Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November


Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November

After holding on to beat the Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday, Sharks center Dylan Gambrell told NBC Sports California play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn that he "really thinks our game has turned around." 

Gambrell wasn't just talking about the impressive come-from-behind victory he and his teammates staged in Arizona on Saturday. He was talking about the month of November as a whole, in which the Sharks have rebounded from being one of the worst teams in the Western Conference to being a force to be reckoned with. 

Now, it's a matter of keeping that positive progression going.

Think about it. San Jose finished out the month of October with a 4-8-1 record -- which included a four-game losing streak to start the season -- and then promptly lost a home back-to-back against the Jets and the Canucks. At that point, there were so many questions as to what was ailing the Sharks, and whether they would be able to get things turned around in time be competitive in their division, let alone fight for a playoff spot.

But after those back-to-back losses at the start of November, San Jose seemed to find their groove both up front as well as on the back end. They went 11-2-0 after that, tying the franchise record for the most wins in the month of November.

To top it all off, Saturday's win over the Coyotes marked the first time all season that the Sharks, who skated into the first intermission down 2-1, won a game when trailing after the first 20 minutes.

It's safe to say that, last Wednesday's loss to the Jets notwithstanding, the Sharks look like a completely rejuvenated team. Now, it's a matter of keeping that forward motion going. 

San Jose still has some work to do in regards to their depth scoring, although that could be coming around if the last few games of November are any indication. The Sharks got scoring contributions from bottom-six staple Melker Karlsson on Wednesday against Winnipeg and from fourth-liners Noah Gregor and Dylan Gambrell over the holiday weekend.

Whether the current bottom six stays intact as is remains to be seen, especially with regards to call-ups from the AHL and the trades still being on the table. At least, at the moment, the Sharks are trending in the right direction.

The other big factor if San Jose is going to continue the success they started in November is going to be how well they keep the puck out of the back of their net. As we've seen, the Sharks are their most successful when keeping goals-against to a minimum, as opposed to trying to outscore their problems.

Their success in this department will require their blue line to keep backing up their goaltender, as we saw in one fell swoop on Saturday in Arizona. When San Jose's defense came out loose and had trouble managing the puck in their own end, the opposition put them in an early 2-0 hole. When they tightened up on the back end and let their strong defensive play feed into their offense, they were able to rally from behind and overcome that deficit.

Now, the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sharks. While they have climbed into third place in the Pacific division standings, their rivals are right on their heels. Plus, San Jose has a road trip at the start of December where they visit the Florida teams and the Sharks don't always fare so well through that swing. 

They can, however, be happy with how they have turned things around in the month of November. And with the win over the Coyotes to close out the month, they have a foundation to build more success.

2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks benefit from Rangers getting No. 1 pick

2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks benefit from Rangers getting No. 1 pick

The Sharks' NHL draft lottery woes didn't go from bad to worse Monday.

The Ottawa Senators won't get the chance to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere with the Sharks' pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and none of San Jose's division or conference rivals will be able to select him, either. The New York Rangers won Phase 2 of the draft lottery, grabbing the No. 1 selection in this year's draft after bowing out to the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lafreniere, widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, has franchise-defining talent. He has scored a whopping 297 points in the last three years in the QMJHL, including 112 in 52 games this season. The Sharks can rest easy knowing no team in the Pacific Division or Western Conference will have Lafreniere on a rookie deal for the next three years, though it was a possibility.

The Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets each had a 12.5 percent chance of landing the top pick (and thus Lafreniere) entering Monday night. Each team had at least 15 more points than the cellar-dwelling Sharks when the NHL season was suspended in March, and San Jose's path back to contention is fraught enough without adding a Lafreniere-starring team in the division or conference.

[RELATED: Why bringing Marleau back makes plenty of sense for Sharks]

The Sharks surely breathed a sigh of relief once they learned the Senators would select No. 3 overall with the pick San Jose used to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson nearly two years ago, and they can do so again knowing Lafreniere won't be out west. The 2019-20 season will still sting, of course, if Ottawa's selection is used to draft an eventual franchise cornerstone, but the Sharks haven't had many victories to fall back upon in the last calendar year and this would certainly qualify.

It won't mean much if the Sharks aren't soon able to chart a path back to contention, though.

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

It has been widely presumed that if Patrick Marleau returns for a 23rd NHL season, he will do so with the Sharks, back where it all began.

He still is without a Stanley Cup on his career résumé after he and the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the NHL's expanded playoff format. The Penguins acquired him prior to the trade deadline in exchange for a 2021 third-round draft pick after he returned for his second go-around with San Jose early in the season.

Based on what his wife, Christina, tweeted Friday, it appears Marleau already has made up his mind about playing next season.

That really shouldn't come as a surprise. Though he isn't the top-end player he once was, Marleau showed this past season that he still has some left in the tank. And, on top of that, he only needs to play in 45 more games to pass NHL legend Gordie Howe for the most games played in league history.

Frankly, it would only be fitting if he set the record in a Sharks sweater. And now it would appear the ball is in San Jose's court as to whether or not Marleau will return to the franchise that drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 Entry Draft.

Aside from the appetizing narrative, there's reason why Marleau might get a third go-around in teal. All indications are that the Sharks intend to return to playoff contention next season, but due to their salary structure, don't expect any large salaries to be brought in -- San Jose already has plenty of those. Consequently, the Sharks are going to need to fill the lineup with some minimum-salaried players.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

At this point, you can bet that money isn't a top consideration for Marleau. If a true Cup contender doesn't present him with an offer, it would be difficult to envision a more appealing destination for him than San Jose. Marleau could be signed for the veteran's minimum, and given he scored 10 goals in 58 games with the Sharks this year, that might be a pretty good value.

It's certainly possible the Sharks find a superior player to take Marleau's hypothetical spot, or would rather give it to a younger player that is part of the future.

If that's not the case, though, signing Mr. Shark makes an awful lot of sense.