Wilson, Burke talk draft strategy


Wilson, Burke talk draft strategy

PITTSBURGH Theyve hit their fair share home runs.

Recent draft picks like Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the early rounds, coupled with late finds like Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels has given the Sharks top-end, impact players as well as some rapidly developing youngsters.

There have been strikeouts, too. In 2003, the Sharks took Steve Bernier 16th overall, just ahead of players like Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler.

Recently, 2007 first round pick Nick Petrecki (28th overall) has spent the last three seasons in the minors, and a pair of NHL scouts recently told me he shouldnt even be considered an NHL prospect anymore.

Such is the nature of the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place over a two-day span beginning on Friday at Pittsburghs Consol Energy Center.

Theres always a degree of luck, but I think you create some of your luck, too, said Sharks scouting director, Tim Burke. I think its more our staff. Some scouts dont see everybody, but sometimes when they see a guy in their area theyre pushing hard for him, we have to go back out and look at him so they get some more support. Its more that, than anything else.

Doug Wilson said: Everybody works hard in this business, but what I like about the scouting staff is the healthy discussion. Burkie deserves the credit for that. Scouts have the opportunity to stand up and fight for their people.

With the pool of players so vast and so young, opinions can change almost overnight. Burke mentioned one player in this years draft, without using his name, as an example. Early on, the Sharks scouts were sky high about this particular player, but their evaluation of him quickly went the opposite direction.

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We got so excited on the guy early, it was like, how did you get to this point? Burke said. Youve got to look at the peaks and youve got to look at the valleys a little bit closer, or you get fooled. Theyre only 18 years old. There might have been something going on in his life.

The Sharks will stick with their philosophy of taking the best player available, as it's pretty unlikely the guy they take at 17 overall is ready to jump into the NHL right away. It typically takes three or four years of seasoning in junior hockey or the AHL before a draft pick is ready for The Show.

The kids are so young, by the time they are ready youve got a different need," Burke said. "It's different looking at it in hockey. In football, the kids are 22 years old. In hockey, not many guys play right away. Needs could change every year.

Since Wilson took over the Sharks just prior to the 2003 draft, the organization has had a generally strong run of success. In fact, Sharks selections have played more than 3800 combined games in the NHL (either for San Jose or another club), which is the most among Pacific Division teams and second only to the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference.

The club lists a staff of 11 scouts, several of whom scour North America and Europe looking for amateur talent. They file reports back to Burke, who oversees the operation and is the principle decision-maker when it comes to the draft.

We keep track of all the reports, where everybodys going and who theyre seeing and we cross check and have people go to tournaments, Burke said.

For the potential high round choices, Wilson is brought into the process.

Were looking at guys all year for different reasons to see if they keep improving or theyre going backwards. But certain guys that are important Wilson sees, and were all in it to make the decision. Some of the decisions, especially in the first round, you better be sure that everybodys on board about it.

That includes the interview, which takes place mainly at the scouting combine in early June and continues in the days leading up to the first round. Burke, 57, is in 15th season as head scout of the Sharks, and experience has served him well when it comes to that part of the process.

The interview, youve got to be careful sometimes, he said. The kid could come off as a real quiet, reserved kid, nervous around adults. Hasnt been in that environment before. And, he could fool you because hes a great interview but its all a bluff. You have to go back to who he is and what he does.

Wilson said: You have some players that are trained for the interview, or packaged for the combine. The work that really carries the most weight is what they see during the season. How players have played maybe in a tough situation.

The draft has become even more of an event recently than the NHL trade deadline, in terms of the opportunity to make drastic changes. So many teams are up against the salary cap in late February, or, with the recent penchant for parity, are still in the hunt. The past two NHL trade deadlines have been relatively quiet as a result.

If youre the GM of an NHL team looking to make a potentially extreme modification to your roster and there are several reports out there that the Sharks are trying to do just that theres no better time than now to do it.

Wilson, who admitted that hes in trade discussions, wont confess to any added pressure, though.

You want to start building your team in the offseason. It takes two sides to make a deal, obviously.

I think a lot of attention comes to today and the trade deadline, and a lot of attention on free agency beginning on July 1, but every day is an opportunity, and you plant seeds. Some deals and discussions take a long time to bring to fruition, but youre always looking at what your needs might be.

Youre trying to put your best team on the ice, and keep an eye on the future to refresh and replenish.

With Martin waived, holes in Burns' game are his to fix alone


With Martin waived, holes in Burns' game are his to fix alone

Defenseman Paul Martin cleared waivers on Tuesday, and will now get a chance to play regularly with the San Jose Barracuda as his agent and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson attempt to find a trade destination. While he’s in the minors, his former partner, Brent Burns, is now playing with the man that essentially took his spot.

Joakim Ryan has been the reigning Norris Trophy winner's most common defensive partner this year, and the rookie moved back to Burns’ side late in San Jose’s win over Arizona on Saturday. He skated alongside him again during Monday’s win in Los Angeles, and is set to do the same Tuesday against the Coyotes.

In just over 28-and-a-half minutes together at five-on-five play over the last two games, the Sharks controlled 57.89 percent of the shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick. They got favorable assignments, starting 73.33 percent of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone.

Despite this, the pair have given up a worrisome amount of scoring chances in their short reunion. 

In parts of two games together, the Sharks have attempted 46.67 percent of the scoring chances, and 38.46 percent of the high-danger scoring chances with the Wookiee and the rookie on the ice. That's eye-popping, for all the wrong reasons, and points to a larger concern. 

