Sharks

All-Star Tomas Hertl doing best to keep Sharks' spirits up through struggles

All-Star Tomas Hertl doing best to keep Sharks' spirits up through struggles

Sharks forward Tomas Hertl is all set for his debut at NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.
 
“A huge accomplishment, it will be a big honor for me,” Hertl -- who is taking the place of injured San Jose captain Logan Couture -- recently said.
 
While he is on pace for a good statistical season, it's nothing like last year when Hertl potted 35 goals and 74 points.
 
This time around, the fun-loving forward is on a Sharks club that’s looking like a longshot to qualify for the playoffs.
 
“I still try to be positive, the smiley guy, the funny guy,” Hertl explained.
 
He also acknowledged those smiles and uplifting moments have been few and far between this season, but they are still significantly better than the alternative.
 
“It’s the only way I think to help it,” Hertl stated. “It gets too much in your head. Everybody will be in a bad mood. I try my best to bring it every day, a good mood in the locker room.”
 
There are widespread assessments as to what's at the root of the Sharks' struggles this season. For Hertl, it’s the defensive failures that bleed over into trying to create too much.
 
“When we start cheating, we just can’t do it,” Hertl said. “Maybe on other teams, they have different players. On our team, it has to start with defense.
 
“I think we’ve proven it over the last lot of years. There’s always the stat of ‘two-or-fewer’ goals, we always win those games. We know that and we've always been the team that’s tough against.”

[RELATED: Key storylines to watch through remainder of Sharks' season]
 
While Hertl’s second NHL season saw San Jose’s rare miss of the postseason, he has never been with the club in a year like this where things already look so bleak entering the All-Star break.
 
“We have to step it up, and just play together," he said. "Because only the team together can win the games.”

Evander Kane's suspension shows NHL needs more consistency on safety

Evander Kane's suspension shows NHL needs more consistency on safety

As the saying goes: "Video doesn’t lie," which is among several reasons why Evander Kane likely still is fuming regarding the three-game suspension he received Saturday.

Almost exactly one year prior, the Sharks forward suffered a similar headshot from Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

Not only did the hit go unpenalized, there was no hearing and no corresponding discipline. Kane missed the next several games due to injury
 
It begs the question: What does the league’s Department of Player Safety see differently here? Both plays and hits do indicate that heads were similarly targeted. If Kane was guilty, then so was Chara and vice versa. And that’s just one of a dozen easy comparisons that come to mind.
 
This is not a piece suggesting the NHL has a vendetta against San Jose. It is a plea for the NHL to gain consistency in what it calls a penalty, a fine and a suspension.
 
Currently the league distributes video explanations of all suspendible plays, complete with narration and multiple replay angles. One huge way to increase transparency, would be to publicize similar documentation of plays and hits that were deemed not suspendible.
 
This would serve two main purposes. First, it publicly acknowledges that the league did actually review and audit a controversial action in question. Sometimes it feels like those who distribute the discipline only conveniently appear when they need or want to.  

[RELATED: Kane blasts 'ridiculous' NHL Player Safety discipline]
 
Secondly, it would help all of us gain a better understanding of what their standards are. At present, little is predictable. Players, coaches, broadcasters ... anyone involved with the games can trust what their eyes see, but not know exactly how the league will respond.
 
Until rules are consistently enforced with minimal wiggle room, players will continue to take their chances on calculated risks. And everyone else will be confused by a library of dangerous plays on social media, which don’t equally add up in suspensions.

How Sharks can benefit from Erik Karlsson injury at NHL trade deadline

How Sharks can benefit from Erik Karlsson injury at NHL trade deadline

The Sharks undoubtedly would prefer if both players were healthy, but San Jose can take advantage of Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson's season-ending injuries. 

Hertl already is on long-term injured reserve after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee last month, and Karlsson should soon join him after breaking his thumb. That puts the Sharks in a unique position heading into the trade deadline, as the fine folks at Cap Friendly observed Saturday. 

The Sharks were 11 points back of the Western Conference's final wild-card spot as of this writing, with four teams between them and the Arizona Coyotes. San Jose also doesn't own a 2020 first-round pick as a condition of the Karlsson trade, and its prospect pool is considered to be one of the weakest in the NHL. It would make a lot of sense, then, for the Sharks to take on -- or retain -- salary in exchange for prospects and/or picks. 

There are a host of playoff contenders lacking salary-cap space, as Cap Friendly noted. The Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames currently all have fewer than $3 million in space, per Cap Friendly. Trading with a Pacific Division rival might prove difficult, but Sharks general manager Doug Wilson should be able to field calls from the likes of the Florida Panthers ($141,250 in current space), Philadelphia Flyers ($2.08 million), Washington Capitals ($2.45 million), Dallas Stars ($2.93 million), Boston Bruins ($3.12 million) and Pittsburgh Penguins ($3.51 million), among others. 

Finding a contract is another matter entirely. The Stars could trade injured center Martin Hanzal, but he already is on LTIR. It's difficult to envision the Panthers trading pending free-agent winger Mike Hoffman or the Capitals dealing soon-to-be free-agent goalie Braden Holtby for salary relief, let alone when you consider both players' trade protection (and Hoffman's history with Erik Karlsson).

The Bruins would love to trade David Backes, but he won't become a free agent until 2022 and can't be placed on LTIR after Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted Backes was "fit and able to play" after being waived. Wilson said he wants the Sharks to contend in 2021, and they can't afford to have another $5 million against the cap considering how many players have signed long-term contracts in the last few years. 

[RELATED: Why Hannan sees silver lining in Karlsson injury for Sharks]

Retaining salary seems to be a likelier option. The Sharks' pending free agents all have manageable contracts, but defenseman Brenden Dillon -- rumored to be one of the top blue liners available -- could be more appealing if teams aren't taking on all $3.275 million of his salary-cap hit. 

The trade deadline now is just over a week away, and the Sharks probably won't be buyers as a result of Hertl and Karlsson's injuries. They'll still be in an advantageous position, however, and Wilson has a chance to start re-stocking San Jose's pool of prospects and draft picks.