D-men Burns, Doughty in focus for Sharks-Kings


D-men Burns, Doughty in focus for Sharks-Kings

SAN JOSE –- There are a number of position-by-position comparisons to be made when looking at the respective rosters of the Sharks and Kings.

There are the sizeable, talented Selke Trophy-candidates centering the top lines in Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar. Wingers Joe Pavelski and Tyler Toffoli are natural goal scorers. Second line centers Logan Couture and Jeff Carter are skilled playmakers that can also put the puck in the net. Joel Ward and Milan Lucic bring size and ruggedness, while each reaching the 20-goal plateau. Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones put up similar stats in goal.

On defense, there are Brent Burns and Drew Doughty. The latter is the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy due to his incomparable two-way play, while the former has brought his offensive game to a new level this season while tightening up his defense.

Whichever of them has a greater influence on his team could decide whether it’s the Sharks or Kings that advance to the second round.

“I think they’re similar in their impact on the game,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “They are both on the ice for almost 30 minutes a night. They both have the puck a lot. They are both big, physical guys. They are hard to forecheck, both defend well, both have long sticks.”

The six-foot-five, 230-pound Burns finished with 75 points, second in the league among defensemen while leading all blueliners in goals with 27. Doughty, six-foot-one and 195 pounds, contributed 14 goals and 51 points while playing all 82 games. He was third in ice time-per-game at 28:03; Burns was eighth at 25:51.

DeBoer said: “I think they separate themselves from the other defensemen in the league for the fact that you can’t physically overpower them. … For carrying that type of size and weight, they are both very agile on their feet, too. That’s what puts those two in a different category, for me.”

Ward said: “Both skate well. Burnzie is probably a little bit bigger than [Doughty] is, but they cover a lot of ground out there with their feet and their mobility. Definitely a lot of similarities.”

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Burns, still a left wing the last time the Sharks saw the Kings in the playoffs two years ago, admitted that it’s only natural to see a counterpart on the other side of the ice and to try and outplay him.

“I think you always do. I don’t think it changes any game, whether it’s [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson, [Shea] Weber, [Roman] Josi,” Burns said. “I think it’s natural for guys, just like a centerman – I’m sure Jumbo and Cooch are looking at Kopitar and Carter. I think hockey is that way. You line up against guys, and you want to be better.”

When the Sharks acquired Burns in the 2011 offseason, the initial plan was to have him replace Dan Boyle someday as the team’s top offensive defenseman. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, though, Todd McLellan moved him to forward to boost the team’s dormant offense. The Sharks likely would have missed the postseason had McLellan not done that.

In 2014-15 after another season at forward, Burns found himself smack in the middle of the dysfunctional campaign, and with Boyle gone and Burns back on defense, there was still some confusion over what role Burns would actually play.

There hasn’t been that ambiguity under DeBoer, who was an assistant coach with McLellan at last year’s World Championships and saw Burns thrive on defense on Team Canada. In DeBoer’s mind, he needed Burns to develop into the kind of player he’s become in the second half of the season to have a real shot at winning it all.

“Just look at the Stanley Cup champions, you don’t win without a number one, elite defenseman anymore. … They’re critical, just like a number one center is, just like a number one goalie is,” DeBoer said.

“Burnzie has just got to keep doing what he’s done all year. We don’t need to change anything. He doesn’t need to measure himself against Doughty. … We know Brent’s value here, and he’s just got to keep playing the way he has been.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

I think we’re all due for some good news. So is Sharks’ All-Star center Tomas Hertl and his wife Aneta.

Aneta announced on her Instagram account the two are expecting a baby in November.

The first photo is the two of them posing together with the sonogram picture. The second is of a baby onesie with “Born in 2020” embroidered on it.

This is fresh off the couple's one-year wedding anniversary which, rumor has it, the big day was quite a fun time.

Back in May, Hertl spoke to the media about his rehab after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee where he vowed he would be better than he was before. But he’ll have to wait.

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The Sharks will not be participating in the NHL’s a modified 24-team return-to-play format.

That’s OK though, he has something even better to look forward to … a baby Shark. 

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

We don't know when the next NHL season will begin or end, but once it does, a new team officially will join the fold.

