Sharks

Sharks, as well as one creative fan, make their pitch to John Tavares

Sharks, as well as one creative fan, make their pitch to John Tavares

The Sharks got their meeting.

Free-agent-to-be John Tavares and agent Pat Brisson met with San Jose general manager Doug Wilson, head coach Peter DeBoer, and owner Hasso Plattner, among others, at CAA's headquarters in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The meeting lasted over two hours, and was longer than each of Tavares’ Monday meetings, with the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs, according to SiriusXM NHL Network Radio’s Jonathan Davis.

Tavares’ meeting with the Sharks was his third of six scheduled. He also met with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, and will reportedly meet with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

The Islanders captain, who has scored more goals than all but five players since 2009, reportedly has an eight-year, $88 million offer on the table from his current club. Reports indicate that he will most likely stay in Brooklyn (and/or Long Island, and/or Queens, eventually), but if Tavares does leave, San Jose is in a strong position to sign the 27-year-old.

For one, the Sharks have around $19 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That's more than each of the teams involved, save for New York and Dallas, but San Jose has more players under contract than either of those clubs.

In other words, the Sharks can insert Tavares into their lineup with minimal tweaking and give him a contract in the range of Jonathan Toews ($10,500,000 cap hit) and Connor McDavid ($12,500,000). Hockey Graphs’ Matt Cane’s contract model projects a seven-year contract, the maximum Tavares could sign with a team that isn't the Islanders, would be worth about $10.6 million.

Plus San Jose, as well as Tampa Bay and Boston, are the only teams meeting with Tavares that advanced out of the first round last season. In his career, Tavares has been to the playoffs three times, and only made it out of the playoffs once.

Now, the Sharks play the waiting game. Tavares can still meet with teams from now until June 30. He cannot sign with a new team until 9 a.m. PT on July 1, but can re-sign with the Islanders in the meantime.

While the San Jose front office met with Tavares, one enterprising Sharks fan implored the Ontario native to put on a teal jersey, with the help of some famous beards.

If Tavares returns to the Islanders, he won't be able to grow any facial hair under new general manager Lou Lamoirello’s club policy. He may not want a lifestyle beard, but it's an option in San Jose.

Correction: A previous version of this article said San Jose and Tampa Bay were the only teams meeting with Tavares that made it out of the first round of the postseason this year. Boston did, too. The article has been updated to reflect that. 

Erik Karlsson's offensive improvement comes at perfect time for Sharks

Erik Karlsson's offensive improvement comes at perfect time for Sharks

Erik Karlsson is in the middle of his best offensive stretch with the Sharks.

The defenseman extended the longest point streak of his San Jose career (so far) to five games with an assist in a win over Chicago on Sunday. The Sharks, coincidentally, extended their own season-long winning streak to five games.

But Karlsson's strong production actually dates back a bit further. 

His assist on Sunday was his 15th point since Nov. 13, the night he ended a seven-game pointless streak. Those 15 points in a litte over a month is good for third-most on the Sharks, and third-most among all NHL defensemen, entering Monday.

15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 16 games isn’t surprising for someone who averaged 0.83 per game entering this season, but is far more than the mere seven Karlsson scored in his first 18 games in Teal. 

So what exactly is behind his offensive turnaround? You can point to regression to the mean, but it’s arguably even simpler than that: Karlsson just did what he does best. 

Let's get luck out of the way first, though. Karlsson has been luckier in his last 16 games than his first 18. The chart below notes the Sharks’ shooting percentages with Karlsson in 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 situations during each stretch, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Situation First 18 Games Last 16 Games
5v5 6.15% 8.21%
5v4 10.87% 19.57%

The power-play increase in particular is eye-popping, but neither of those percentages alone explain his improvement. Karlsson’s underlying numbers, however, fill in a lot of gaps. 

Karlsson has been a much more prolific shooter over his last 16 games. He's scored twice on the power play, and upped his shot/attempt rates at even strength -- as the table below shows.

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Stat First 18 Last 16
5v5 iCF/60 19.12 19.66
5v5 iFF/60 11.11 13.51
5v5 iSF/60 7.1 10.03
5v4 iCF/60 22.62 27.95
5v4 iFF/60 11.31 26.62
5v4 iSF/60 8.22 13.31

Karlsson has not only shot more over the last month, but he's also gotten more shots through. Nearly 75 percent of his shot attempts across all situations in the last 16 games were unblocked, compared to only 55 percent in his first 18 games. 

That has made a big difference on the power play, and should eventually pay dividends at even strength. On the season, Karlsson is generating 5-on-5 scoring chances at the fourth-highest rate of his career. Given his shot rate over the last 16 games would be the highest of his career, his first 5-on-5 goal may not be far away.

