Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

In less than 48 hours, the two men most associated with the San Jose Sharks for more than a decade could be packing their bags. It’s nearly impossible to picture the Sharks without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but that may soon become a reality, as each player will be free to sign elsewhere at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

To be clear, the door hasn’t closed yet on either – or both – returning to San Jose. At the same time, there have been no indications that the Sharks are remotely close to coming to an agreement with either one. The chances that the Sharks announce anything with either player before Saturday’s opening bell are slim to none.

There will be concrete offers on the table from other teams to ponder, and based on reports since the window opened on Sunday for them to speak with other clubs, there will plenty of them.

In Thornton’s case, a recent report had the Los Angeles Kings in hot pursuit. That doesn’t mean the Kings are his most likely destination, just that more information leaked out of Southern California than anywhere else. You can be sure that there is plenty of interest elsewhere for Thornton’s services, and although he may prefer to stay close to the Bay Area if he doesn’t remain with the Sharks, other teams like the Rangers, Blues, Predators, Penguins or Maple Leafs might be more appealing.

As for Marleau, his name has been linked to the Ducks, Predators, Maple Leafs and Flames – with Calgary, especially, looking more like a potential fit as it’s driving distance from his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan – but, again, there are certain to be more teams than those listed that have inquired about his services.

In recent days, some credible national reporters have pointed out that Marleau returning to San Jose is of vital importance to Thornton, which is consistent with what we reported back on May 22. Frankly, it seems that not much has changed since that piece, as hopeful Sharks fans have come to realize there were never any back-room handshake agreements with the pair for after the June 21 expansion draft.

But it’s worth repeating that Thornton does, in fact, want to win with his longtime teammate by his side. 

Back on Jan. 14, 2014, when the Sharks announced three-year contract extensions for both, Thornton’s deal had been done for some time. He preferred to wait for Marleau’s to be done, too, so they could announce them on the same day. That’s further evidence of how much Thornton respects the longest-tenured Sharks player, and how he may only want to come back to San Jose if the Sharks get Marleau signed, too.

If that’s a hill that Thornton is willing to die on, it could mean they will both depart. Put another way, if the Sharks aren’t willing to extend multi-year offers to both Thornton and Marleau, it may be the end of an era.

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

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AP

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could not be more different in terms of tradition. But, on the ice this season, they couldn’t be more similar.

Both teams have placed their faith in a goalie that wears #31. The top defensemen on each team, Brent Burns and Shea Weber, are 32 and signed until 2025 and 2026, respectively. Tomas Hertl and Alex Galchenyuk are 2012 first round picks playing on the wing after being drafted as centers. Tomas Plekanec and Joe Thornton are favorites on the wrong side of 30, who may head elsewhere next summer.  Heck, both teams miss defenseman David Schlemko, who San Jose lost in the expansion draft and was eventually traded to Montreal, where he hasn’t yet played due to injury.

And both have struggled mightily so far. San Jose and Montreal have combined to win just two games, and sit 29th and 30th, respectively, in goals scored this season. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks and Canadiens scoring so little with all of that talent, but they can’t bank on good fortune, either.

Something’s got to give when the two face off at SAP Center tonight. After tonight, one team will feel much better about themselves, and the other team will be much closer to hitting the panic button.

That’s where the critical difference lies: Montreal’s already hit it, and San Jose probably won’t.

Last season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien in February. Seven months after essentially siding with Therrien and trading star defenseman P.K. Subban, Bergevin ended Therrien’s time in Montreal, too. He surely can’t fire another coach, but a Galchenyuk trade is reportedly a possibility, according to TSN.

The Sharks, on the other hand, likely won’t do any of that. Even with the burden of high expectations in his tenure, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s never traded away a star player or fired a coach midseason. Even though Vegas pegs Peter DeBoer as the odds-on favorite to lose his job, it’s hard to envision Wilson making a change behind the bench during the year. He didn’t in 2015 when Todd McLellan seemed to lose the room, so why would he now?

Patience is what truly separates the Sharks and Canadiens, and that difference will likely determine how each front office reacts if their teams continue to struggle. Wilson’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences under these circumstances. He acquired Joe Thornton in 2005, after all.

But if you’re waiting on Wilson to take a page out of Bergevin’s book and fire the coach or trade away a key piece approaching their prime? Don’t hold your breath.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.