Offseason Analysis: SAN JOSE SHARKS

pavelski

SAN JOSE SHARKS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 40-33-9-89
Home Record: 19-17-5
Away Record: 21-16-4
Shootout Record: 4-6
Playoff Result: Did not make the playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 5, Western Conference: 12, League: 22
Goals For: 224 (NHL rank: 15)
Goals Against: 226 (NHL rank: 7)
Power Play Percentage: 21.6 percent (NHL rank: 6)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 78.5 percent (NHL rank: 25)
Leading Scorer: Joe Pavelski (37-33-70)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs this year for the first time in ten seasons and the first time in seven seasons with coach Todd McLellan behind the bench. Though McLellan is no longer with the Sharks, it’s unclear if a mere coaching change will be enough to turn things around in San Jose. The Sharks have been one of the most consistent regular-season teams for many years but have been unable to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Ongoing off-ice distractions with veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have created friction and divide; though those issues seem to be at bay for the time being, it’s not clear how things will proceed with new coach Peter DeBoer in town. The Sharks drafted a very talented right winger in Timo Meier in this year’s draft, but it’s doubtful he will make the big club this year. The Sharks still have an impressive combination of veteran talent and young potential, and will have several new players on the team this year, including defenseman Paul Martin, right winger Joel Ward and goaltender Martin Jones. Things seem to be in flux in San Jose, so it will be interesting to see if the Sharks can rebound this year and try to re-establish San Jose’s standard place in the playoff standings.
 

Training Camp Information: San Jose Sharks
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • Rights to G Antti Niemi to Dallas for 2015 7th-round pick
  • D Konrad Abeltshauser to St. Louis for conditional 2016 7th-round pick
  • 2016 1st-round pick and F Sean Kuraly to Boston for G Martin Jones
  • Received a 2015 3rd-round pick (86) from Edmonton as compensation for the Oilers’ hiring of coach Todd McLellan
  • 2015 7th-round pick to Vancouver for D Patrick McNally

Re-Signed:

  • F Michael Haley (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • G Aaron Dell (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Joonas Donskoi (2-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Brenden Dillon (5-year deal with AAV* of $3.27 million)
  • D Patrick McNally (2-year ELC with AAV* of $800,000)
  • F John McCarthy (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • F Bryan Lerg (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • G Troy Grosenick (2-year deal with AAV* of $600,000)
  • F Melker Karlsson (2-year deal with AAV* of $1.65 million)
  • F Timo Meier (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Jeremy Roy (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • D Paul Martin (4-year deal with AAV* of $4.85 million)
  • F Joel Ward (3-year deal with AAV* of $3.275 million)
  • D Mark Cundari (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • F Frazer McLaren (1-year contract at $600,000)

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (9) RW Timo Meier
  • Round 2 (31) D Jeremy Roy
  • Round 3 (86) G Mike Robinson
  • Round 4 (106) LW Adam Helewka
  • Round 5 (130) D Karlis Cukste
  • Round 5 (142) LW Rudolfs Balcers
  • Round 6 (160) D Adam Parsells
  • Round 7 (190) C Marcus Vela
  • Round 7 (193) G Jake Kupsky

Notable Extensions:
None

Free Agents Lost:

  • D Taylor Fedun–Vancouver
  • D Matt Irwin–Boston
  • F John Scott–Arizona
  • F Eriah Hayes–PTO (St. Louis)
  • D Taylor Doherty–UFA
  • F Rylan Schwartz–UFA
  • D Scott Hannan–UFA
  • F Travis Oleksuk–UFA
  • F Daniil Tarasov–Dynamo Moscow (KHL-Russia)

Buyouts:

  • Adam Burish
  • Cap hits:
    $616,666 (Year 1), $616,666 (Year 2)
    via General Fanager

Organizational Changes:

  • Fired head coach Todd McLellan
  • Named Peter DeBoer new head coach
  • Announced retirement of vice president and assistant general manager Wayne Thomas
  • Named Bob Boughner assistant coach
  • Named Johan Hedberg goaltending coach

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 
 

Significant Moves

This is normally the section in which the best and worst offseason moves made by each team are highlighted and analyzed. Since the Sharks have not really made any moves that can be categorized as “best” and/or “worst,” here are the most significant moves the Sharks have made, many of which could have positive and negative implications for the Sharks this year and on a more long-term basis:
 

