The Sharks are in a unique position.
Not just because they’re riding a six-game winning streak, having just swept their way through Western Canada, and are now sitting atop the Western Conference -- although those are all pretty unique statuses. San Jose’s position is interesting in that they aren’t being led by one skater or one line that’s on a hot streak; they’re getting contributions from all throughout their lineup, and their depth is on full display.
“Right now, we’re getting a lot of contributions,” captain Joe Pavelski told the media after San Jose’s 7-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. “Four strong lines who are adding to the mix. Our game’s in a good spot right now.”
Logan Couture agreed. “Seems like that’s something that’s been happening on a nightly basis here,” he summarized. “That’s a big reason why we’re winning.”
It’s also a big reason this Sharks team, although it’s comprised of the almost exact same lineup, looks more dominant than it did at the start of the season. It also puts them in an interesting position just a couple weeks ahead of the trade deadline.
At the start of the 2018-19 campaign, San Jose had visible areas that needed to be improved upon. There were questions regarding their forward depth, and whether the goaltending needed to be beefed up. Heck, the expectations of the blue line were so high before the season opened up that even that part of the Sharks’ game was getting questioned. Back in November, there were fans calling for half the team to get shipped off.
Now, moving pieces and breaking up chemistry seems almost unnecessary. San Jose’s depth from the top forward line all the way back to the net has made it an unstoppable force since the All-Star break, as the Sharks just became the sixth team in NHL history to sweep through Western Canada. (And they did it without Erik Karlsson in the lineup, to boot.) Those calls to pick the team apart have, expectedly, become quite faint.
Now, the Sharks' depth, hot streak and resulting confidence puts them in an interesting position as the trade deadline nears. It’s unlikely Doug Wilson makes a splash like last season when the Sharks acquired Evander Kane from Buffalo. But would San Jose sit back while teams around them wheel and deal?
There has been talk since the start of the season about San Jose potentially adding a bottom-six forward, but the Sharks aren’t likely to be in the running for anyone like Wayne Simmonds or Matt Duchene. There was also a ton of chatter through the first couple months of the season that San Jose needed an upgrade between the pipes, but with Martin Jones rounding into playoff-caliber form and Aaron Dell having an impressive start on the road trip against Edmonton, seeing a change in the crease isn’t too likely either. There’s been little-to-no worry regarding the Sharks’ defensive corps, since their depth players have filled in well for injured starters. Really, they’re just waiting to get Karlsson back healthy.
Long story short: Don’t count on the Sharks making big headlines come deadline day, but remember Wilson will likely have his eyes peeled.
In the meantime, the Sharks return home for a three-game stint at the Tank against the Capitals, Canucks, and Bruins. No doubt the expectations for this homestand are high, given San Jose's hot streak of late, and many parties will be watching with the trade deadline right around the corner. It will be interesting to see how the conversation evolves as the Feb. 25 deadline draws near.