Sharks

Coronavirus: What's next for Sharks with NHL season being on hiatus?

Coronavirus: What's next for Sharks with NHL season being on hiatus?

It certainly wasn't going to be ideal, but it was a necessary compromise. On Wednesday, the Sharks announced that when they returned from their four-game road trip, they planned to play the remainder of their March home games at SAP Center in front of no fans. 

Twenty-four hours later, it turns out those games won't be played at all, or at least not for a while.

The NHL announced Thursday that the 2019-20 season has been indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league ultimately had very little choice after its hand was forced by the NBA choosing to do the same Wednesday night, after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for the coronavirus.

If the NHL and NBA aren't siblings, they're at least cousins. They have nearly identical league structures, the same number of games, similar season schedules, and in many cases, their respective teams share the same home building. When the NBA indefinitely suspended its season Wednesday night, it was only a matter of time until the rest of the professional sports family followed.

How it affects the league and the Sharks

There are 189 games and three-and-a-half weeks remaining in the NHL's regular season. If and when it resumes is anyone's guess. You can lump the playoffs in with that, as well.

In announcing that the season had been paused, the NHL held out hope that it would be able to press play again before a lengthy hiatus.

"Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup," the league said in a statement.

While it has been extremely rare, there is prior NHL precedent in which the Stanley Cup has not been awarded to any team. It has happened twice, first in 1918-19 due to the Spanish Flu, and again in 2004-05 because of the lockout. There are several parallels between the former situation and the current one.

Whether or not the remainder of the regular season and/or playoffs take place, the Sharks won't be raising Lord Stanley. We've known that for quite some time.

While San Jose's season has been prematurely cut short -- for the time being, at least -- by the coronavirus pandemic, it's not as if it had been a successful one. A ridiculous combination of bad luck and injuries to key players this season has resulted in the franchise's worst points-percentage since 2002-03, not to mention a midseason coaching change that ultimately didn't do much to change the team's trajectory. In what could possibly have been the Sharks' final game this season Wednesday night, they stumbled to a 6-2 road loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. Combined with the Los Angeles Kings' win over the Ottawa Senators, it plummeted San Jose to the absolute bottom of the league standings.

"We're all upset we lost a game 6-2 and then you look at what everybody else is going through in the world, you got to remind yourself this is just a game," interim coach Bob Boughner said following the loss. "There are bigger things going on."

What's next?

Just like pretty much everything else in the world of sports right now, nobody can be sure.

The NHL can hope and pray all it wants that the season will be able to resume in the relatively near future, but it would appear to be far too early in the process to have any reasonable idea about the viability of that possibility. The Sharks boarded the team plane back to San Jose on Thursday morning, and upon landing, there was very little certainty as far as when the team might next be entirely together. 

[RELATED: Sharks head home after NHL pauses season indefinitely]

TSN's Darren Dreger reported Thursday that players have been told to stay home, and that all meetings, practices and travel have been prohibited.

No NHL player has tested positive for the coronavirus as of yet, but it's fair to assume that it's just a matter of time until one does. If and when that happens, one would expect the potential resumption date to be pushed further out.

In the meantime, there's not much that the Sharks or other NHL teams can do. They can't play games or practice. There are no leagues or tournaments to scout, pretty much throughout the entire world. San Jose did well to add to its draft arsenal at the trade deadline, but the team likely will be limited to prior tape when evaluating prospects, and those that are already in the franchise's system will see their development halted.

It's been an ugly season for the Sharks, and one they probably wouldn't have minded fast-forwarding to the end of.

Not like this, though. 

Unfortunately, there are much bigger things going on.

Sharks' Erik Karlsson adjusting well to new fatherhood amid NHL hiatus

Sharks' Erik Karlsson adjusting well to new fatherhood amid NHL hiatus

The last six months have been hectic for Sharks star Erik Karlsson.
 
It's not just the uphill hockey season, and thumb surgery, and the suspension of all sports in general. But it's also becoming a dad, and getting really good at … diapers.
 
“I can’t say that I’m a pro at it,” Karlsson joked. “Although I do change the diapers at night in the complete dark, and that can be a little tricky at times.”
 
