Sharks

Thornton, Marleau will have options if they don't return to Sharks

Thornton, Marleau will have options if they don't return to Sharks

There’s nothing new to report regarding the futures of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose, and it’s likely that it will remain quiet until the conclusion of the expansion draft on June 21, at the very least.

It will be a couple more weeks, then, before the will-they-or-won’t-they return question gets answered.

While the Sharks have to decide whether they want to bring one or both of the franchise cornerstones back, and at what cost, Thornton and Marleau will surely have options regardless of what San Jose potentially offers. Thornton is just one season removed from finishing fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy, while Marleau is coming off of a 27-goal season. Both want to keep playing and both will undoubtedly be in the NHL next season, in teal or otherwise.

Here are some potential landing spots for the pair if they don’t end up returning to the Sharks.

Joe Thornton, Nashville Predators

After coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup, and likely to be a contender for the next several seasons, the Nashville Predators might be looking for that extra piece to put them over the top. Ryan Johansen (who idolized Thortnton growing up) is firmly entrenched as the top center, but center and captain Mike Fisher is a pending free agent that may be headed for retirement. If Fisher hangs them up, the Predators will surely be in the market for a centerman to replace him.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that Thornton’s parents love Nashville, and often show up on the road when the Sharks visit the Music City. Maybe they could all celebrate a new contract on the rooftop at Tootsie’s.

Patrick Marleau, Anaheim Ducks

Marleau was open to joining the Ducks early in the 2015-16 season when he was disgruntled, something many longtime Sharks fans still like to ignore. The Sharks’ all-time leading scorer in a Ducks sweater? Impossible! 

If he prefers to stay close to home and the Sharks aren't an option, though, moving down the coast to Anaheim would obviously be a logical choice. The Ducks may be looking for a scoring winger after the expansion draft, too, as the speedy and durable Andrew Cogliano could be a target for the Golden Knights. Guess who else is speedy and durable?

Joe Thornton, Dallas Stars

The Stars are under new/old leadership, as head coach Ken Hitchcock is returning to his former home where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999. Hitchcock and Thornton seem to have a good relationship, as they’ve been together for three international tournaments, and this season they were spotted playfully jawing at one another before a Sharks morning skate in St. Louis.

Further, after the 2014-15 season when the Sharks were open to trading Thornton, the Stars were one of the teams interested. Although they’re coming off of a rough season Dallas still has some quality pieces in place, and with new goalie Ben Bishop it may have fixed its biggest issue. The Stars now need some defensemen to put in front of Bishop, but adding a depth center like Thornton to play behind Tyler Seguin would add more punch to their lineup, too.

Patrick Marleau, Vegas Golden Knights

Another option for Marleau to stay close would be the expansion Golden Knights. Vegas has an exclusive 48-hour window to speak with unrestricted free agents on June 18, before other NHL teams are permitted, so it could get a head start on making Marleau a generous offer. Adding a big-name guy like Marleau would help to give the team instant credibility, as hockey fans in Sin City surely know his name.

Frankly, the Sharks probably wouldn’t be all that upset if that happened. If Marleau signs with the Golden Knights during that exclusive window, Vegas isn't allowed to take anyone else off of San Jose’s roster.

Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins

Could a return to the team that drafted him and subsequently traded him to San Jose be in the cards for Thornton? Hockey-wise, it might be worth the Bruins to inquire about the services of their former captain, even if they are a bit cap-strapped.

While Patrice Bergeron is the top center in Boston and in the prime of his career, David Krejci had a bumpy season and young center Ryan Spooner is rumored to be on the trading block after he was a healthy scratch for a couple games in the first round of the playoffs.

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs

There may not be a head coach in the NHL fonder of Marleau than Mike Babcock, who pushed for Marleau’s somewhat surprising inclusion on the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. Recall back in Feb. 2015, too, when the then-Red Wings coach quipped: “Patty is a good, good man. If [the Sharks] don’t want him, just call us.”

Toronto is a team on the rise with some talented up-and-coming forwards. Perhaps bringing in a veteran of Marleau’s stature to push some of the younger depth guys for playing time makes sense, creating some internal competition among the group.

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

jones-martin-puck-goal.jpg
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

wild_beat_sharks_usatsi.jpg
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.