Why Radim Simek's return can help spark Sharks' defensive turnaround


Why Radim Simek's return can help spark Sharks' defensive turnaround

SAN JOSE -- Right now, the Sharks need any kind of help they can get. Defenseman Radim Simek's return is a step in that direction.

Simek practiced with the Sharks on Monday, shortly after San Jose announced the end of his conditioning assignment with the Barracuda in the AHL. Coach Peter DeBoer said Simek could play Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Simek almost certainly will play at some point on San Jose's current homestand.

One player won't change the entire complexion of the Sharks overnight, as we already saw this season when Patrick Marleau returned to San Jose. With the right kinds of corresponding alterations, however, Simek's return to the Sharks' lineup could be a key part of turning their season around.

That's not to understate Simek's importance. The Sharks did, after all, go 29-9-3 last season with the Czech blueliner in their lineup. Plus, it's encouraging that Simek made an immediate impact in his conditioning stint, setting up two goals and posting a plus-2 in a pair of AHL games.

Keep in mind, it still might take Simek a while to reacclimate to the NHL's speed. Heck, he could still feel some residual pain coming back from tearing ligaments in his left knee in March. 

But Simek's return gives the Sharks the means to rearrange some things on their blue line, and a possible spark they are in desperate need of.

Of course, the next question is where Simek will play. The Sharks tried a few different defensive pairings Monday, so it isn't set in stone that Simek will play on Brent Burns' left side again -- although it does look plausible.

This also means that someone currently playing is going to get scratched. DeBoer pretty consistently rolls out lefty-righty defensive pairs, there is a possibility that he plays four left-handed defensemen when Simek returns. Rookie lefty Mario Ferraro has been one of the Sharks' few bright spots, while right-handed defenseman Tim Heed played fewer than 10 minutes in six out of 11 games so far this season, including a season-low 3:21 on Oct. 24 against the Montreal Canadiens.

[RELATED: Sharks need to find swagger, now must 'look in the mirror]

However Simek is integrated back into the blue line, the Sharks need to play the way they did Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. San Jose allowed a late game-winning goal, but smothered Winnipeg defensively and only allowed 19 shots on goal. The Sharks had hoped to play a similar style the following night, only to allow five goals to the Vancouver Canucks.

With four more games left on the current homestand, the Sharks need to rediscover their defensive prowess if they're going to start winning games again. While there's no guarantee it will be enough, Simek's return should help.  

Sharks' Logan Couture hopes Joe Thornton returns after coronavirus break

Sharks' Logan Couture hopes Joe Thornton returns after coronavirus break

The NHL’s indefinite suspension amid the coronavirus outbreak has impacted players, coaches, executives and fans in a major way.

Although the league has made no official announcements regarding the potential resumption of the 2019-20 season, every passing day makes just picking things back up and playing less and less likely.

For veteran players nearing the end of their careers, this could have been their final chance at a postseason run.

“It’s tough for Patty [Marleau] because he had a legit chance in Pittsburgh,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said in an interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “I look at this selfishly for Jumbo, hoping that he does come back with us next year.

“You know it saves an extra 12 games on those legs and that body of wear and tear, I know he’s gonna get a little bit older, but I think saving some time on that body will help us if he does come back with the Sharks, which I know we’re all hoping that he does.”

[RELATED: Burns' 2017 OT winner should've given Sharks playoff spark]

Marleau was dealt from San Jose to the Penguins at the trade deadline of his 22nd NHL season, with Pittsburgh was right in the thick of the playoff chase. Marleau also was just eight games from moving into fourth all-time in career NHL games played, currently held by Ron Francis (1,731).

Thornton came back to the Sharks in September for his 22nd season, surpassing the 1,500 assist mark in his 1,619th NHL game.

If we don’t end up finishing the 2019-20 NHL season, hopefully Sharks fans and Couture get their wish and can have at least one more season of Jumbo skating out onto the ice at SAP Center.

Sharks' Evander Kane recounts favorite memories of San Jose tenure

Sharks' Evander Kane recounts favorite memories of San Jose tenure

In his time with the Sharks, winger Evander Kane has been a part of some special moments.

Kane has 65 goals through 156 games in San Jose, providing playoff glory as well as spending quite a bit of time in the penalty box.

When asked what his favorite experience has been during his time in Northern California, Kane didn’t need much time to think about it.

“Team moment, definitely last year, Game 7 against Vegas,” Kane told NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “That Game 7 against Vegas last year was something that anyone who watched that game or played that game will never forget, so that was pretty special.

“I’d say as an individual, probably scoring my first hat-trick that ended up being a four-goal game two weeks after getting traded to San Jose, that was pretty awesome.”

Talk about great memories for Sharks fans.

[RELATED: With 400th goal, Jumbo joined group of Hall of Famers]

NBC Sports California’s Marcus White was at SAP Center covering that epic playoff showdown between the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, and recently went into detail on some of the best easter eggs from the comeback.

Kane and the rest of his Sharks teammates now have quite a bit of time to reflect on positive memories, as the NHL season remains indefinitely suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak.