Sharks

Sharks

The Sharks used the "next man up" mantra quite a bit last season when several of their key players got hurt.

With former captain Joe Pavelski departing for Dallas, San Jose will be preaching that same message yet again. Everyone, from its already established leadership corps to its up-and-coming stars, will have to hear it. 

That includes Timo Meier, who officially re-signed with the Sharks on a four-year contract Monday.

"This is a chance for guys like me to step up," Meier said on a Monday conference call with reporters. "It gives us a chance to take it to another level."

Meier is just one young Sharks skater whose game reached new heights last year, but his arguably hit the highest point. He ranked fourth among all Sharks with 66 regular-season points and tied for third on the team with 30 regular-season goals -- eight fewer than Pavelski.

The 22-year-old forward played with Pavelski for the first three years of his career, and said he learned a lot from the veteran. Now, Meier wants to put what he's learned onto the ice, particularly on the power play.

"He's probably one of the best in front of the net," Meier said of Pavelski. "A lot of stuff that I've been able to learn from him -- tipping pucks, taking the goalies eyes away. Him leaving is a chance for young players to step up and take a bigger role. That's my mindset. To come into the next season and hopefully get a spot on the top power play (unit) and get some more playing time. I want to take full advantage of that opportunity."

 

Meier isn't alone. Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc took major strides last season, and will have the chance to grow even more next year. Even with veterans like Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic locked in as leaders for San Jose, the team's younger set will relied upon to shoulder a significant load. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson pointed to Pavelski's lasting influence on San Jose's young players as a big reason why.

"The impact he's had on this franchise and on his teammates are going to be felt for years to come," Wilson said of Pavelski. "Now it's up to the players that have learned from him to take their games to the next level."

Of course, on-ice contribution isn't the only area where the Sharks might feel Pavelski's absence. The captain for the last four seasons, Pavelski was a vocal leader and a strong presence in the dressing room and on the bench. 

[RELATED: With deal done, Meier focused on taking game to next level]

But Wilson believes this is another area where players like Meier have an opportunity to step up next season. 

"You're seeing another level of players taking the reigns of this team, whether it be Logan, Tomas, Erik (Karlsson), and Timo," Wilson said. "Also coupled in with the other veterans we have. Burns, Pickles, Jumbo (Joe Thornton), etc. So, we think we have a tremendous leadership group. 

"Everybody will have learned (from) Pavs handled situations. Everbody's going to be different. but we have a group of leaders collectively that I think are outstanding."