Joonas Donskoi

Why Sharks need Martin Jones to outperform No. 23 overall goalie rating


Why Sharks need Martin Jones to outperform No. 23 overall goalie rating

It's no mystery what the Sharks' weakness was last season.

San Jose set a franchise record with 289 regular-season goals, tied for the second-most in the league. The problem was, they allowed 258, the most of any playoff team.

Martin Jones is coming off the worst season of his career, in which he posted an .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average. He wasn't much better in 20 postseason games, with a slightly better save percentage (.898) and slightly worse GAA (3.02).

So, it comes as no surprise that Jones didn't rank highly in The Athletic's 2019-20 Goalie Tiers.

An anonymous 17-person panel consisting of seven NHL general managers, four NHL head coaches, three assistant GMs and three goalie coaches rated every starting goalie on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 representing a goalie who should challenge for the Vezina Trophy, and a 5 representing goalies who shouldn't be starters. The results were averaged, then sorted into tiers.

According to that panel, Jones was rated as the No. 23 overall netminder in the league, closer to the bottom of tier 3 than the top of it.

"He had the lowest save percentage in the NHL last year. Where would you rank him?” One of the anonymous executives questioned. “Jones is a better goalie than we’ve seen. I was surprised how his year went last year."

"It’s amazing what San Jose did with him (in goal)," a head coach responded.

"They played good defensively and he was (bad)," another coach summarized. "He’s had good moments. But he just didn’t stop pucks. I like the way he looks but he just doesn’t stop pucks."

Like I said, no mystery.

[RELATED: Sharks goalie Jones 'really solid' in his preseason debut]

If San Jose is going to compete for the Stanley Cup this coming season, chances are the Sharks will need Jones to perform better than the No. 23 overall goalie in the league. They have lost more than 20 percent of their regular-season goal total from last season after Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist departed in free agency, and with little in the way of obvious replacements on the roster, it seems unlikely San Jose will find the back of the net as often as it did a year ago.

Assuming the Sharks don't, they'll have to make up the difference elsewhere, and that's where Jones comes in.

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Whether or not Joe Thornton is a national treasure is debatable, but he's certainly a regional one.

The future Hall of Famer was mic'd up at a recent Sharks' practice, and he put that quality on display. The 40-year-old didn't appear as if his age has caught up to him, as he was quite talkative and involved throughout.

Just watch for yourself:

Whether it was chasing on the forecheck or missing an empty net, the eldest member of the Sharks looked anything but. Enjoying his first healthy offseason in recent memory, Thornton's energy is certainly palpable, and that bodes well for the Sharks as they attempt to get back to the playoffs for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.

Thornton signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the month to return to the Sharks for his 15th season in San Jose. He'll be one of four alternate captains on the team, after Logan Couture was named the 10th full-time captain in franchise history, taking over for the departed Joe Pavelski.

With Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist leaving in free agency during the offseason, the Sharks are counting on several prospects to take a step forward this coming season -- and on Thornton to help them succeed at the NHL level. While line pairings are still in flux, it wouldn't be shocking whatsoever to see Thornton paired with one of those prospects on his wing.

[RELATED: Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as season nears]

Based on Thornton's mic'd up session, he'll be talking that prospects' ear off all game long.

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