confidence from the way he performed in the first round against Edmonton. Training camp will dictate whether that happens, but I would surmise at this point he’s penciled into the opening night lineup. 

Is Sorensen ready to take the next step, or will be go backwards like Joonas Donskoi did last season?

July 19: Sharks to host prospect showcase

What it means: For the die-hards and us beat reporters, this sounds like a pretty cool event. The Sharks will host a three-team round robin tournament with prospects from the Avalanche, Coyotes and Ducks from Sept. 9-12, at Solar4America Ice at San Jose (a.k.a. Sharks Ice).

Yes, that means we’re exactly one month away from hockey. Rosters and information on how to attend will be announced closer to the event.

July 26: Sharks name Dave Barr assistant coach

What it means: This announcement was a bit of a surprise, as the Sharks brought in another body to serve on their coaching staff in the 56-year-old Barr. A former assistant with DeBoer in New Jersey, Barr will serve as the “eye-in-the-sky” for the club. Previously it was Johan Hedberg who did that, so I imagine Hedberg will now move behind the bench.

Barr, who has spent the last nine seasons coaching in the NHL with New Jersey, Buffalo, Minnesota, Colorado and most recently Florida, could also bring a different perspective to the power play. The Sharks finished 25th in the league on the power play last season, a number they will surely have to improve this season.

August 7 – Sharks re-sign Barclay Goodrow to two-year deal

What it means: Goodrow is a nice piece to keep in the system, as he’s a big body that has some skill. Whether his game can translate to the NHL full-time remains to be seen, but Goodrow nearly made the team out of camp last season before having a strong year with the Barracuda. 

Although he’s probably behind guys like Sorensen, Carpenter and Timo Meier on the depth chart, Goodrow will be a player to watch in training camp. He could push for a spot on the fourth line.

Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles

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AP

Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles

For just the third time this season, the Sharks scored three goals for the third consecutive game in Sunday night’s loss to the Wild. San Jose’s scored 13 goals in the last three games, which is a dramatic improvement for one of the league’s lowest-scoring offenses.

Sunday also marked the fourth time in the last five games the Sharks, one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, allowed four goals. All four have come in starts by Martin Jones since he returned to the crease on Dec. 2.

San Jose’s looked poor defensively in front of Jones following his return, and it’s been difficult to fault him on many of the goals. The Sharks’ defensive numbers over his last four starts match the eye test.

Normally, 21.66 percent of the shots Jones faces in five-on-five situations and 26.9 percent of the shots he faces in all situation are of the ‘high-danger’ variety, according to Corsica Hockey. Over his last four starts, those numbers are 29.90 percent and 32.23 percent, respectively.

But Jones also has not been up to his usual standards. At even strength this season, his high-danger save percentage is .798, and .821 in all situations.

Over the last four games, those numbers have fallen significantly. His high-danger save percentage at even strength is over seven points lower (.724), and nearly 13 points lower in all situations (.692).

So the Sharks, essentially, have allowed a higher share of high-danger shots in Jones’ first four starts after coming back from injury. Jones, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to offset that increase.

It’s unclear whether that increase, or Jones’ own performance, deserves a larger share of the blame. It’s clear, however, that the Sharks can’t expect to win if either trend continues.

San Jose’s remained in playoff contention this season because of their defense. As they’ve struggled to score, they’ve prevented their opponents from scoring, and won games on the backs of stingy defensive efforts.

The assumption with the Sharks was that, so long as their defensive effort remained level, an offense rounding into form would allow them to climb up the standings. The former’s gotten worse, and the Sharks are struggling more than their record would indicate.

Since Jones returned, San Jose is 2-2-1, and 1-2-1 in his starts. That mark could very easily be 0-2-2 or 0-3-1, if not for a three-goal comeback against the Hurricanes.

That’s worrisome ahead of one of the most vital stretches of the season. San Jose’s next six games are against divisional opponents, and they have an opportunity to gain significant ground in the division.

That opportunity will be wasted if the Sharks defense, and Jones, aren’t able to tighten up.

 

Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

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USATSI

Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Nino Niederreiter scored 3:26 into overtime and the Minnesota Wild beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Sunday night after squandering a three-goal lead.

Eric Staal scored twice and Ryan Murphy added a goal as the Wild extended their winning streak over the Sharks to four games.

Tomas Hertl tapped in a loose puck for San Jose with five minutes left in regulation to tie it at 3.

Hertl's goal followed a furious Sharks attack that Wild goalie Alex Stalock was able to fend off until a shot from Dylan DeMelo bounced off his shoulder pads and into no man's land just above the crease.

Brent Burns scored twice for the Sharks, who had won five of seven.

Stalock made 31 saves in his first appearance against his former team. Martin Jones stopped 20 shots for the Sharks.

The Wild, winners in four of their last five games, scored twice in the first 10 minutes. A series of sharp passes set up Murphy for a power-play goal just more than four minutes in. Staal sent a pass to Jason Zucker behind the net and he found Murphy for a 1-on-1 score.

Staal's first goal came after Ryan Suter recognized an advantage when Burns ran into Jones, knocking him off his feet. Suter delivered a pass to Staal, who easily fired it over Jones.

Early in the second period, Staal was able to push the puck through Jones' skates for a 3-0 Wild lead.

Burns got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a power-play goal during a two-man advantage late in the second period. Burns scored again on a power play with a slap shot from just inside the blue line midway through the third, his 12th multi-goal game.

NOTES: Sharks forward Jannik Hansen appeared in his 600th NHL game. ... Burns has six points in his last three games, including three goals. ... Murphy scored his first goal in 69 games. ... Staal had his second multi-goal effort in five games. ... Wild forward Jason Zucker has points in eight of his last nine games.

UP NEXT

Wild: Open a three-game homestand against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Sharks: Begin a three-game road trip in Calgary on Thursday.