Five Sharks storylines to watch over final 30 games of 2019-20 season


Five Sharks storylines to watch over final 30 games of 2019-20 season

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?

[RELATED: Loss to Canucks epitomized Sharks' season]

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?

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

It has been widely presumed that if Patrick Marleau returns for a 23rd NHL season, he will do so with the Sharks, back where it all began.

He still is without a Stanley Cup on his career résumé after he and the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the NHL's expanded playoff format. The Penguins acquired him prior to the trade deadline in exchange for a 2021 third-round draft pick after he returned for his second go-around with San Jose early in the season.

Based on what his wife, Christina, tweeted Friday, it appears Marleau already has made up his mind about playing next season.

That really shouldn't come as a surprise. Though he isn't the top-end player he once was, Marleau showed this past season that he still has some left in the tank. And, on top of that, he only needs to play in 45 more games to pass NHL legend Gordie Howe for the most games played in league history.

Frankly, it would only be fitting if he set the record in a Sharks sweater. And now it would appear the ball is in San Jose's court as to whether or not Marleau will return to the franchise that drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 Entry Draft.

Aside from the appetizing narrative, there's reason why Marleau might get a third go-around in teal. All indications are that the Sharks intend to return to playoff contention next season, but due to their salary structure, don't expect any large salaries to be brought in -- San Jose already has plenty of those. Consequently, the Sharks are going to need to fill the lineup with some minimum-salaried players.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

At this point, you can bet that money isn't a top consideration for Marleau. If a true Cup contender doesn't present him with an offer, it would be difficult to envision a more appealing destination for him than San Jose. Marleau could be signed for the veteran's minimum, and given he scored 10 goals in 58 games with the Sharks this year, that might be a pretty good value.

It's certainly possible the Sharks find a superior player to take Marleau's hypothetical spot, or would rather give it to a younger player that is part of the future.

If that's not the case, though, signing Mr. Shark makes an awful lot of sense.

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Sharks legend Patrick Marleau might have had his last decent chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL restart. Hopefully he gets another opportunity, because it ain't happening this year.

The fifth-seeded Penguins were stunned and upset by the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round after the Habs advanced to the playoffs with a 3-1 series victory on Friday. Pittsburgh lost Game 1 and was never able to recover, thanks in large part to Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Penguins scored just eight goals in the series, none of which were deposited by Marleau. In fact, the long-time Shark didn't record a single point across the four games. The Penguins acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for what is now confirmed to be a 2021 third-round draft pick, as San Jose wanted to give him an opportunity to check that last box on his career résumé.

Marleau now will become an unrestricted free agent. It has been widely presumed that if he indeed returns for a 23rd NHL season, it might come in a third go-around with the Sharks. San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference this season, but the Sharks' record was largely impacted by injuries and they certainly could return to the playoffs next year.

Really, it would only be fitting if Marleau ended his career in teal.

As for the Sharks, the qualifying round has gone nearly as well as they could have hoped for. Of the four Pacific Division teams that were involved, only the Edmonton Oilers failed to advance.

Due to the wacky 2020 NHL draft lottery, each team eliminated in the qualifying round has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick. Whichever team lands it is widely expected to use it on consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

So, there's an 87.5 percent chance -- barring trades -- that Lafreniere won't immediately end up in the Sharks' division.

Given the season they had, they'll take any win they can get.