Sharks

Thornton, Marleau will have options if they don't return to Sharks

Thornton, Marleau will have options if they don't return to Sharks

There’s nothing new to report regarding the futures of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose, and it’s likely that it will remain quiet until the conclusion of the expansion draft on June 21, at the very least.

It will be a couple more weeks, then, before the will-they-or-won’t-they return question gets answered.

While the Sharks have to decide whether they want to bring one or both of the franchise cornerstones back, and at what cost, Thornton and Marleau will surely have options regardless of what San Jose potentially offers. Thornton is just one season removed from finishing fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy, while Marleau is coming off of a 27-goal season. Both want to keep playing and both will undoubtedly be in the NHL next season, in teal or otherwise.

Here are some potential landing spots for the pair if they don’t end up returning to the Sharks.

Joe Thornton, Nashville Predators

After coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup, and likely to be a contender for the next several seasons, the Nashville Predators might be looking for that extra piece to put them over the top. Ryan Johansen (who idolized Thortnton growing up) is firmly entrenched as the top center, but center and captain Mike Fisher is a pending free agent that may be headed for retirement. If Fisher hangs them up, the Predators will surely be in the market for a centerman to replace him.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that Thornton’s parents love Nashville, and often show up on the road when the Sharks visit the Music City. Maybe they could all celebrate a new contract on the rooftop at Tootsie’s.

Patrick Marleau, Anaheim Ducks

Marleau was open to joining the Ducks early in the 2015-16 season when he was disgruntled, something many longtime Sharks fans still like to ignore. The Sharks’ all-time leading scorer in a Ducks sweater? Impossible! 

If he prefers to stay close to home and the Sharks aren't an option, though, moving down the coast to Anaheim would obviously be a logical choice. The Ducks may be looking for a scoring winger after the expansion draft, too, as the speedy and durable Andrew Cogliano could be a target for the Golden Knights. Guess who else is speedy and durable?

Joe Thornton, Dallas Stars

The Stars are under new/old leadership, as head coach Ken Hitchcock is returning to his former home where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999. Hitchcock and Thornton seem to have a good relationship, as they’ve been together for three international tournaments, and this season they were spotted playfully jawing at one another before a Sharks morning skate in St. Louis.

Further, after the 2014-15 season when the Sharks were open to trading Thornton, the Stars were one of the teams interested. Although they’re coming off of a rough season Dallas still has some quality pieces in place, and with new goalie Ben Bishop it may have fixed its biggest issue. The Stars now need some defensemen to put in front of Bishop, but adding a depth center like Thornton to play behind Tyler Seguin would add more punch to their lineup, too.

Patrick Marleau, Vegas Golden Knights

Another option for Marleau to stay close would be the expansion Golden Knights. Vegas has an exclusive 48-hour window to speak with unrestricted free agents on June 18, before other NHL teams are permitted, so it could get a head start on making Marleau a generous offer. Adding a big-name guy like Marleau would help to give the team instant credibility, as hockey fans in Sin City surely know his name.

Frankly, the Sharks probably wouldn’t be all that upset if that happened. If Marleau signs with the Golden Knights during that exclusive window, Vegas isn't allowed to take anyone else off of San Jose’s roster.

Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins

Could a return to the team that drafted him and subsequently traded him to San Jose be in the cards for Thornton? Hockey-wise, it might be worth the Bruins to inquire about the services of their former captain, even if they are a bit cap-strapped.

While Patrice Bergeron is the top center in Boston and in the prime of his career, David Krejci had a bumpy season and young center Ryan Spooner is rumored to be on the trading block after he was a healthy scratch for a couple games in the first round of the playoffs.

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs

There may not be a head coach in the NHL fonder of Marleau than Mike Babcock, who pushed for Marleau’s somewhat surprising inclusion on the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. Recall back in Feb. 2015, too, when the then-Red Wings coach quipped: “Patty is a good, good man. If [the Sharks] don’t want him, just call us.”

Toronto is a team on the rise with some talented up-and-coming forwards. Perhaps bringing in a veteran of Marleau’s stature to push some of the younger depth guys for playing time makes sense, creating some internal competition among the group.

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE – Sure, it’s something of a cliché to say a team has to “roll four lines” in order to be successful. But it’s true. When the Sharks have been at their best this season, it’s because their depth has shown through. 