No matter who Burns has played with the Sharks have been largely out-chanced. With Burns on the ice this season, the Sharks have controlled 49.94 percent and 44.52 percent of the scoring chances and the high-danger chances, respectively, with a team-high 65.49 percent of his non-neutral zone shifts starting in the offensive zone.

When Burns has played with Ryan all season, the Sharks have controlled 52.05 percent of the scoring chances, but just 47.97 percent of the high-danger chances, despite starting 65.53 percent of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone. With Dillon, Burns' second-most common defensive partner, the Sharks have lost the scoring chance and high-danger scoring chance battle, despite starting in the offensive zone 63.35 percent of the time.

It should be no surprise the Sharks have been badly outscored with Burns on the ice at even strength, to the tune of 17 goals for and 38 goals against. With all due respect to Fetty Wap, you don't want to see that. 

No matter who he's played with, Burns has struggled defensively in 2017-18. The problem is that his partners haven't struggled nearly as much without him.

Without Burns, Ryan's shot attempt numbers are worse, but his scoring chance numbers are much better (57.55 percent of the scoring chances, 55 percent of the high-danger chances), despite starting more shifts in the defensive zone (51.39 percent offensive zone starts). Dillon's possession numbers, as well as his scoring chance numbers, are also better away from Burns, and he too starts more shifts away from the offensive zone. 

As a result, it'd be fair to question why the Sharks waived Martin. After all, he was Burns' partner as he ascended into the league's upper echelon of defenseman, right?

But Burns and Martin were ineffective together in limited minutes this season, getting out-possessed, outshot, and out-chanced despite favorable deployment (61.11 percent offensive zone starts). Plus, Burns was actually better away from Martin over the last two seasons, as the Sharks controlled a greater share of the shot attempts, shots, and scoring chances when Burns played with a different partner. 

Perhaps, with more time together, Burns and Martin would have rounded into their defensive form of the last two seasons. Now, one of Martin's skates is out the door, and it's foolish to expect significant improvement from two players on the wrong side of 30 regardless.

Paul Martin's imminent departure, then, should send a clear message to Brent Burns. His security blanket is gone, and it's on him alone to plug the holes in his defensive game. 

Sharks seal season series with win over Kings


Sharks seal season series with win over Kings


LOS ANGELES -- There's nothing like a visit with the Los Angeles Kings to get Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks on top of their game.

Chris Tierney had a goal and an assist, and Jones made 35 saves in the Sharks' third straight victory over their longtime rivals, 4-1 Monday.

Barclay Goodrow and Mikkel Boedker ended lengthy goal droughts for the Sharks, who built a three-goal lead during another strong game by Jones against his former Los Angeles teammates.

The goalie who won a Stanley Cup ring as Jonathan Quick's backup followed up his 2-0 win over the Kings at the Shark Tank on Dec. 23 with another near-shutout of Los Angeles. Jones improved to 9-3-2 in 14 career appearances against his former organization, but he spread the praise for a comprehensive win throughout the Sharks' lineup.

"It's easy to prepare for games against these guys, or any division game," Jones said. "We know what the standings are like, and what these games mean. We play well as a team (against the Kings). When we play in the offensive zone that much, it makes everybody's job easier."

Dylan DeMelo returned from a three-game injury absence with two assists for his second career multipoint game for the Sharks, who were in control from the opening faceoff of a rare matinee at Staples Center. Joonas Donskoi also had two assists, and Joe Thornton added an empty-net goal.

"You battle a bit more when you're playing a rival and a division team that's ahead of you in the standings," Tierney said. "That's what this team is built for, is playing those tight games where you try to lock it down."

Trevor Lewis ended Jones' shutout bid with 7:18 to play, but the Kings lost their fourth straight to match their longest skid of the season. Los Angeles has been outscored 8-3 in losses to its two California rivals since returning from the bye week last Saturday.

"We had some guys that were really off tonight," Los Angeles coach John Stevens said. "I don't know if the break affected us that way or not, but certainly something did. We've got to regroup here. I feel like we got some good efforts out of our key veteran guys, but they cannot do it on their own."

Darcy Kuemper stopped 29 shots in his first start since Dec. 16 for the Kings, who have slumped into third place after leading the Pacific Division for a good chunk of the season. With a 5-7-3 record in division play, LA is just one point ahead of the Sharks, who have two games in hand.

"It's tough. We were ahead of the pack for a while there, and now we're right in the thick of things," Lewis said. "We've just got to figure it out in a hurry here."

The Sharks went ahead just 4:38 in when the Kings lapsed on defense, allowing Donskoi to make a pass across the crease to an unchecked Tierney for his 11th goal into an open net.

Goodrow got his third goal of the season midway through the second period, converting DeMelo's rebound in the slot. The goal was his first since Dec. 7.

San Jose had an extra step on the Kings throughout the first two periods and nearly added to its lead in the closing seconds, but Los Angeles defenseman Christian Folinstopped a shot with his skate on the goal line.

Boedker added his first goal since Nov. 24 in the third period, ending a 12-game drought.

Lewis got help from Marian Gaborik in scoring his 11th goal. The grinding forward scored a career-high 12 goals last season while playing in all 82 games.

NOTES: Kuemper lost in regulation for the first time in his debut season with the Kings. He is 5-1-3. ... Quick got the day off for the Kings after nine consecutive starts. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner gave up three goals in LA's loss to Anaheim last Saturday. ... Sharks D Tim Heed was scratched in DeMelo's place.


Sharks: At the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.

Kings: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday in just their third game in 12 days.