Erik missed the first Sharks game of the season to be with his wife Melinda for the birth of their daughter, Harlow Rain. Now that hockey sits idle, the defenseman is substituting line changes with teammates for diaper changes with his daughter.
 
“I’m a little bit more of a risk-taker,” Karlsson said about his strategy. “I do believe if the diaper is full and she’s done, then she’s done.”
 
He also reaffirmed what every parent quickly learns: "Number ones" are much easier to handle than "number twos."
 
“It depends what type of number two, too,” Karlsson said. “Some are easier than others.”
 
Fatherhood of six months has already made Karlsson realize he’s changed.
 
“My patience, especially is a lot better, and the uncertainty of things,” Karlsson shared. “Not being able to plan as much ahead as you could before.”
 
Fortunately, Erik’s left thumb has recovered well since the injury and required surgery in mid-February. Meaning he’s not limited in dad-duties this summer.
 
“That’s been great, it was one of the things I didn’t really worry about to begin with, and I’m definitely not worried about it right now,” Karlsson explained. “If the season would have been on, I probably could have played a couple weeks ago.”

[RELATED: Bettman says NHL examining all options for restart]
 
This means the Norris winner should have no problem defending 2-on-1’s next season, just like he’s defending “twos” and “ones” this summer.
 
“At first, it made you gag sometimes, and now it doesn’t even phase me really.”

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Mario Ferraro has surpassed the wildest of expectations in his rookie season with the Sharks, and it hasn't exactly been an uneventful one.

Since making the jump straight from college to the pros, the 21-year-old defenseman has witnessed a mid-season coaching change, the acquisition and eventual trading of a franchise legend, a seemingly endless string of serious injuries to roster cornerstones and -- oh yeah -- an indefinite pause of the NHL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Not exactly your average rookie year.

Technically, Ferraro's rookie season hasn't come to an end -- at least not yet. Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that there currently is too much uncertainty for the league to be able to determine when the season might be able to resume, though he hopes to "know more by the end of April." In any case, even if San Jose was able to play out its remaining games, there are only 12 left. Considering the Sharks fell to the absolute bottom of the NHL standings right before the season was paused, an additional playoff run is entirely out of the question.

So, for all intents and purposes, we can't really consider Ferraro a rookie anymore. He has 61 career NHL games under his belt, so, really, that has been the case for a while.

Ferraro flew back to Toronto shortly before the Bay Area's shelter-in-place orders went into effect, and has been doing his best to stay in shape while living at his parents' house. In a recent discussion with NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil, he described an important lesson that was crucial to his development as a rookie.

"I think one small thing that's actually not small at all when you really look at it," Ferraro said, "is just preparation and that mentality of staying even-keel the whole year. What I mean by that is not getting too high on the highs or too low on the lows. You have so many games and so many important games that if you have a good game one night, you better forget about it because you gotta do the same thing the next night. Or, vice versa, if you play poorly, you really gotta forget about it and bounce back strong.

"And it's not just from game to game -- it's from shift to shift. You're playing in a league that has really fast players, strong players. You can get exposed, and it's going to happen. People are going to make mistakes. I'm a defenseman, so I feel like you're more bound to make mistakes ... they're more glaringly obvious. From a mental perspective, you really have to learn to just kind of say, OK, it happened. Move on. Let's get back to my game and play hard."

While Ferraro is correct that no player is exempt from making mistakes, he didn't have too many glaring errors throughout his first season in the NHL -- or at least, he did a good job covering them up. He earned the trust of the coaching staff and was rewarded with additional opportunities, which he proved capable of handling. Over the last eight games before the season was paused, Ferraro averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per night.

[RELATED: Leonard reunited with college roommate Ferraro on Sharks]

In terms of mentors on the team, Ferraro specifically mentioned fellow defenseman Brent Burns as someone who has been tremendously helpful to him. And like seemingly everyone else in that locker room, Ferraro is a big fan of Joe Thornton. But ultimately, it has been a team effort in supporting Ferraro throughout his rookie year. It takes a village, after all.

"Nobody's counted out on this team," Ferraro explained. "They're all great guys. They've all taught me a ton this year, and we're really close. It has been a good learning curve for me."

While we're all focused on flattening the curve, it has long been evident that -- as a rookie -- Ferraro's wasn't very steep.