Sharks still seeking ‘smart' game amid season-opening losing streak

Sharks still seeking ‘smart' game amid season-opening losing streak

After the Sharks' second loss of the season last Friday, defenseman Erik Karlsson said his team needed to play smarter.

"I think that we work hard, we just don't work smart," he summarized after a 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. "The guys that we have in here, we know that we have to be better. Play better hockey, that's what it's all about."

Two games later, San Jose still has the same problem.

The Sharks showed signs of life in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, their fourth straight to start 2019-20, but undisciplined play still is a problem. Four games in, San Jose still figuring out how to play smart for a full 60 minutes.

Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Sharks, who have had major trouble holding onto the puck all season. This was at the forefront Tuesday -- despite the strong second period -- as the Predators registered 13 takeaways on the evening and the Sharks gave the puck away an additional nine times. Even after San Jose had some extended shifts in the offensive zone and put pressure on Preds netminder Pekka Rinne, small mistakes ended up in the back of Martin Jones' net. 

It isn't just miscues with the puck that are hurting the Sharks, either. The Sharks haven't quite tapped into their physicality this season, and they are instead taking avoidable penalties.

The Sharks went to the sin bin six times Tuesday, and Brenden Dillon's slash on Filip Forsberg was one example of a preventable call. Making matters worse, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gave the puck away on the ensuing power play, and Roman Josi gave the PRedators a 2-0 lead. Long story short: Trips to the penalty box aren't helping San Jose's case for playing a smarter game.

These mistakes can't all be put on the new players the Sharks have added to their lineup. Many of the mistakes on the ice are being made by the veteran players, and those have set the tone in every game this season.

[RELATED: Bringing back Marleau won't fix all of Sharks' problems]

At this point, you have to figure that some changes are on the horizon for the Sharks. San Jose already announced that Patrick Marleau will rejoin the team, but that move could just be the start.. While some movement could help the Sharks gain some offensive firepower, the collective group still has to start playing more disciplined. 

The season might only be four games old, but the winless Sharks need to quickly find a remedy for their mistakes before it's too late. 

Why it was surprising Sharks didn't trade Joe Thornton at deadline

Why it was surprising Sharks didn't trade Joe Thornton at deadline

When the trade deadline dust settled Monday, Joe Thornton still was a member of the Sharks, 

San Jose traded Patrick Marleau and Barclay Goodrow, but Jumbo stayed put, despite his comments in recent days that he wouldn't mind playing for a contender. 

Thornton has hinted that while 40 years old, this might not be his final season in the NHL and perhaps that played a role in him standing pat if the Sharks would like to re-sign him this summer.

[RELATED: Marleau can add to Hall of Fame credential with Penguins]

Even had the Sharks traded Thornton it wouldn't have been the move that would greatly benefit the franchise. But if Thornton wanted to chance to chase the Cup this season, the Sharks should have made that happen. 

While Sharks fans are happy Jumbo still will wear teal, NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil was a bit surprised the veteran wasn't moved and he explains why in the video above. 

What Sharks' NHL trade deadline moves, inaction mean for team's future

What Sharks' NHL trade deadline moves, inaction mean for team's future

Before delving into anything else, it’s important to establish that the 2020 NHL trade deadline was unlike any other for Doug Wilson across the last decade.

Instead of adding the final complementary pieces to a usual contender, the Sharks general manager's maneuvering would be measured by subtraction, flexibility gained, and draft picks coming back. 

Here are select perspectives from what did -- and did not -- happen today.

Joe Thornton stays

On the outside, it may seem confusing that Joe Thornton remained with San Jose. If given the chance to leapfrog his way to the front of Stanley Cup contention, why didn’t he capitalize?

The opportunities to contribute in Boston (where he started) or Dallas (alongside Joe Pavelski) must have been enticing. Also, why, at 40 years old, would he elect to spend the remaining twenty games of this season with a Sharks core decimated by injuries?

Between quotes you will and won’t read, know this: Thornton is a loyalist. He always has taken “hometown discounts” to stay in San Jose, potentially missing out on an eight-digit haul over the years by routinely taking less money to re-sign with the Sharks. But more importantly, he already is aiming for a return in San Jose next season, something that is usually reserved for summer declaration.

There also is some possibility that in the end, Boston and Dallas couldn’t align with San Jose on the right compensation package. The Bruins already made their splash three days ago, acquiring Ondrej Kase from Anaheim, and the Stars stood completely pat at the deadline.

Patrick Marleau leaves

It’s been a weird stretch for Patrick Marleau, who joins his fourth NHL team since the end of last regular season with his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is especially so for a player who spent the previous 19 campaigns only with San Jose.

It’s no surprise he bit on what Thornton did not, becoming part of the league’s fifth-best point-producer in Pittsburgh -- certainly one of the bonafide favorites for the Cup. The ability to play alongside Sidney Crosby also had to factor into the equation, along with Marleau’s childhood fascination with the Pens.

According to, Marleau’s one-year deal for this season did not include any movement clauses. But it’s difficult to imagine he resisted this transaction, which includes a conditional second or third-round pick for the Sharks in 2021.

Additionally, it’s believed that the door will remain open for Marleau to re-sign in San Jose next season.

Barclay Goodrow traded

Goodrow, Brenden Dillon, and Marleau arguably were three of San Jose’s better storylines this season. To no surprise, that’s what Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh sought after.

As for Goodrow, his versatility and upside with the Sharks this season was tangible, helping net a 2020 first-round pick from the Lightning in return. He also is under contract for next season for less than $1 million.

While the high draft selection could greatly benefit San Jose over time, the team certainly is a lot less deep in the present. Down an every-line center like Goodrow, who also was a mainstay on their top-tier penalty killing unit, will be tough to recover from in the short term. 

Still, Goodrow leaves the franchise a hero after having scored arguably it’s most important goal, the overtime winner in Game 7 against Vegas, less than one year ago.

Aaron Dell stays

He wasn’t commonly discussed on the forefront of trade rumors, and certainly, the market for goalie movement wasn’t overwhelming. But Dell certainly did enough in recent months to prove his stock in this league, and maybe even land as a team’s No. 1 next season.

The Sharks either couldn’t find a great enough return for Dell, or a committed suitor, or they feel there is an inside track to retain him for next season. If that’s the case, it creates the interesting dilemma that the Sharks already have Martin Jones signed until 2024, at a starter-sized cap hit.

[RELATED: Marleau can fill hole on résumé after trade from Sharks]

Did the Sharks do enough?

Clearly, work remains with the Sharks in terms of reshaping their roster. While restocking draft picks for this and next year do help down the road, did they get better or more cap-flexible across the next two seasons? Does this force them into a longer rebuild, much lengthier than the more expeditious re-tools we have seen in recent years?

Historically, this team has made it’s higher profile moves in summer months, such as Brent Burns, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle. By not committing to any major transactions today, all the Sharks did was set themselves up for a bigger agenda come July and beyond.