After stale start, Sharks have the need for Heed


After stale start, Sharks have the need for Heed

For the second straight day, defenseman Paul Martin missed practice, according to our own Brodie Brazil on Facebook Live.

Absence creates opportunity, and the beneficiary over the last two days was 26-year-old Swedish defenseman Tim Heed. Heed, who led the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda in scoring from the blueline last season, made the team out of camp as the seventh defenseman.

His track record from the AHL and an accomplished career in Sweden are impressive, but what Heed represents is arguably more important: A fresh approach.

Yes, Kevin Labanc is playing in a top-six role and fellow second-year forward Timo Meier made the team out of camp. Patrick Marleau’s gone, too, but for all intents and purposes, the roster that was bounced out in six games in the first round last spring has remained intact.

Through two games this season, things have already started to look stale.

The Sharks have only scored twice at even strength. The power play’s looked listless. The penalty kill’s bled chances. Martin Jones has struggled.

Head coach Peter DeBoer’s juggled the lines in an effort to change things up, but Heed’s potential entry into the lineup on Thursday against Buffalo represents a much realer opportunity for change.

Heed also skated on the first power play unit on Tuesday. His presence there fundamentally changes the approach of that group, which would feature two capable, puck-moving defensemen and three forwards, instead of the usual one and four.

It’s a much more notable difference than plugging Mikkel Boedker in for the departed Marleau. Such a revamp is probably also overdue, given San Jose’s drop from third to 25th in power play percentage last season. The previous approach hasn’t worked lately, and a subtly different one could get the power play going again.

Now, that’s not to overstate Heed’s importance. He skated with Brenden Dillon at practice on Wednesday, meaning he’ll begin the season on the third pairing. His potential may be considerably higher, but he’s currently a bottom pairing defenseman potentially set for some time on the power play. And, in all likelihood, he’ll leave the lineup once Martin’s healthy.

But for the first time this season, it feels like the Sharks are taking a different approach. Playing the youth is one thing, but deploying the roster differently has proven to be another. Heed could start to change that.

Alone, Heed won’t be enough to cure what’s ailed the Sharks so far. What he represents, though, just might be the start of what does.

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal


Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double


Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.