The still-unnamed Seattle expansion franchise will become the league's 32nd team, and in the process, the Sharks will lose a player from their roster as part of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Not everyone in San Jose will be up for grabs. The Sharks, along with the other 30 current NHL teams, will be permitted to protect a group of their players from the expansion draft according to one of two options. Either a) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or b) protect eight skaters and one goalie.

So, where does that leave the Sharks? 

By narrowing down who San Jose is likely to protect, we can zero in on which players are likely to be exposed.

Automatically protected: Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (no-movement clauses)
Certain to be protected: Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier
Very likely to be protected: Evander Kane

That's six pretty-darn-sure things already, plus an unnamed goalie. So, under this assumption, the Sharks would only be able to protect three more forwards and one additional defenseman under Option A, or just two more skaters under Option B.

Though nearly all of San Jose's top prospects will be automatically exempt due to lack of service time, Jonathan Dahlen -- generally regarded as the Sharks' second-best prospect -- will be eligible for inclusion due to his playing AHL games in 2017-18. So, chances are, they'll protect him as well.

Regardless of which option San Jose goes with, that doesn't leave them many more choices. As such, here are some of the more notable names that the Sharks might be forced to make available to Seattle in the expansion draft:

Brent Burns

What the Sharks decide to do with Burns likely will depend on the trajectory of the team heading into the 2021 offseason. If San Jose successfully turns things around in short order, then keeping the 36-year-old Burns -- who has another four years left on his contract at $8 million per season -- will make a lot more sense than if an extended rebuild appears to be on the horizon.

The Sharks have several large salaries on their books, and making Burns available would be one possible way to alleviate some of that building pressure. Of course, if Burns has a Norris-type season next year, San Jose likely will do everything it can to keep him. More than anything, Burns' performance next season likely will have the most determining effect on who the Sharks make available.

[RELATED: Why Sharks shouldn't be counted out if Eichel seeks trade]

Martin Jones

Assuming he's still on the roster and doesn't have a major bounce-back season, Jones would seem to be one of the more likely inclusions on San Jose's unprotected list. He carries a hefty price tag and hasn't lived up to it for the last couple of years.

Of course, the Sharks don't really have anything in the way of an established goalie behind him -- Aaron Dell is an unrestricted free agent -- so if one doesn't emerge, they might be forced to protect him. If San Jose makes Jones available, that likely means one of the Sharks' goaltending prospects made a significant leap or a free agent outperformed him in the year ahead.

Kevin Labanc

He brings plenty of talent to the table and has been useful on the power play. But Labanc's problem is consistency. On some nights, he's one of the best players on the ice. Others, you hardly notice him. He bet on himself last offseason, but it didn't appear to pay off.

A restricted free agent, San Jose should be able to re-sign him at an affordable price. He still is only 24 years old, though. Should Labanc take a couple steps forward next season, it likely will come at a discount, which the Sharks would likely want to protect. If he's ultimately made available, he could offer the combination of youth and talent that would pique Seattle's interest.

Stefan Noesen

Acquired early in the season, Noesen, 27, made a strong impression during his first year in San Jose. He provided the occasional offense, scoring six goals in 34 games, as well as some sorely-needed toughness. He also immediately became a leader in the locker room.

Noesen currently is an unrestricted free agent, but it would be surprising if he didn't start next season in a Sharks sweater, and he shouldn't be too costly either. If he can build off this past season's performance, one would imagine San Jose would prefer to keep him around. Who else the Sharks protect likely will determine if he can be protected or not.

Dylan Gambrell/Antti Suomela/Alex True

Gambrell has accomplished the most of the three, but he's running short on time. A restricted free agent at the end of next season, he'll be eligible for inclusion in the expansion draft if he plays in at least 20 games. Unless he breaks out, Gambrell seems likely to be one of the names the Sharks leave unprotected.

You could say the same thing about Suomela -- assuming the restricted free agent is re-signed -- who has notched four goals and 11 assists over 47 NHL games across the last two seasons. He's still only 26, but has yet to live up to his potential. True, on the other hand, is younger (22 years old) and was fairly noticeable over the course of his NHL debut this season. He should have a good opportunity to begin the season with San Jose, and would seem to be the most likely of the three to carve out a long-term role with the big club.