Sharks

Sharks fans voice five biggest concerns after first 12 games of season

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AP

Sharks fans voice five biggest concerns after first 12 games of season

There was plenty of chatter and worry taking over social media Sunday night and well into Monday after the Sharks' disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators. And rightfully so. San Jose has only tallied three out of a possible eight points on their current road trip and the challenges ahead of them aren't getting any easier. 

Just 12 games into the season, Sharks fans are expressing a plethora of concerns they have regarding the current state of the team. So, NBC Sports California is taking this time to discuss some of those areas that many fans are worried about the most.

While we couldn't address every grievance that was directed this way -- high beer prices at The Tank are out of this outlet's jurisdiction -- here are a few that appear to be common among the fan base.

Lack of communication and execution on offense

This is the big one, and probably the biggest head-scratcher as far as the Sharks' scoring problems are concerned. With as talented of an offense as San Jose has, they aren't regularly executing plays in their offensive zone when they play at even strength. Sure, taking too many penalties can take the rhythm out of their five-on-five game, but that isn't the only reason the Sharks aren't doing enough -- especially when they could be gaining momentum from having such strong special teams.

San Jose's offensive woes come from a couple of different places. For starters, they haven't found the right line combinations to roll four lines. There is chemistry scattered throughout the forward attack -- Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane, for example -- but the majority of the lineup still isn't clicking as it should be.

It doesn't help that the Sharks' big goal-scorers aren't finding the back of the net. Logan Couture only has one goal on the season so far and Timo Meier, who became one of the team's offensive spark plugs last season, is sitting on a measly four points. Having more than one of your big guns on the schneid is going to kill any team's offense.

Really, outside of Kane's power-play markers, the Sharks big scorers aren't producing enough. No wonder they are at the bottom of the league when it comes to even-strength production.

As far as chemistry goes, continuing the line shuffle is the only immediate option. That, and San Jose's offense has to at the very least be better at establishing a forecheck and winning battles. That physical kind of play up front is what helped San Jose win games last season. Why they can't establish it on a nightly basis is pretty mindboggling. 

Ice time for some of the veterans

This concern is more geared toward the defense and the fact that Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are logging ridiculous minutes every night. As head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters in Toronto last Friday, giving these two players big minutes is a result of Radim Simek and Dalton Prout being injured, though Simek is starting a conditioning stint with the Barracuda, this could change soon.

There's also the issue with Tim Heed not playing to the level he needs to and DeBoer has made it pretty clear he doesn't trust Heed out on the ice for very long.

The long and short of it is that this won't last the rest of the season. Burns and Karlsson won't continue averaging over 25 minutes per game once the blue line gets healthy bodies back to work with. Hopefully, for the Sharks' sake, that happens sooner rather than later so Burns and Karlsson aren't gassed before the halfway point of the season. 

Calls for a coaching shakeup

This is one of those things that comes up any time any  team doesn't play well. And there has certainly been more than one occasion over the last couple of years when a Sharks' losing streak has brought out the "fire the coach" crowd. (Last season, it was also around the time San Jose suffered a loss at the hands of the lowly Senators.)

As much as some of you out there are dead set on the coaching being the No. 1 problem here, it's not. The coaching might not be completely blameless, but unless DeBoer is telling players to take their feet off the gas and purposely give up big goals at the end of every second period, San Jose's 4-7-1 record isn't all on him.

As far as whether or not there needs to be a new boss behind the bench, don't expect there to be a personnel change this early in the season. Especially in regards to a coach who turned the team around last season and took them to a Western Conference Final. 

If the Sharks stay in this hole for too much longer, then the conversation might change. But as of right now, it's highly unlikely DeBoer is going anywhere.

Questions regarding leadership

There is some criticism out there regarding Couture's candidness in the wake of the team's struggles, which is honestly a little surprising. The first-year captain has been in a leadership role for the Sharks for multiple seasons now and has continuously held the team, and himself, accountable when things aren't going well. He'll even break down plays and tell you exactly where things went wrong. 

Frankly, it would be far more worrisome if he started sugar-coating things.

Leadership doesn't fall squarely in Couture's lap, either. As NBC Sports California discussed before the start of the season, his supporting cast of alternate captains has just as important of a job when it comes to leading the team. After a bad game in Ottawa, the Sharks need all of their leaders to rally the troops.

[RELATED: Marleau, Thornton are keeping things fun]

The whole Joe Pavelski thing

This concern keeps popping up. Unfortunately, there isn't a solution that's going to make fans happy.

Yes, Team Teal no doubt misses Pavelski's scoring prowess and his presence both on and off the ice. But he isn't a Shark anymore.

And 12 games into a season with a bevy of problems, the only options fans have is to move on.

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

It’s not just a safe assumption. It’s entirely accurate that Mike Ricci, as a hockey player, never thought he’d become a coach.

“Not back then for sure,” Ricci said recently. “Not even maybe two and a half weeks ago.”

The former Sharks forward was caught off guard by being named as an assistant on interim head coach Bob Boughner’s staff in mid-December.

“It was like boom, told to come to a meeting,” Ricci recalled.  

But there was no reservation in accepting the position.

“When a friend asks, and a boss asks, you’ve got to do it,” said Ricci. “Just going in and trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

All of this is a total change of scenery for Ricci – who after 1,099 NHL games as a player -- still hasn’t acclimated to his brand new perch behind the bench.

“If I’m going to be honest, I really haven’t had time to think about it,” Ricci admitted.  

The move was so fresh, and came with so much transition, Sharks equipment manager Mike Aldrich even had to double check that regular game duties would include a presence behind the players.  To which Ricci responded: “I think so…?”

As if the Sharks' need to turn things around wasn’t pressing enough, there’s also the challenge of Ricci learning the ropes of being an assistant coach for the very first time.

“You’ve got to find what makes everybody click,” Ricci said after less than a month of experiences. “Some guys like to see it. Some guys like to hear it. Some guys like it drawn on a board.”

One thing benefitting Ricci, goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov, and associate coach Roy Sommer is their familiarity and unquestioned dedication to the franchise. Each have been sporting teal for more than a decade, in one capacity or another.

[RELATED: Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up']

Ricci said there’s already a built-in level of trust when the coaching staff has to be critical of players, in trying to reverse the team’s struggles.

“I try to be myself, more than anything. It doesn’t matter how much I know, it matters how much I can get to a player.”

NHL rumors: Doug Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline

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USATSI

NHL rumors: Doug Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline

If you're in favor of the Sharks making a splashy move to shake things up ahead of the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we've got bad news for you.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this week that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson "has let it be known he is not interested in disrupting his core."

That presumably means players like Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are staying put.

But Friedman notes that there will be interest in Melker Karlsson and Brenden Dillon, who are both unrestricted free agents after this season.

With the playoffs looking less and less likely for San Jose, it would make sense for Wilson to try to get something for Karlsson and Dillon.

The Sharks don't have a first, fourth or sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, so it would be wise for Wilson to recoup some of the assets he traded away in recent years.

After losing in the Western Conference final to the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks have fallen on hard times. They enter Saturday's game against Vancouver with a 21-24-4 record and sit nine points out of a wild-card spot. On Thursday night, they were shutout by the Avalanche in Colorado and interim head coach Bob Boughner urged his players to "man up."

[RELATED: Ricci on first month as coach]

At the moment, the Sharks are close to the upper limit of the NHL salary cap, but they will have roughly $18 million coming off the books this summer, according to Cap Friendly, so as Friedman notes, Wilson will have the flexibility to make moves in the offseason.

The Sharks are in desperate need of a wake-up call. But it sounds like it won't come in February.