Sharks

Aftermath of Hansen-Goldobin trade shows risks of playing it safe

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AP

Aftermath of Hansen-Goldobin trade shows risks of playing it safe

When the Sharks traded prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a fourth-round pick to the Canucks for Jannik Hansen in February, they thought they were getting a player to put them over the top. 
 
Things didn’t work out entirely as planned, as the Edmonton Oilers eliminated San Jose in the first round, but Hansen was solid enough with seven points in 15 regular season games. He’s struggled to find that form this year.
 
Hansen skated on the third line at Friday’s practice ahead of Saturday’s rematch with his old club, according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, but he’s been surplus to requirements for much of his first full season in San Jose.
 
He was scratched for six consecutive games before re-entering the lineup in Wednesday’s loss to the Lightning, and hasn’t played more than 16 minutes in a game. The latter isn’t much of a concern, as the two-way forward was an acquisition to bolster the team’s depth, but his lone point in eight games this season is. 
 
The Danish forward, then, has been replaceable from night to night, in large part because the Sharks have so many forwards like him. Ryan Carpenter, Barclay Goodrow, and Joel Ward all play the “gritty, versatile” game that drove general manager Doug Wilson to acquire Hansen, and all three have played in Hansen’s absence. 
 
Meanwhile, his counterpart in the trade has also had difficulty cracking the NHL lineup with his new organization, but for vastly different reasons. Goldobin’s offensive ability has never been questioned, but his defensive game has. 
 
“We thought [Goldobin] had an average camp,” Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning told The Province after Goldobin was sent down to their AHL affiliate in Utica. “His three-zone game, his overall game (needs improvement).”
 
So far, the 22-year-old appears to have responded to that message. Ryan Johnson, Vancouver’s director of player development and Utica’s general manager, told Sportsnet 650 this week that he “[sees] the details in his game getting better,” all while Goldobin is ninth in the AHL in scoring with 13 points in 11 games. 
 
It makes one wonder why the Sharks couldn’t have been a little more patient with the former first-round pick. 
 
Goldobin clearly had a long way to go in the eyes of San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer, playing less than 19 minutes combined in two games with the Sharks last season. He may not have been ready to contribute to a team in win-now mode, but his departure left an organization starving for players with offensive upside even hungrier. 
 
Really, the Hansen-Goldobin swap was a neat encapsulation of the skillsets the Sharks value. Two-way responsibility is of the utmost importance, and that’s why San Jose is one of the NHL’s best defensive teams. 
 
But that can come at the expense of high-end skill, and that’s why they’re also one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams hovering around .500. With Goldobin traded, Kevin Labanc in the AHL, and Timo Meier skating in the Sharks’ bottom six, that shouldn’t be a surprise.  
 
When you value safety, you run the risk of failing to stand out. Since the trade, Hansen hasn’t, and neither have the Sharks. 

Sharks 'aren't panicking yet' after road trip ends with consecutive losses

Sharks 'aren't panicking yet' after road trip ends with consecutive losses

Like with all hockey seasons, it’s easy to get caught up with how a team plays in its first couple of games. If said team does well, they’re showered with praise. And if they falter… well, you get the idea.

Following that pattern, there has been concern about the Sharks after opening up the season 2-2-1, and losing back-to-back tilts by giving up third-period leads.

But according to San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer, his team isn’t going to get too far ahead of themselves.

“We’re not 0-6. We just finished a five-game road trip at 2-2-1,” the head coach told the media after Sunday's 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

The Sharks batted .500 on their early-season roadie, collecting five of a possible ten points. So while there’s no doubt a need for improvement, DeBoer said it’s too early in the season to hit the panic button.

“We aren’t panicking yet,” he continued. “We could’ve won every game we played.”

San Jose was, in fact, on the cusp of winning the last two games of the roadie. But trouble winning faceoffs and taking too many penalties have been their demise. It also doesn’t help that, outside of an 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, the Sharks are having trouble finding the back of the net. 

“We’re not scoring enough, that’s the bottom line,” DeBoer summarized. “We’ve got to find a way to get another goal a night, part of that is power play and part of that is five-on-five.”

The players, for their part, know that’s something they need to work on. Especially in light of losing a lead in the third period like they did on Sunday to the Devils.

“This team has the players to get the job done,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said.  

Team Teal has the opportunity to do so when they return to San Jose for a two-game stint at home. They kick things off hosting the Buffalo Sabres Thursday evening – a team that has won three of their first five games, but has work to do on tightening up their special teams and isn’t panicking just yet.

Just like the Sharks.

“Thankfully it’s only six games (into the season) where this is happening,” Logan Couture said of correcting some of the Sharks’ woes ahead of the homestand. “We have a couple days here to regroup and get ready for Thursday.”

Sharks' penalty kill, power play come up short in loss vs. Devils

Sharks' penalty kill, power play come up short in loss vs. Devils

In the final two games of their five-game road trip, the Sharks were dominant through two periods of play before losing the lead and losing by one goal. While Thursday's loss to the New York Rangers came in overtime and Sunday's 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in regulation, Joe Pavelski said those two games had a lot in common.

In fact, all of their losses thus far have had similarities.

“This game felt exactly like a couple other ones we’ve lost so far,” the Sharks’ captain told the media on Sunday. “They’re right there for us. A few chances, power play opportunities, all those certain situations.”

It’s not like those chances aren’t coming in bulk for San Jose. The Sharks created plenty scoring chances over the course of their five-game roadie, notching 40-plus shots in back-to-back tilts on Tuesday and Thursday, and getting their chances on special teams.

But through six games so far this season, San Jose isn't cashing in on those opportunities enough.

“We expect to win these,” Pavelski said of the road trip. “That’s why they’re frustrating.”

Special teams have been the topic du jour since the very start of the season. While the lack of production on the power play continues to grab headlines, the Sharks’ penalty kill got more attention after the team racked up eight penalties on Sunday. They were rung up twice on delay-of-game calls, and three times for high-sticking – including a double-minor on Erik Karlsson late in the third period.

While New Jersey only scored one goal on the man advantage, spending so much time on the kill clearly took some of the wind out of San Jose’s sails. 

“You’re not going to win on the road, or at home, taking eight minutes in high-sticking and four for shooting pucks over the glass,” coach Peter DeBoer commented after the game. “That’s twelve minutes in penalties that we’re playing short, at the end of a road trip, taxing our guys.

“We beat ourselves with the penalties. Just can’t do that.”

When the Sharks aren’t skating in and out of the penalty box, they still aren’t finding the back of the net on the man advantage either.

“We’re not scoring enough, that’s the bottom line,” DeBoer continued. “And we’re not getting enough saves too. It’s a bad combination.”

San Jose has a couple of days to turn that combination around before they face their next opponent. With the early road trip in the rearview mirror, the Sharks return home to work out the kinks and remedy their early season woes before they host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday evening.

“Thankfully it’s only six games [into the season] where this is happening,” Logan Couture said. “We have a couple days here to regroup and get ready for Thursday.”