Joe Pavelski

Why Sharks are confident they can make up for lost offensive firepower

Why Sharks are confident they can make up for lost offensive firepower

SAN JOSE -- There has been a lot of talk outside the Sharks dressing room about whether this season's roster can make up for the offensive firepower the team lost during the offseason.

Sure, some of that talk may be circulating within the dressing room as well. But San Jose knows it has the tools to fill the void -- regardless of what the outside world is saying.

"I think the media's going to talk about those things," defenseman Brenden Dillon said as camp opened up. "And in our room too -- there are lockers that are open. There are positions open. You see different line combinations throughout camp."

In addition to losing regular-season goals leader Joe Pavelski (Dallas) for their upcoming campaign, San Jose will be without depth scorers Joonas Donskoi (Colorado) and Gustav Nyquist (Columbus), as well as defenseman and penalty-kill staple Justin Braun (Philadelphia).

While most NHL teams see some sort of turnover in the offseason -- heck, the Sharks are no strangers to how the business of hockey works -- there has been plenty of speculation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign as to how the Sharks will compete since they didn't add a big-name player to their roster to make up for their losses

But as Dillon explained, he and his teammates have to focus on the guys who are on the roster with them right now --- not who they're missing from last year.

"I think it's about realizing the opportunity for us," he summarized. "Whoever's in this room, whoever's dressed for game nights, that's your teammate. That's who you're going to battle with."

Logan Couture had a similar message on the first day of training camp. As hard as it may seem to fill in for the departed players, that's part of the game. Plus, it gives emerging players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc the chance to fill in those roles.

"It's not an easy task, but that's the way it works," the captain said. "Same thing happened when Patty (Marleau) moved on somewhere else. Other guys got opportunities to step up and our scouting staff did a tremendous job bringing in European players as well as Timo and Banker, guys like that they drafted. There's a new wave of younger players we're excited about and hopefully this year they can break through like Timo and Banker and Tommy Hertl did."

The Sharks are, in fact, putting a lot of stock in the crop of youngsters that have come into this year's training camp. General manager Doug Wilson went so far as to say earlier this month the team is "as excited about this group of forwards coming in as we've ever been." 

[RELATED: Why Sharks' alternate captains are just as important as Couture]

After just a couple days of practicing and scrimmaging, those younger players already are starting to show that they are ready to compete for big jobs.

Seeing such positive results at the start of the preseason makes it easier for the Sharks to look forward with the players they currently have in their dressing room. 

"I think it just shows the future is bright for us," Dillon said. "And I think for a lot of -- whether it's analysts or (whoever) -- saying we've got 'too many holes to fill' and missing too many things, camp so far has been really good, and there's a lot of talent."

Peter DeBoer, Sharks players describe what Joe Pavelski meant to them

Peter DeBoer, Sharks players describe what Joe Pavelski meant to them

SAN JOSE -- When the Sharks take the ice Friday, it will mark their first training camp without Joe Pavelski, who signed with the Dallas Stars this offseason after 13 seasons in teal.

So, we asked his former Sharks teammates to finish this sentence: Joe Pavelski was …

Logan Couture

“Heart and soul. Amazing person, not just a hockey player. He was very special to a lot of guys in the room, and he’ll be missed.”

Peter DeBoer

“A warrior. There’s a guy, not the biggest, not the fastest. But fearless. A leader, and he’ll be greatly missed in the room, on the ice but personally, too. Him and his family, just infectious personalities. We’ve got to find a way to replace some of that.”

Martin Jones

“A great leader, a great teammate. One of those guys that he’s real easy to follow going into the hard areas of the ice. You see the grit he plays with. He’s inspiring.”

Joe Thornton

“The best. I love the guy. He’s meant so much to this organization for over 10 years now. A big part of this group, and we’re going to miss him definitely.”

Brent Burns

“The ultimate professional. When you look at him, broke him down, he wasn’t the fastest skater, didn’t have the hardest shot, he was just smart. He just did everything right. A great guy off the ice, and [an] unbelievable hockey player.”

Timo Meier

“A huge impact for me. Learned a lot from him, not just on the ice but off the ice, too. He’s a guy that when I first came in, guided me and showed me the right attitude, the right habits. Just a guy you can rely on in every kind of moment.”

[RELATED: Couture named new Sharks captain]

Erik Karlsson

“An important character. During the period of time, he was the culture here. He knew what needed to be done, and he’d seen things that guys except Thornton and [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic hadn’t. He was vital to keeping things the right way.”
 

How Erik Karlsson will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void this season

How Erik Karlsson will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void this season

Editor's note: The Sharks open training camp later this week, looking to replace nearly 60 regular-season goals from departed forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Before camp officially begins, NBC Sports California is examining the players who will help San Jose fill that goal-scoring void. We conclude with defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

Excluding Erik Karlsson's rookie season, he scored at least twice as many goals in every other season of his career than he did last year.

That's right. Karlsson's three goals last season were a career-low, and seven-times fewer than his career-high. Granted, he was limited to 53 regular-season games due to injury, but when you consider his next-lowest total outside of his rookie year -- six goals in 2012-13 -- was tallied over just 17 games, it becomes increasingly obvious why Karlsson should be expected to find the back of the net more often in the season ahead.

Karlsson scored on 1.8 percent of his shots last season, by far the lowest shot percentage of his accomplished career. Prior to last season, he had never posted a shot percentage lower than the 4.5 percent of shots he scored on during his rookie season. Even with the extreme downturn last season, Karlsson has a career shot percentage of 6.4 percent, which suggests he was rather unlucky in his first season in San Jose.

Speaking of it being his first season, that's another reason why Karlsson can be counted on to provide more offense moving forward. He arrived via trade the day before training camp began, and it was readily apparent that it took some time to get acquainted with his new teammates and defensive partners. As soon as he did -- it took about two months -- the Sharks reeled off their best stretch of the entire year, winning 16 of 21 games from Dec. 2 to Jan. 15 -- a 133-point season-long pace. For reference, Tampa Bay posted the fourth-highest point total (128) in NHL history last year.

Karlsson injured his groin the next day, and aside from an appearance in the All-Star game -- didn't play for an entire month. He then returned for a six-game stretch in late February before sitting out the remainder of the regular season, minus the season finale. His groin reared its ugly head again the Western Conference final against St. Louis, limiting him severely at times and forcing him to miss Game 6, which proved to be the final game of the Sharks' season. 

Karlsson underwent groin surgery at the end of May, and recently said the injury "feels like it's back to normal." He has since signed a lucrative eight-year contract that will keep him in San Jose likely for the duration of his career. Some pundits were surprised he got the contract that he did, but assuming he's healthy, there's no question Karlsson is worth it.

Now entering his second season with the Sharks, some critical members from his first are nowhere to be found in the locker room. Pavelski, Nyquist and Donskoi departed in free agency, taking with them more than 20 percent of San Jose's goal total from last season, and some crucial playmakers at that. It will be a team effort to replace their production, but few if any players on the roster can inch close to Karlsson's talent level. He was already a fixture on the power play, and it would not be shocking whatsoever to see him take on an even larger role with the man-advantage, particularly with Pavelski now elsewhere.

[RELATED: Sharks name Couture captain one day before training camp]

Karlsson didn't fall off the map last season -- he was injured, plain and simple. Now healthy and with a year of familiarity under his belt, Karlsson is certainly capable of providing the Sharks with more of what they need -- goals.

Players who will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void in 2019-20

Timo Meier
Kevin Labanc
Top prospects