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.

Sharks to open second round Thursday

game2.jpg
AP

Sharks to open second round Thursday

The Sharks know when they'll open the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. T

San Jose will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the second round at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 26 in Sin City, the NHL announced Tuesday. The league also announced start dates for the three other second-round series, but did not announce any games beyond that.

Game 2 will "likely" occur Saturday at 5 p.m, according to Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. 

Game 1 will be televised on NBCSN. Sharks Playoff Central will air on NBC Sports California at 6:30 p.m. leading up to puck drop, with a postgame edition to follow after the final horn on the same channel. 

Red-hot Sharks power play, Golden Knights penalty kill on collision course

pavelskijoeknightsgoalie.jpg
AP

Red-hot Sharks power play, Golden Knights penalty kill on collision course

The Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights were the first two teams to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The former's power play, and the latter's penalty kill were among the chief reasons why. 

This postseason, San Jose's power play (30 percent) and Vegas' penalty kill (92.3 percent) are third-best and best in the respective categories. The Sharks haven't played in nearly a week, but have still scored the second-most power play goals (six) in the first round as of Tuesday. The Golden Knights haven't played in exactly a week, and have still given up the fewer power play goals (one)  than every team, save for the Los Angeles Kings, who they swept in the first round. 

On the season, the San Jose power play and the Vegas penalty kill were among the better units in the league in terms of underlying numbers, but really improved down the stretch. Over their last 25 regular season games and the first round, the Sharks attempted shots (117.15 corsi-for per hour) and generated expected goals (9.13 expected goals-for per hour)) at rates that would have ranked second in each area on the whole season, according to Corsica Hockey.

During the Golden Knights' final 25 regular season games and first four playoff games, their penalty kill suppressed shot attempts (92.8 corsi-against per hour), shots (49.97 shots-against per hour), and expected goals (5.9 expected goals-against per hour) at rates that would have ranked second, fourth, and first, respectively, this past season.

In the first round, the results finally caught up to the underlying numbers for both teams. San Jose converted on only 13 percent of its power plays in the final 25 games of the regular season, while Vegas killed off 80.8 percent of its opponents' power plays. As is so often the case, the improvements were owed at least in part to better finishing and goaltending. 

The Sharks scored on 9.71 percent of their five-on-four shots down the stretch, compared to 14.71 percent in the first round. Marc-Andre Fleury posted a .952 four-on-five save percentage in the first round, compared to the .859 that he and backup Malcolm Subban combined for in the final 25 games. 

San Jose's power play and Vegas' penalty kill are red-hot, but those results are largely deserved based on each group's play down the stretch. Which unit has the edge just may swing the series, considering how tight the Sharks and Golden Knights played each other during the regular season. 

Three of four games were decided by a goal, and two went to overtime. The fourth was decided by two, only because of an empty-netter. 

The margins are so thin, including in the crease, that the outcome of this special teams battle could determine which team advances to the Conference Finals.