Sharks notes: Short season advantage, Bulls hockey etc.


Sharks notes: Short season advantage, Bulls hockey etc.

Although NHL labor talks appear stalled once again, there is still a decent possibility the league will open its doors again in December, provided an agreement is made within the next 10 days or so (go ahead and debate the likelihood of that amongst yourselves).

NEWS: No progress made

The Sharks have eight players playing competitively overseas -- Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Antti Niemi, Jason Demers, TJ Galiardi, Douglas Murray, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski; and two more, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus, that are practicing with professional clubs. In fact, only the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins have more players (nine) in leagues in Europe.

Logic would dictate that those teams will have a competitive advantage once the season starts, since training camp isnt going to be more than a week to 10 days if things ever get going.

I asked Clowe if that could help the Sharks out of the gate in a potential shortened season.

It will help. Ive talked to a guy like Demers, and hes playing a lot and playing well over there (in Finland). Thats great for him, especially at this stage of his career. Same with a guy like Galiardi.

All around the league is going to be the same. Youre going to get guys that have been playing, guys that havent played in awhile, guys that are just practicing like I am. Youre going to get these guys at different stages. Its going to take awhile to feel guys out, but I dont feel any team really has an edge.

As expected, Clowe didnt suit up for either of the San Francisco Bulls two home games over the weekend after officially signing with the ECHL club one week ago. Instead, the 30-year-old veteran served as an assistant coach in the Bulls 4-1 win over Stockton on Friday, which ended a seven-game losing streak, and a 7-0 loss to Ontario on Saturday.

Bulls defenseman Theo Peckham, an NHL defenseman with the Edmonton Oilers, made his home debut on Friday while former Shark Devin Setoguchi potted a pair of goals for Ontario on Saturday. The match made some news across the blogosphere for reasons other than what happened on the ice, though, as the Zamboni broke down in the second intermission, requiring the players to help push it off the ice (via Puck Daddy).

Minor league hockey, baby.

While the Bulls have struggled on the ice with just a 3-8-0-2 mark, last in the 23-team league with a .308 percentage, they are drawing respectable crowds. Through their first three games, 18,818 fans have witnessed Bulls hockey in the renovated Cow Palace.

After a visit to Ontario on Wednesday, the Bulls return home for three home games in three nights, beginning on Friday.

Sharks assistant general manager Wayne Thomas has been lending his support to the Bulls during the lockout, appearing at practice a handful of times to work with goaltenders Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson. Thomas, a former goaltender himself, also works with the Sharks netminders during the season.

Thomas was present on Thursday at the Cow Palace when Clowe had his first official skate with the Bulls. Its an interesting dynamic in that during the lockout, team representatives arent allowed to have any contact with current players. That means that Thomas really isnt allowed to interact with Clowe in any capacity.

When I asked Clowe about it, he quickly stated, Wayne and I arent talking. But, I never talk to him anyway. He was, of course, joking about that last part.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has spent some time in Worcester checking out the organizations prospects in the American Hockey League. The coaching staff and team management are taking turns flying across the country to monitor and get a close-up look at the players that could soon be a part of the NHL roster.

For McLellan, it offered him a chance to reflect on his own career, which was cut short due to injury.

I was in the minors in Springfield, Mass., and I remember driving away from the rink the day my career was over basically, McLellan told I just went back to the Springfield arena this past September and I looked at the parking spot where I was parked. It was such a reflection time.

Dan Rosen went on to ask McLellan if he still considered the Sharks a Stanley Cup contender.

"I'd like to think we are. I believe we can be. But we're at a point where we need to look each other in the eye coming back from the lockout -- and we're going to have to decide if we are going to be a Cup contender. With the personnel and the type of game we want to play, I think we can be, but collectively we need to make that decision and make it quickly."

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid


Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid


GLENDALE, Ariz.  — Logan Couture scored his team-best 11th goal to help lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton also scored and Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.


Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles


Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

Over the last three years, Brent Burns played with only one defensive partner more in a single season than he has with Joakim Ryan in 2017-18.

That partner, of course, is Paul Martin, who’s missed all but two games this season due to complications from offseason ankle surgery. Martin is set to miss yet more time after experiencing a setback in his recovery, although the injury is not related to his ailing ankle, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Martin’s absence, combined with the fact that Burns has gone 20 games without a goal this season, has naturally led to questions about whether their separation is causing Burns to struggle.

That’s not the case.

Burns is actually playing a bit better alongside Ryan than he was with Martin. In just over 257 minutes together at even strength, the Sharks have controlled 55.74 percent of the shot attempts with Burns and Ryan on the ice, according to Corsica Hockey, up from Burns and Martin’s 52.13 percent mark together.

The Sharks are attempting more shots than their opponents when Burns and Ryan play, they’re doing so at a higher rate. With Burns and Ryan on the ice, the Sharks are attempting nearly nine more shots per 60 minutes than when Burns and Martin together, and just over two more shots per 60 minutes are hitting the net.

As we’ve written about previously, Burns’ scoring struggles date back to the stretch run last season, when he was playing alongside Martin. It wasn’t Martin’s fault then, just as it’s not Ryan’s fault now.

The puck simply isn’t going in. Through 20 games this season, Burns has 82 shots on goal and zero goals. Through 20 games in his Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Burns had 83 shots on goal and seven goals.

It’s not like Burns was super lucky then, either, as his 8.3 percent shooting percentage through 20 games last season was only one percent higher than his career average. Shooting at a zero percent clip after 20 games is, clearly, the outlier.

Together, Burns and Ryan have been more unlucky than anything else. When the two skate during five-on-five play, the Sharks are scoring on only 3.45 percent of their shots, much lower than the 8.26 percent San Jose scored on when Martin and Burns played together.

At 32 years old, it would be a stretch to expect Burns to match or exceed his heights from a season ago, but it would be an even bigger one to expect him to struggle much longer alongside Ryan. 

They've done everything right, they just haven't scored.