We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects leading up to the start of the 2014-15 season.
2013 Season: 51-22-9 111pts – (2nd Pacific Division; 4th Western Conference)
Free Agents Signed:
John Scott (LW – Buffalo)
Michael Haley ( C – Rangers)
Bryan Lerg (LW – Avalanche)
Taylor Fendun (D – Oilers)
Free Agents Lost:
John McCarthy (LW – St. Louis Blues)
Dan Boyle (D) Rights to NYI for Conditional 5th Round Pick in 2015
Brad Stuart (D) to Avalanche for a second-round pick in 2016 and a sixth-rounder in 2017
3rd Round Pick in 2015 to Flyers for Tye McGinn (F)
Marty Havlat (RW)
Chris Tierney (C)
Mirco Mueller (D)
Nikolay Goldobin (RW)
Dan O’Regan (C/W)
The Sharks made history during the playoffs last season when they became the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after a 3-0 start. With the first round meltdown against the LA Kings fresh in their minds, General Manager Doug Wilson called for changes yet again this off season. But wait, don’t you dare call it a ‘rebuild’ – instead Wilson stated that the Sharks are to become “a tomorrow team.” Once you look past the saying he pulled off an executive buzzword bingo card, the intent is for the team to shift away towards a more youthful roster. The first steps of their off-season plan included trading Brad Stuart to the Avalanche, trading Dan Boyle’s rights to the Islanders, and buying out Marty Havlat. But when you look at the moves on paper, the Sharks did not really do much to bolster their team or to make room for prospects to move up.
The second shift towards ‘tomorrow’ focuses on the voice in the locker room. It was announced this offseason that both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been relieved of their captain/alternate duties. Coach Todd McLellan stated that Thornton wasn’t “stripped” of his C, and that all players would have a shot to wear the letters after training camp. Rumored players that could take over these roles include Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. It will be interesting to see if new on-ice leadership helps to bolster the team in times of need, especially during the playoffs.
The Sharks most promising prospect, Thomas Hertl will play his second season in the NHL. He started off with an offensive bang his Rookie year; 15 goals, 10 Assists, and 25 points. However his hot start was brought to a grinding halt when he suffered a knee injury on December 19th, keeping him sidelines till the end of the regular season. Hertl is slated to return to the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. If he can remain healthy, I expect him to be a driving offensive force for the Sharks this season.
Along the blue line, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is coming off a phenomenal 2013-14 season with the Sharks. He ended the season a +31 with 5 goals, 19 assists, and 24 points. Brett Burns filed in offensively last season, but will return to his natural position. However if injuries plague the sharks again, don’t be surprised to him slotted into the offense on occasion.
Goaltending will be a hot topic this year as well. Antti Niemi is in a contract year, and is coming off an extremely poor playoff performance. It’s not often that you can say a goaltender was benched in game six with a 3.74GAA and a dismal .884 save percentage. Could backup goalie Alex Stalock be seen more often on the ice than on the bench this season? Or will Niemi show that he’s still got it and retain his starting position?
On the injury front, Logan Cotoure is expected to be recovered from his hand/wrist surgery by the start of camp. The same cannot be said for forward Raffi Torres, who is listed as out indefinitely. After developing an Infection right knee, it was announced that he has to have right ACL procedure done again. He is expected to return at some point during the 2014-15 season, but the timetable is unknown at this time.
I fully expect to see Hertl and Couture, as well as veterans Thornton and Pavelski to be the driving force for the offense this season. Having Burns back on the blue line should help the Sharks to regain some intimidating size in the defensive zone. I also anticipate seeing more game starts for Stalock, but for Niemi to decisively take regain control of the starting goalie position. Expect the Sharks overall success during the regular season continue, possibly seeing them place 2nd/3rd in the Pacific Division. However the real question is, will history repeat itself in the playoffs? I predict that we will see the sharks make it to the second round, but not proceed further due to the stacked talent in the western conference. One thing to keep in mind however is that if the team does experience another letdown in the playoffs, we may see coach Todd McLellan (7th season) and possibly even GM Doug Wilson forced to ‘walk the plank’ over shark fan infested waters.
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Matt Nieto – Logan Couture – Patrick Marleau
Tommy Wingels – James Sheppard – Freddie Hamilton
Mike Brown – Andrew Desjardins – Tyler Kennedy
John Scott – Tye McGinn
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Justin Braun – Brent Burns
Scott Hannan – Matt Irwin
PS: In case you were wondering, yes Tyler Kennedy is still on the team after only producing four goals, a -10 rating, and spending time in the regular season/playoffs as a healthy scratch. This is the last year of his contract with the Sharks, and he has a lot to prove if he expects to be re-signed or play elsewhere in the NHL.