Kurz's eight questions heading into Sharks training camp
Kurz's eight questions
The Sharks open their 2014 training camp on Friday, Sept. 19 with no captains or starting goalies named. Insider Kevin Kurz outlines the eight biggest questions training camp could answer before the upcoming season...
No. 8: Will any veterans be squeezed out?
If the Sharks truly want to get more younger players involved this season, it could leave some veterans in limbo. Among them are Adam Burish, who has struggled while battling injuries in his first two years in San Jose, and Tyler Kennedy, who never seemed to figure out McLellan’s system and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Scott Hannan may not play too often, either, but will remain an insurance policy on the blue line.
No. 7: Where will Joe Pavelski play?
The Sharks’ leading scorer from a year ago, Joe Pavelski scored 41 goals mostly as a wing with Joe Thornton. If the Sharks want to spread out their attack, Pavelski is best served as the third line center behind Thornton and Logan Couture, but that would leave a hole in the top six. Look for Todd McLellan to try the versatile Pavelski in a few different places during the preseason before making a final decision.
No. 6: How will Brent Burns adjust to going back to defense?
Burns’ first season with the Sharks in 2011-12 was an inconsistent one, and the eventual result was his conversion to one of the better power forwards in the NHL. Now that he’s been moved back to the blue line, the Sharks hope Burns can turn into a dangerous two-way defenseman that can defend as well as contribute offensively, as they search for an answer to the Kings’ Drew Doughty. Working with Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson, neither of whom were here when Burns first got to the Bay Area, should help in that regard.
No. 5: Who will replace Raffi Torres?
Last season, it was Matt Nieto who took advantage of the void left by Raffi Torres, who was hurt in the preseason. Torres will again be out until the second half of the regular season at the earliest, as he has the right knee repaired for the third time in his career. Newcomer Tye McGinn, a power forward and brother of former Sharks forward Jamie McGinn, will get a long look to replace Torres, but there are other candidates as well, including some of the young players mentioned in the next slide.
No. 4: Will any rookies make the roster?
Defenseman Mirco Mueller, the team’s 2013 first round pick, is the best bet to make the Sharks’ roster as a rookie, perhaps as a third-pair defenseman on the left side. Other guys to keep an eye on include 2012 second round pick Chris Tierney, coming off a 40-goal year in juniors; 2014 first round pick Nikolay Goldobin, a speedy winger; Freddie Hamilton, a potential bottom six forward, Daniil Tarasov, who impressed with AHL Worcester last season; and defensemen Taylor Doherty, Matt Tennyson and Konrad Abeltshauser.
No. 3: Who will emerge as the starting goalie?
Just like they don’t have any captains, the Sharks don’t have a starting goalie, either. It will be an open competition between Alex Stalock and Antti Niemi, with the younger and more promising Stalock as the likelier player to start Opening Night. Not only did Stalock have better numbers than Niemi last season (albeit in fewer games), he’s better at handling the puck and is signed for two more seasons. Niemi is a pending unrestricted free agent who may be on his way out.
No. 2: What will Joe Thornton's role be?
The Sharks seemed ready to move on from Thornton early in the offseason, and if he didn’t have a full no-trade clause, there’s a good chance the future Hall of Famer could be elsewhere. Thornton wants to stay and win in San Jose, though, and he still has the skills to be a top on-ice contributor. Will the Sharks keep him as a top line center and a mainstay on the first power play unit, or will his minutes be reduced to get some younger guys more involved?
No. 1: Will the Sharks name a captain?
After four seasons, Joe Thornton was removed as the Sharks’ captain, and the team will enter camp without any players wearing letters – part of general manager Doug Wilson’s “clean slate” philosophy after years of playoff failure. The Sharks could opt to name a captain and alternates at some point during camp, wait until the season starts, or go without them altogether. The best bets to earn letters at some point, though, are Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.