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' comeback win over Blackhawks]

As Karlsson gets more shots on net, so have the Sharks when he's been on the ice -- especially at even strength. Although San Jose has attempted about three fewer shots per hour when Karlsson played 5-on-5 in the last 16 games compared to the first 18, nearly four-and-a-half more were on frame. The Sharks have also generated an additional three-and-a-half scoring chances per hour in this timeframe. 

Relative to when he's been off the ice in 5-on-5 situations, Karlsson’s recent impact has been particularly evident. 

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Stat First 18 Last 16
5v5 CF/60 REL +4.6 +13.8
5v5 CF% REL +4.42 +9.3
5v5 FF/60 REL -0.03 +12.49
5v5 FF% REL 2.06 +8.99
5v5 SF/60 REL -0.01 +11.38
5v5 SF% REL -0.58 +8.14

Those are staggering numbers. In the last 16 games, the Sharks have attempted nearly 14 more shots with Karlsson on the ice than when he wasn't. They also controlled 58.1 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts, up from 48.8 percent. 

With Karlsson on the ice over the last month, the Sharks have swam. When he wasn't, they have treaded water.

In fact, over a full season, the relative 5-on-5 numbers from Karlsson’s last 16 games would be better than any of his previous nine seasons. That near-decade includes two seasons in which he won a Norris Trophy, two more when he was a runner-up, and four as a first-team All-Star. 

[RELATED: Sharks top prospect Ryan Merkley traded to Peterborough Petes of OHL]

That impact has translated to goals for the Sharks, if not Karlsson himself. With Karlsson on the ice, the Sharks have scored an additional half-a-goal per hour of 5-on-5 play during that time. That was the sixth-highest rate on the team, despite Karlsson’s on-ice shooting percentage ranking only 13th. 

The sample size is much smaller, but it is still worth noting that the Sharks have attempted more 5-on-4 shots -- and more scoring chances -- with Karlsson on the ice in the last month. His impact hasn't been as pronounced as in 5-on-5 situations, but he's still been much better on the power play than in his first 18 games.  

Karlsson wasn’t bad in those first batch of games, but he wasn’t himself, either. The last month was a real step forward, as he's begun to look like the player who ratcheted the Sharks’ preseason expectations sky-high. 

San Jose surely won’t mind if he sticks around. 

Sharks 'play the right way' in win vs. Blackhawks as streak continues

Sharks 'play the right way' in win vs. Blackhawks as streak continues

When the Sharks were struggling a few weeks back, forward Logan Couture was critical of how his team was playing.

After Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, though, he admitted San Jose's game was coming around.

“We’re playing the right way now,” Couture said. “There’s less cheating.”

The Sharks remained level-headed at United Center despite falling into a 2-0 hole early Sunday, relying on a detailed defensive game that, in turn, led to goals coming from all over the lineup. There’s no denying it -- dismiss San Jose’s first period and focus on the last 40 minutes, and you’ll see the way this team wants to play night in and night out.

“That [game] is one that could’ve gone off the rails pretty easy,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought we had a lot of composure on the bench. I thought the guys -- there was a confidence to it. There wasn’t a panic to it, even when we were down.”

Instead of panicking, San Jose instead tightened up defensively. The defensemen have been on an upward swing lately, but the blue line wasn't alone Sunday. The Sharks' collective defensive game turned the tide of the contest, after they started forcing turnovers in the neutral zone.

“Defensively, we’ve played some really strong hockey,” Couture said. “When we do that -- it may be hard to realize, but it always leads to offense. You’re always going to score more goals when you’re defending well.”

And boy, did San Jose's offense come alive.

All but five Sharks skaters notched a point in the win, and the power play was a perfect 2-for-2. More impressive, still, was where that offense came from.

San Jose’s fourth line was particularly noticeable, even notching the team’s first goal of the evening. All in all, it showed the Sharks were the more aggressive and assertive team -- no matter which line was on the ice.

DeBoer acknowledged his whole team is more confident now that it has won four in a row.

“Our team game’s more solid,” he said. “Our attention to detail, I think everywhere on the ice, has been better. That usually leads to good things.”

Good things as in more wins, perhaps?

The Sharks have quite the task ahead of them with the Minnesota Wild and red-hot Winnipeg Jets coming up next on the schedule. If the Sharks keep playing like they did when they rallied against the Blackhawks, however, there should be good things in their future.

“I think we feel good about our game and where we’re at right now,” DeBoer said. “And we just want to keep that going.”