In their crucial Game 5 victory over the Golden Knights on Thursday evening, San Jose’s depth was a key factor yet again, with their fourth line putting on a show. It’s something Team Teal needs if the Sharks are going to play past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially since their current opponent also has a fourth line that can have an impact on the game.

“I thought those guys were good,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of the trio of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. “They’re getting some effective minutes from their fourth line, whether it’s on the scoresheet or just softening up the next group going out there. We have to do the same thing and I thought those guys did.”

When asked about his line’s performance, Goodrow told the press they accomplished what any fourth line should.

“You just look to create energy,” he said. “We want to spend as much time in the offensive zone as possible. Hold onto pucks, create cycles, make plays.”

Goodrow and Karlsson have been staples on that fourth line since the start of the regular season, while Donskoi only recently joined them after an injury took Micheal Haley out of the lineup. While Donskoi didn’t get on the scoresheet in Game 5, his hard work was rewarded when DeBoer moved him up the lineup in the third frame. 

“I thought Donskoi was on,” DeBoer said. “He had good jump, he had good energy, he was inside.”

Of course, the biggest contribution the fourth line made was in the second stanza when Goodrow found the back of the net. San Jose was holding onto a 2-1 lead when the fourth-line center redirected a Justin Braun shot from up top to give the Sharks a much-needed two-goal cushion.

“That’s a big goal for us by Goodie at that point,” DeBoer said of the goal, which was also Goodrow’s first playoff marker. “We needed that.” 

The goal also countered the attack of Vegas’ fourth line, which thrives off of strong physical play and knocking their opponent around. Goodrow’s line was able to halt that attack by playing a more offense-forward game.

“Whenever you can keep their fourth line out of your end, it kind of limits their physicality,” Goodrow summarized.

[RELATED: Why two-day break before Game 6 is crucial for Sharks]

San Jose will need those fourth-line contributions to continue if they’re going to have success Sunday when the series returns to Las Vegas.

They have yet to hold a lead at T-Mobile Arena, and the fourth line has yet to contribute to the Sharks’ cause in a game played in that building. But if they can put forward the same effort they did in Game 5, the Sharks are going to have a much better chance at bringing the series back to San Jose for Game 7.

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

SAN JOSE – Up until this point in the first round, the Sharks and Golden Knights have squared off every other night. Now, after staving off elimination with a crucial Game 5 victory, Team Teal has a whopping two days to prepare for Game 6 back in Las Vegas.

“We have two days now,” Tomas Hertl said after San Jose’s 5-2 victory. “Have to take a little breath and rest and be ready for that.”

This isn’t to say that San Jose is playing at any more of a grueling pace than other teams in the playoffs. But bumps and bruises are quite common this time of year. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed two straight playoff games after being hit by a puck during Game 2, Erik Karlsson is still bouncing back from a regular- season injury -- heck, Logan Couture is the second player who has had to make a trip to the dentist after losing teeth during a game.

Between the ailments being common and the current series being incredibly physical, getting an extra 24 hours in between games is a big help, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media on Friday morning following.

“We’ve got to use it to get rest, to get guys healthy,” DeBoer said, before adding: “But also to prepare. I think we’re going to have to find another level in our game obviously to win Game 6 in there. That’s what the two days have to be used for, too.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. The Sharks haven’t faired well in many of their visits to the Knights’ home barn, particularly during the current best-of-seven series. San Jose was outscored 11-3 in Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena and went 1-for-7 on the power play, which is not good when you’re trying to defeat a team that is stealthy at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. While their Game 5 performance was a vast improvement – they finally kept that Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line off the scoreboard, for starters – they still need to use the two days prep for Game 6 wisely.

Plus, Vegas gets that time to prepare as well.

“They get the same luxury,” Karlsson pointed out, before adding that San Jose isn’t putting too much thought into what the other team is doing. “I think our biggest focus is on ourselves and what we have to do to be successful.”

[RELATED: Five observations from Game 5 win]

After finding that success on their home ice, the Sharks are even more motivated to put on a good showing in Sin CIty on Easter Sunday, forcing a Game 7 back in San Jose. It's no easy feat, but two days worth of prep can help.

"We know it will be really hard, but we are ready for this challenge," Hertl said on Friday morning. "We want to show them we can beat them there too."