The Below the Ice crew brings you, NHL: 31 for 31
This year as the clock ticks down towards the NHL season, the writers here at BTI will be bringing you our preview of all 31 NHL teams, in 31 days.
“On to the next one” – Jay Z
Today we bring you the last of our Californian teams, the San Jose Sharks.
3rd in the Pacific, 6th in the West, 45-27-10 (100 points) Lost in 2nd round to Vegas (6 games)
After losing their all time leader in almost every single franchise statistic, Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sharks were missing their identity. After a middling start to the season going 10-10-0 the Sharks found themselves swimming aimlessly in the middle of the Pacific (division).
These were not the same San Jose Sharks that had been to a Stanley Cup final two years prior. Age started to show, bringing injuries to the two oldest players on the roster, Joe Thorton (38) and Joel Ward (37).
After scoring 29 goals and capturing his first Norris the year prior, Brent Burns would go his first 20 games without registering a goal finishing the season with 12, his lowest amount in a full season since 2011-12. Burns would still finish the season with 67 points and 55 assists 2nd in D scoring only to John Carlson.
The season would take a turn when Doug Wilson went out and traded for the controversial Evander Kane. Kane made his debut February 27, against the Edmonton Oilers putting up 2 assists in the game. In the 17 contests Kane suited up for the Sharks had a record of 11-5-1 propelling San Jose into the playoffs, while Kane put up 14 points (9G,5A).
- May 23, Extended Evander Kane 7-years, $7AAV
- June 19, Traded Mikkel Boedkker and Julius Bergman to Ottawa for Mike Hoffman and Cody Donaghey
- June 19, Traded Mike Hoffman + 7th to Florida for a 2nd + 4th +5th picks
- June 21, Waived Paul Martin for the purpose of buying him out
- June 30, Extended Logan Couture 8-years, $8AAV
- July 1, Signed Joe Thornton 1-year, $5AAV, Tomas Hertl 4-years, $5.625AAV
OFFSEASON MOVES: D
I’m sure San Jose would tell you that their summer could of been better.
They swung on Free Agent John Tavares and missed, swung on Ilya Kovalchuk and missed. Just when it seemed they got a hit by trading for Hoffman, they inexplicably flipped him to the Florida Panthers for picks hours later.
They managed to lockup key assets such as Kane and Couture but at 15 million combined for two players that have been near a point per game might seem a little steep.
Buying out Paul Martin gave San Jose some cap relief.
One thing I would of liked to see the Sharks do would be to get younger, most of their core; Vlasic, Pavelski, Burns, Braun and Thornton are all on the wrong side of 30 and their window to win the cup is starting to shut.
The summer is not over yet though, San Jose who could still swing for the fences and trade for Erik Karlsson, as it appears Ottawa is ready to have a fire sale. San Jose does not have a 1st round pick this year but they do next year as well as two second-rounders. I could see a package from San Jose that focuses on Ryan Merkley.
81GP, 21G, 15A -2017-18
Last year was a coming out party for Meier, the former 9th overall pick scored over 20 goals and topped 30 points in his freshman season.
Meier has great net front presence as 18 of 21 goals came from within 20ft of the goaltender. His hand eye is also something to behold as all four of his PP goals were deflections. It’s not just in tight or off rebounds he can beat you, Meier has a very accurate wrist shot that may not come with blazing speed but is deceptive thanks to his quick release.
I would look to Meier to continue his goal scoring abilities in the NHL, being a left shot RW on a team of centres gives Meier all the advantages to become a 30 goal scorer.
2018-19 Projection: 27G, 23A
79GP: 22G, 24A – 2017-18
Tomas Hertl has been the ideal candidate to make the leap into 60 point territory since his rookie season, we can also credit Hertl with helping provide perhaps the best Joe Thornton quote ever. I’ll leave you to find that yourself.
He’s a flashy scorer, strong on the puck and uses his backhand quite often to score on goalies in close as its almost impossible to read coming off his stick. Hertl has left me wanting more several years now because I feel there is a potential in him thats yet to be tapped.
Heading into what is his 6th NHL season, it is time for him to turn the corner and join some of his other San Jose teammates like Pavelski and Couture and start filling the net. There are as many as 5 Sharks with the skill and shot to score 30 goals next year and ill book Hertl as one of them.
2018-19 Projection: 33G, 28A
DUE TO REGRESS:
81GP: 5G, 28A
Last season feels as if it was a bit of an anomaly for Braun. Entering the year with a career average of under 17 points, Braun essentially doubled his production while playing essentially the same minutes he’s become accustomed too.
The number that really stands out for me is his negative Corsi over the last two seasons, 46.5% in 2017 and 45.6% in 2018, his regular defensive partner Vlasic managed almost 3% better in the same amount of contests.
The saving grace for Braun is that he is not a power play player and all 33 of his points did come at even strength. This year I could see 2018 1st-round selection Ryan Merkley coming into camp and stealing ice-time from some defenders included Braun who plays on the same side.
2018-19 Projection: 3G, 17A
1st in Pacific, 3rd in the West, 109 points
There’s no way in hell Burns will go his first 20 games without a goal and that makes all the difference to a team that struggled to score to start the year. As well, Evander Kane in his first full season with San Jose should easily eclipse the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career, 29 is his career high.
There are a lot of teams that are going to struggle in the basement of the Pacific like; Vancouver, Arizona and Edmonton. The Sharks will smell blood in the water and take the division by hold during the 1st quarter of the season.
San Jose is not getting any younger and you have to wonder if this is the year they can finally get it done and make the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the last four years. There are not many players that I would rather see get to hoist the Stanley Cup other than Joe Thornton. Thornton is already a first ballot hall of famer but a cup would cement his legacy and keep him away from the Mats Sundin comparisons. I am not rooting for the Sharks to win the West but expect them to make it through to the 2nd or 3rd rounds.
Come back tomorrow when on day 7 of NHL 31 IN 31, our own Jordan Clarke covers the Vancouver Canucks.