The chips are down in San Jose.
The Sharks have 30 games left on the 2019-20 schedule, and need to produce around 50 points for any chance at their pace of the last four seasons. That math isn’t pleasant.
Oh yeah, they’re also down two All-Star centermen in Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture.
What remains this season won’t be easy, but will be interesting.
How does the goalie situation play out?
There’s no question Aaron Dell took over frontman duties from Martin Jones shortly after the coaching change from Peter DeBoer to Bob Boughner, but does it stay that way until Game No. 82? Can Jones show any kind of kickback if opportunities continue on a limited basis? And how do the Sharks handle Dell (pending unrestricted free agent this summer) versus Jones (under contract until 2024) in terms of splitting time? Telling answers are sure to be witnessed.
Will any more young players emerge?
Mario Ferraro is the only rookie to enjoy any kind of breakout season, in what was supposed to be a campaign centered around multiple young Sharks making their marks in the NHL. Now that injuries have opened the door, and with potential trade departures looming, will any more statement performances be seen by San Jose’s pipeline?
Many in this group have bounced up and down to the AHL this season, but the final 30 games might be their sustained chance in the NHL spotlight.
What players get closer to personal paces?
Yes, we’re discussing individual stats, but it’s a collective issue in San Jose. Many established performers are well off their typical paces in production. Whether it’s goals, assists, points, or plus/minus, can the final 30 games prove that “the stats take will care of themselves" is true?
Erik Karlsson is currently projected to lead the team with 58 points at the conclusion of 82 games. That would be the lowest leader in a full season since the 2003-04 season when Patrick Marleau posted 57.
Can the Sharks compete down the middle?
The lineup suddenly looks a lot different minus their top two centers. It stings enough to lose a pair of top-five goal scorers from the roster, but the fact that Couture and Hertl play the same position compounds the issue even more.
Can San Jose’s remaining centers hold their own in the face-off circle, defensively, and in front of the scoring crease?
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How different does the roster look after Feb. 24?
We know the Sharks need different results. And we know they’ll be making changes to attempt achieving that. But to what extent? Will the NHL’s trade deadline see general manager Doug Wilson wheeling a number of smaller maneuvers to gain some salary cap flexibility? Or will he entertain something more drastic?
Does the team have better options in-season, or will they wait until a more market-friendly summer? And separately, maybe even selfishly: How many more opportunities will we have to witness two future Hall of Famers in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau take the ice as Sharks teammates?