Sharks

What the Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues

sharksbluesusatsi.jpg
USATSI

What the Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues

SAN JOSE -- Sure, it probably stings for many Sharks fans to see the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup. After all, it wasn't even a month ago the Blues defeated the Sharks in six games and cut Team Teal's run at the big trophy short. 

Despite all that, there are some things San Jose can take away from watching the Western Conference champions defeat the Boston Bruins. (And no, it doesn't have anything to do with getting away with hitting other players in the head.)

For starters, the Blues defensive effort could stay relentless for a full 60 minutes. The Sharks' defense had the ability to make or break their chances of winning during their 20-game playoff run. When working correctly, San Jose took away their opponents' scoring chances by keeping the opposition on the perimeter of the ice. But the Sharks also had a tendency of letting their feet off the gas and let the other team bulldoze through the neutral zone.

With the exception of Games 3 and 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Blues did a fairly consistent job taking the ice away from the Bruins and not letting up. Their effort in Game 7 was particularly strong, and they were able to carry it through until the end of the game. It also didn't hurt that Jordan Binnington basically stood on his head in Game 7 to keep Boston off the scoreboard.

St. Louis also regularly got contributions from different parts of their lineup. There's no denying the Sharks' depth was heavily tested at the end of their playoff run with multiple key players sidelined by injuries. Even so, when the Sharks looked their best when they got contributions from different parts of their lineup, whether it was the Joe Thornton-led third line or the Barclay Goodrow-centered fourth line. At the end of their playoff run, one of head coach Peter DeBoer's post-loss criticisms was that there were "not enough participants" in helping the team get a victory.

This is an area where the Blues excelled throughout the playoffs. When Vladimir Tarasenko and the top line wasn't finding the back of the net, St. Louis got firepower from the Ryan O'Reilly-led second line. When the bottom six couldn't get going against Boston, St. Louis got scoring help from their blueliners.

[RELATED: Shark split loyalties with Warriors/Raptors in FInals]

These are, of course, areas the Sharks are aiming to improve upon during the offseason. They've already started beefing up their defensive effort with the return of Bob Boughner to the coaching staff, plus they'll hopefully have an extra weapon in Radim Simek ready for next season. As far as scoring depth goes, San Jose has key pieces to build around as they figure out who will be with the team next season -- including Logan Couture, who was still the league leader in playoff goals at the end of the playoffs.

The 2019 Stanley Cup run just concluded, but it's never too early for the Sharks to lay the foundation for next year.  

Why Kobe Bryant's tragic death struck chord with Sharks' Evander Kane

Why Kobe Bryant's tragic death struck chord with Sharks' Evander Kane

SAN JOSE -- The entire sports world is reeling in the wake of Kobe Bryant's shocking death, and the NHL is no different.

Evander Kane and the Sharks return from the NHL All-Star break to face the visiting Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center on Monday night, and while the week-long break was much-needed, it ended on a heartbreaking note. As the team reconvened for practice Sunday, the news already had made its way around the locker room.

"I was stunned," Kane described following San Jose's morning skate on Monday. "It was something that ... I was in disbelief. I had just landed actually, late morning yesterday before practice and looked at my phone, had a few text messages from friends and was stunned to hear that news."

Kane didn't know Bryant. They weren't friends or even acquaintances. But like so many others, Sunday's tragic events struck a chord with the Sharks' forward.

"It was weird, the kind of emotion I had to it, just because I don't know Kobe personally. Never met him before. But obviously, was a fan of his as a kid and as I've been a professional athlete ... even more specifically after his basketball career. The type of success he has had off the court, and the type of father and family man he was ... it was heartwarming to see just the way he interacted with them, especially his daughters. And then to find out that one of his daughters, Gigi, was on board with him, it hits home for anybody who is a father or who has kids.

"The way they passed away was pretty gruesome, so to think -- to put your mind in where their headspaces might have been at that time -- it's tough to do. You hope and you pray that his wife Vanessa and his other three girls can move on and be okay."

Kane can speak to the challenge of moving on from tragedy. Last March, he and his wife lost their unborn daughter, Eva, 26 weeks into the pregnancy. He has a tattoo on his right arm in her honor.

[RELATED: How Kobe's presence transcended NBA and into life itself]

"There are so many precious moments in life and precious people around you, it makes you take a step back and realize what's important," Kane said of Bryant. "It's a big loss for a lot of people. He's going to be greatly missed, that's for sure."

Would Sharks really consider trading Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau?

jumbopattyus.jpg
USATSI

Would Sharks really consider trading Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau?

The unexpected struggles of this Sharks season have presented an unexpected dilemma that inevitably will reach a resolution in less than one month.

Seeing as the Sharks are not well-positioned for the playoffs, would San Jose consider trading Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau to a Stanley Cup frontrunner as a professional courtesy to the future Hall of Famers?

The premise initially is jarring but starts to gain reason with time. 

Thornton and Marleau each have stated they aren’t yet thinking about this potential situation, which is understandable, honorable and believable.  

However, there are some elements to consider before the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline.

Emotional attachment in San Jose

When Marleau departed for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, many felt there was zero chance he’d ever play a game again for San Jose, which made his return even more storybook. The “against all odds” theme also exists with Joe Thornton.  

The two knee injuries he has overcome in recent seasons would have ended most NHL careers for players approaching 40 years old. Simply put, this reunion of 1997’s first two draft picks was highly unlikely and it would be unfortunate to end it under these circumstances. Keeping them for sentimental reasons, though, actually seems selfish, opposed to letting them chase a dream.

The difficulty of finding a trade partner

San Jose wouldn’t likely ask for the world in return if they moved Marleau or Thornton, who are both free agents this summer. But they also would expect to receive fair market compensation for what might seem like the ultimate “final pieces” to any Stanley Cup contender. Negotiations might not be so simple.  

There’s also the difficulty of lining them up with the best suited clubs to win it all, which seems like a group of around eight to 10 teams right now, instead of only three or four.

It has to be their decisions

Despite however they’re quoted in the media, is this something Thornton or Marleau would even want to entertain? They have families. They’re established in San Jose. But they also don’t have unlimited chances for a Cup, no matter what their hearts desire.  

[RELATED: Why NHL All-Star Game hero Hertl wasn't an MVP finalist]

Do they want that opportunity, even if it means leaving San Jose? Those decisions should be made solely on their individual preference. They would need to be 100 percent behind it.

Stepping outside comfort zones

No matter what, the next four weeks are going to be different. When is the last time San Jose has been sellers approaching the deadline? And who knows if Thornton and Marleau would be the biggest departures?

 Just the thought of Thornton skating in a Boston sweater again, or possibly Marleau joining a speedy Colorado team is enough to cramp the brain. But if it means helping these men attempt the literal one thing that doesn’t exist on their resume, it would be hard to deny the opportunity.