Sharks questions: What roles does San Jose have to fill this offseason?


Sharks questions: What roles does San Jose have to fill this offseason?

SAN JOSE - You have to hand it to the Sharks, they were a confident bunch throughout their 2018-19 campaign. Through losing streaks and mounting injury troubles, they maintained belief their squad was deep enough to give them a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But even with the strong team they had this season, there is room for improvement.

Now with changes set to take place this offseason, San Jose can work to fill in some of those roles. With a long list of free agents and potential for trades in all areas of the lineup, there are a few areas where the team might make some moves.

While the Sharks' offensive depth was praised after a win -- particularly with Joe Thornton successfully centering that third combo with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc -- their bottom six could see some changes this offseason to boost production.

Thornton's decision to play another season or not could have some impact on what moves the Sharks make to fill that void. But San Jose still has to find a more solid fourth-line combination. Even when the team found success rotating players in and out to play with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson, the fourth line wasn't as effective at generating offense as the opposition's fourth lines were.

Remember, both the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues had bottom sixes that could step up and light the lamp. 

It's likely the Sharks will look to fill out their bottom six from within and give one of the emerging Barracuda players a chance to fill one of those roles -- Dylan Gambrell looks like a player that could potentially get a shot at the fourth-line center job. But it's also possible San Jose trades a piece or two in order to fill out its bottom six more effectively.

Then there's the matter of San Jose's defense. The blue line appears to be getting a coaching boost thanks to the return of Bob Boughner, who had a hand in helping Brent Burns raising his game to Norris Trophy form. Additionally, young Czech blueliner Radim Simek seems to be successfully rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury and having him back to pair with Burns adds oomph to San Jose's defensive game.

The rest of the blue line is a bit of a mystery, however, with the possibility of Erik Karlsson going to another team. If Karlsson leaves, it's possible the combination of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun gets reunited, which would leave Brenden Dillon in need of a partner. Plus, Karlsson isn't the only defenseman without a contract for next season, with the futures of Tim Heed (UFA) and Joakim Ryan (RFA) also uncertain -- although their future with the team could be impacted by Karlsson's decision. 

If Karlsson leaves, the Sharks could be looking to make a trade -- even if it means losing one of their current established defensemen -- in order to maintain depth on their blue line. 

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If trades are going to be a big thing for San Jose this offseason, there's also a chance there could be a change to their goaltending tandem.

No, it isn't likely Martin Jones is going anywhere -- he has five years left on his current contract and rebounded from a down regular season with a turnaround performance in the playoffs. There is a chance, however, that backup Aaron Dell could be a trade piece, given he'll be a free agent in 2020. Dell also saw a dip in his numbers this past season and San Jose might want a backup with better than a .886 save percentage if Jones struggles again. 

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE - The funny thing about a winning streak is that, at the end of the day, the only thing that gets remembered is the win. But when a team loses, the performance tends to get picked apart.

But as the Sharks pointed out after the Edmonton Oilers snapped the team's six-game winning streak, San Jose consistently has had things to work on. Tuesday's loss showed they can't take advantage of a streak -- there's still a lot of work to do.

"I think it's a wakeup call for us right now," captain Logan Couture said. "You win six in a row and winning kind of masks when you're not playing your best if you find a way to win. I think the last couple of games that's the way the games have gone. We haven't played our game and we found a way to win, but tonight we got what we deserved."

This isn't to say that the Sharks didn't deserve to win any of the games during their last streak. Heck, their 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators two weekends ago was easily the team's best game of the season. But through some of the other games during that stretch, a particular player or play is what kept them in the fight even when the opposition tried to make a comeback. 

After going into a 2-0 hole against the Oilers on Tuesday, those different ways to win weren't coming into play.

"In the last couple of games here that we were winning, we were finding ways to win all over the map," Brenden Dillon discussed. "Sometimes, we thought we deserved to win. Other nights we found a way whether we were good on special teams or we got some big saves from Jones, whatever it might have been."

It didn't help that the Oilers came for revenge after the Sharks defeated them 6-3 exactly one week before. Not only did Edmonton get scoring from throughout their forward lines, but Mikko Koskinen was on his A-game between the pipes.

"We knew after we beat them last week they were going to come hard today," Dillon said. "We were expecting a push from them. But it just seemed like they elevated their game and we kind of stayed the same.."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed. "I thought they came out heavier and harder than last time," he said of Edmonton. "So they obviously wanted to fix what went wrong last time for them. I thought they were much more engaged all night."

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' streak-snapping loss to Oilers]

Perhaps the Sharks should take a page out of the Oilers' book and rebound from a loss in their upcoming contest. The loss to Edmonton comes as San Jose gears up to face the Golden Knights for the first time since the Vegas squad put them in a 0-2-0 hole to start the season. 

If there is a time for the Sharks to rebound from a loss and get back to finding those different ways of winning, that time is now.

"We'd better play a lot better than we did tonight," Couture said, looking to the next game. "Or it could get ugly."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


SAN JOSE -- All good things must come to an end, as the Sharks learned firsthand when their six-game winning streak ended Tuesday night.

San Jose bested the Edmonton Oilers a week ago, but the Sharks were clearly outmatched in the second meeting between the two teams. Connor McDavid and the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back, winning 5-2 and ending Team Teal's streak.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Struggling to play from behind

To be honest, the Sharks have done a better job lately playing without the lead. They rallied from two deficits in a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last week, and it looked as though they might do something similar Tuesday when Kevin Labanc's first-period goal cut the Oilers' lead to 2-1.

But after that, the Sharks had trouble adding to their tally.

Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen deserves some credit here. The Sharks continued to dominate the shot clock and keep him working, but the Edmonton netminder was in fine form as he froze 33 San Jose shots.

Where did the special teams go?

The Sharks' special-teams play was one of the few things they had going for them through the first month of the season. Heck, even when the power play went a little cold, the Sharks' penalty kill never stopped dominating.

Tuesday was a different story, though, as the Sharks failed to convert on the man-advantage and then gave up a power-play goal to the Oilers in the second stanza.

While the kill undoubtedly will recover after only giving up its second power-play goal on home ice this season, the Sharks' power play needs to get its mojo back. Some power-play success could have even helped the Sharks come back Tuesday night.

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Fourth line's inconsistency

The Sharks have had a problem finding good chemistry on their fourth line for a while now. There was a period where it looked like Dylan Gambrell had settled into his role at center and that maybe they could start generating some offense as a line, but they have yet to make anything happen lately. In fact, the shuffle of skaters has only continued continues.

Although coach Peter DeBoer said a few weeks back that he would like to not have to rotate players in and out of the lineup constantly, his fourth line still hasn't truly established itself or had any big impact on a game. The Sharks can’t expect to make any significant climb up the Pacific Division standings with a fourth line that can’t produce.