Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles

Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles

The Sharks’ season officially is over

Now comes the hard part. 

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson surely has been preparing already, but now he can truly turn the page. The Sharks played their last game on March 11, and they won’t play again until whenever the 2020-21 season begins. 

During that time, Wilson will face the most critical offseason since taking the reins in 2003. He made over a team that finished second-to-last in the Western Conference into a Conference finalist during his first year, but the to-do list is far more daunting after the Sharks finished with their worst points percentage since. 

If the Sharks are going to avoid the first streak of playoff misses during his tenure, Wilson will have to, among other things: 

  • Hire a coach 
  • Find a solution (or two) in net
  • Add scoring depth on the wing 
  • Supplement an aging, expensive core with NHL-ready youth
  • Do each of the last four things under a flat salary cap 

Those are challenging tasks for any general manager, let alone one grappling with an ever-changing reality formed by the continually evolving consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Wilson believes some of the solutions already are in place. He admitted in April that interim bench boss Bob Boughner has the “upper hand” to make his job permanent. Wilson also thinks the Sharks have the right foundation in place, and prospects capable of taking the next step

He also has the benefit of experience. The Sharks made the playoffs after missing them prior to his first season at the organizational helm, and they made the Stanley Cup final the year after the first playoff miss that happened during his tenure. 

This is going to be a heavier lift. 

For one, Wilson had a clean slate in the crease the last time around, and he acquired Martin Jones to replace the departed Antti Niemi. Jones’ contract and trade protection -- as well as the Sharks’ relative lack of draft capital -- will make a similar transition much harder. 

In both 2003 and 2015, Wilson also had a high pick at his disposal. The Sharks got back into the first round after trading Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Lightning’s pick is going to be in the 20s (at best). San Jose picked No. 6 overall in 2003 (Milan Michalek) and No. 9 overall in 2015 (Timo Meier). Only Michalek played in the first season after he was drafted, but both players turned into key contributors who helped the Sharks remain in contention beyond then. 

It’s certainly possible the Sharks can use the Lightning’s pick to find another player in that vein, but Wilson also will have to contend with salary-cap uncertainty. The cap rose $2.4 million in 2015, and that additional space helped the Sharks trade for Jones and sign veterans Paul Martin and Joel Ward as free agents. It might not rise at all next season, with games set to be played in front of empty arenas for the foreseeable future. 

The Sharks could have nearly $18 million in space under a flat salary cap, if none of the crop of young forwards who played this season are penciled in for opening-night roster spots. But San Jose only has five forwards with more than a season’s worth of NHL games under their belts signed past this season. 

Wilson will need to sign or acquire another goalie -- whether it’s pending free agent Aaron Dell or someone else -- and add at least a couple of defensemen, too. He can potentially rely on those aforementioned forwards (and a re-signed Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton) to fill depth-forward roles on the cheap, but cap space could disappear quickly if Wilson hits the free-agent or trade markets to fill holes on the wing and in net. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks should pursue trade for Rangers goalie Georgiev]

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner believes in Wilson’s ability to pull it off. Plattner doesn’t say much, making his January endorsement of Wilson especially telling. The general manager undoubtedly is in a better position now than he was then after restocking the Sharks’ draft-pick cupboard and signing European and collegiate free agents who could, if all goes right, address big needs at low prices. 

Wilson has his work cut out for him, though. Now that the Sharks' season officially is over, it’s only just getting started. 

Sharks' Evander Kane announces daughter's birth after 'tough journey'


Sharks' Evander Kane announces daughter's birth after 'tough journey'

Just over a year after losing their daughter during pregnancy, Sharks forward Evander Kane and his wife, Anna, welcomed another daughter into the world.

The Kanes announced the birth of their daughter, Kensington Ava, on Thursday on social media. Evander Kane said his daughter was born on July 3. 

"My wife Anna is a rockstar, the strength and love she has displayed over the last 18 months," Kane wrote on Twitter. "We want to thank everyone who has reached out during this period in support of our family and (we) appreciate the kind words throughout this journey. I'm so proud of my daughter, it's tough to put into words how much she means to me."

Kane thanked the Sharks, their fans, his friends and family "for their overwhelming love" during a difficult time. Last March, Kane announced that their daughter, Eva, passed away 26 weeks into Anna's pregnancy.

"You gave us all, especially your mom and I, something to be excited about," Kane wrote of Eva on Twitter on March 14, 2019. "And though we are devastated that you couldn't stay with us longer, your mom and I will always cherish the time we had with your beautiful soul. Your spirit will give us strength, your love will give us comfort. We will love you forever."

The Sharks, San Jose teammate Mario Ferraro and Hockey Diversity Alliance co-founder Akim Aliu all commented on Kane's Instagram post on Thursday.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl explains funny, simple reason why he wears No. 48

Sharks' Tomas Hertl explains funny, simple reason why he wears No. 48

Tomas Hertl has a huge year ahead of him. As he returns from ACL and MCL surgery, he and his wife Aneta are expecting the birth of their first child in November.

Sharks fans everywhere can't wait for No. 48 to get back on the ice. But how did he pick that number? It’s quite simple.

“They give it to me,” he wrote in a recent NHLPA questionnaire.

Enough said.

But before Hertl was the Sharks’ All-Star center, he had other aspirations.

Believe it or not, he wrote in the questionnaire that he wanted to be an architect if he wasn’t going to be a hockey player. But he was born to play hockey.

His dad, Jaroslav, during the winter in his native in Prague, would create nets (measuring the perfect size) on the frozen ponds near where he lived. Hertl’s dad would even kick off skaters if they were recreationally using the area where he wanted to play hockey.

[RELATED: Sharks avoid nightmare scenario in 2020 NHL Draft lottery]

As much as Hertl could have thrived as an architect, his career as a hockey star was destined.