Why Erik Karlsson's mysterious absence from Sharks signals red alert

Why Erik Karlsson's mysterious absence from Sharks signals red alert

Editor's note: This was published before Erik Karlsson announced that his wife gave birth to a baby girl, explaining his absence from Wednesday's season opener.

Red alert.

The Sharks looked terrible in their season-opening loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. There's no way around it. And while it's irrational to jump to conclusions based on the first of 82 regular-season games, these are not rational times.

That's because one of the major positives you could point to from the Sharks' offseason -- re-signing All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract -- was mysteriously missing from that lackluster opening-night effort, and that mystery has yet to be cleared up as of yet.

About an hour before puck drop, it was announced that Karlsson would miss Wednesday's game due to personal reasons. On Thursday, San Jose coach Pete DeBoer couldn't and/or wouldn't provide any additional information on the defenseman's status.

Red alert.

Obviously, Karlsson's well-being is the most important thing here, and the Sharks already are doing the right thing in supporting him by allowing him to do what he needs to do and be where he needs to be -- whatever and wherever that means.

But, there's no ignoring the fact that Karlsson is arguably San Jose's best player and absolutely essential to the team's success in the season ahead. While there was nothing to suggest Karlsson absence was at all injury-related, it's also notable that he had offseason groin surgery after missing considerable portions of his first season with the Sharks.

San Jose already is without suspended winger Evander Kane, and both Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc left Wednesday's game in the third period with injuries. That said, Kane's suspension will be up after two more games, and both Meier and Labanc were back at practice Thursday, so their absences will be brief, if at all.

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Karlsson's, though, seems considerably less definite, and until more information is provided, the Sharks and their fans will be holding their collective breaths.

And they should be. He's that important.

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.

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"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?


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.  

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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.