Sharks

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

meier-timo-white-face.jpg
AP

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.

Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

After the Sharks' losing streak hit four games in a 4-2 loss to the cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Kings, defenseman Brent Burns summarized it best to reporters in L.A.

“Every loss is doomsday, and every win feels good.”

Unfortunately for the Sharks, that doesn’t make Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Kings sting any less.

With the defeat, the Sharks matched their season-long losing streak at four games – against the second-worst team in the entire NHL, no less. San Jose even entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, having taken over the pace of play in the second stanza and hemming even the Kings' best players in their own end.

Then, the Kings scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to emerge victorious. 

Meanwhile, the two Pacific Division teams bookending the Sharks in the standings – the Calgary Flames and the Vegas Golden Knights – are both on hot streaks and kept winning on Thursday while Team Teal was in L.A.

Nobody’s going to sugarcoat it – the Sharks know they have to be better.

“It’s a wake-up call for us,” center Tomas Hertl said. “We have to be ready because we have just eight games left. We saw how Calgary is playing right now, and we have to step it up.”

As if the Sharks weren’t already desperate for a win after dropping three straight contests, they got some bad news just before pregame warmups that center Logan Couture was a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms. With captain Joe Pavelski and defenseman Erik Karlsson already out, San Jose needed someone else to fill that void. 

“It’s always tough when you’re missing players like that,” Hertl said. “But we have a lot of skill and we didn’t improve (on) it today.”

Coach Peter DeBoer doubled down on not making excuses for big players being out of the lineup.

“You got to win this game anyway,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to find a way. Someone’s got to step up and be a first star. You’ve got to get a great performance from somebody in a game like this and I don’t think we got that.”

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

With only eight games left in the regular season, San Jose needs to right the ship before embarking on a playoff run.

Getting Couture, Pavelski, and Karlsson back in the lineup healthy will certainly help. But, the Sharks' defensive effort and overall level of intensity has to be better. They’ve been outscored 19-9 over these last four games, and gone 1-for-13 on the power play. While there’s concern over this losing stretch, the Sharks have to buckle down and find a way to win immediately. 

“We’ve got to find a way to win some games,” DeBoer said. “We’re a little bit beat up, but you can’t use excuses this time of year. We need some guys to find another level for us. At this time of year, you need someone to give you a first-star performance either in net or up front or somewhere to stop the bleeding. We haven’t gotten that.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

The Sharks didn't play their prettiest game in Thursday's season-series finale with the Los Angeles Kings. Despite holding a lead headed into the third period, San Jose’s losing streak was stretched to four games as they fell to their LA rivals 4-2.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

The first and third periods were, as DeBoer might say, ‘fugly’

If you hadn’t watched the Sharks play all season and tuned into Thursday’s game, you were probably shocked this team is in second place in the Pacific Division. San Jose came out discombobulated, turning the puck over so much that it’s no wonder the Kings scored the first goal on the evening. It’s impressive the Sharks were able to tie the game before the first intermission, with just four shots on goal through 20 minutes.

San Jose picked up momentum in the second stanza and took over the pace of the game. But, the Kings were able to swing that momentum back in their favor. For a team that’s punched their playoff ticket already, this is a trend that can’t continue.

On Martin Jones’ performance

Not surprisingly, all eyes were on Jones after he was given the hook last game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The goaltender needed to have a rebound evening, and after giving up the first goal on the night, it didn’t look like he was going to be able to make that happen.

He did a good job buckling down after that despite, Los Angeles continuing to outshoot San Jose. He had a few nice saves, but the Sharks’ defensive lapses in the third period did him no favors.

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

Something has to give

We know – the Sharks are banged-up right now. They’re missing key players and nearing the end of a long season. But at this point, following up a six-game winning streak by losing four games – and one to the lowly Kings – is cause for concern.

Whether it’s getting healthy or just getting a few lucky bounces, the Sharks need to regroup quickly. San Jose spent stretches of Thursday’s game looking lost, and couldn’t capitalize on two power-play opportunities.

If the Sharks don’t right the ship soon, their stint in the playoffs is going to be short.