  1. Signing Paul Martin:
  2. martin

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


    The Sharks signed 34-year-old defenseman Paul Martin to a 4-year deal with an annual average value of $4.85 million. This is both a positive and a negative move for the Sharks. In the short term, it’s a solid move. Martin has been a reliable defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the past five seasons and has played a variety of roles. Though Martin is a left-handed shooter, his experience playing both sides will afford the Sharks more flexibility on the back end. Martin is capable of top-pair minutes but will be a valuable addition to the Sharks’ top four no matter where he plays. Martin has been a great penalty killer for the Penguins, which will help the Sharks tremendously considering the Sharks were the 25th worst penalty-killing team in the league last year. The problem with this contract is that Martin will be 35 by the time the playoffs begin, and he will be 38 in year four of the contract. Though Martin has not showed many signs of slowing down at this point, his years of difficult minutes playing alongside Brooks Orpik in Pittsburgh could eventually catch up to him. Though the term of the deal is a year or two longer than what it should have been, the Sharks were still able to sign a solid defenseman that can contribute to the team this year; if the only way to sign Martin was to give him four years, then that’s what the Sharks had to do, which is understandable. Martin is not enough of an upgrade to improve the Sharks’ defense considerably, but he is a versatile option for coach Pete DeBoer to use in all situations throughout the game and throughout the season. Martin and the Penguins have struggled in the playoffs over the years, but hopefully Martin will at least be able to help the Sharks get back into the playoffs this year. He could put up 15-20 points and will eat up some tough minutes, which will help ease the burden on Marc-Edouard Vlasic. All in all this is a decent move, but it could become an issue down the road.
     

  3. Acquiring Martin Jones:
  4. martin jones

    Gene J. Puskar-AP Photo


    The Sharks traded goaltender Antti Niemi’s rights to Dallas early in the offseason, leaving the starting goaltender’s position vacant. It was clear that the Sharks wanted to move on from Niemi, and Niemi will have a chance to be in healthy competition with Kari Lehtonen, the Stars’ other number-one goalie. After winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, Niemi came to the Sharks and signed a one-year $2 million deal. In his five years with the Sharks, Niemi averaged 35 wins a year; this average takes into account Niemi’s performance in the lockout-shortened season in which he played 43 games and got 24 wins (he would have been on pace for about 36 wins had he played 65 games that year). Out of all the “backup” goalies available in the trade market this offseason, the Sharks got one of the better ones: Martin Jones. Jones has been one of Jonathan Quick’s backups in Los Angeles over the past two seasons and has put together some solid performances in net. It remains to be seen whether Jones is ready and able to step in as a true number-one goalie, as well as whether his performance will be affected by not having the more talented defensive Kings in front of him this year. He did put up impressive numbers for the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate, in the 2013-2014 season, going 16-3 with a .928 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average. The Sharks allowed the seventh-highest number of goals against last year, so Jones could be vulnerable. With the addition of Paul Martin, the Sharks will have a relatively good group of defensemen, including Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brenden Dillon and Mirco Mueller. However, the Sharks will be vulnerable at defense if the team sustains injuries, which is something the team should try to address before the season begins. The Sharks are hopeful that the youthful combination of Jones and Alex Stalock will provide San Jose with solid goaltending for many years to come.
     

  5. Hiring a new coach:
  6. deboer

    via sharks.nhl.com


    Todd McLellan had been the coach of the San Jose Sharks for the past seven seasons before he was fired in April; he has since been hired by the Edmonton Oilers. The Sharks have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the regular season over the past seven years, making the playoffs in six out of seven years. However, the Sharks have been unable to reach the Stanley Cup Final and have experienced multiple disappointing playoff exits in that time. In McLellan’s seven years with the Sharks, the team lost three times in the Conference Quarterfinals (first round), twice in the Conference Semifinals (second round) and twice in the Conference Finals (third round); the team missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since McLellan was hired. Whether that is because of issues with leadership, inconsistent goaltending, poor coaching or a combination of all three (and more) is unknown. The Sharks have become an automatic choke team every year just in time for the playoffs, which does not add up with the success the team has achieved in the regular season. Even if the Sharks’ inability to reach the Final was not McLellan’s fault, it was a good time for both sides to part ways. The Sharks have hired former New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer. DeBoer helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, where they lost to the Kings in six games. The Devils have been unable to return to the Final since; in fact, the Devils have missed the playoffs in each of the four seasons since 2012. DeBoer has only made the playoffs once in seven years of coaching, including his two seasons with the Florida Panthers. Though those numbers don’t necessarily reflect DeBoer’s coaching ability, it is still somewhat questionable that San Jose hired him when the team is in desperate need of guidance in the playoffs, especially after blowing a 3-0 series lead against Los Angeles in 2014 and failing to make the playoffs in 2015. In all fairness, DeBoer can’t be blamed for New Jersey’s widespread decline after Zach Parise left for the Minnesota Wild and Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” to the KHL. The new 3-on-3 overtime rule change could help DeBoer’s overall record significantly this year, as he has a career record of .337 in shootouts as the coach of the Panthers and Devils, compared to the league average of .500. It will also be a fresh start for DeBoer; though Thornton and Marleau are not the same players they were, and though their unwillingness to waive their no-trade clauses has been a major distraction, DeBoer will have plenty of talent to work with, from Joe Pavelski to Logan Couture to Brent Burns. It might take a year for San Jose to return to its former level of seemingly-automatic regular-season success, but it was time for San Jose to move on from McLellan and bring in a fresh mind and a fresh perspective.
     

  7. Adding Joel Ward/Considering Joel Ward a major addition:
  8. ward

    via nhl.com


    This was originally classified as one of the Sharks’ “worst” moves of the offseason, but that seemed to be an unnecessary overreaction. That being said, however, it’s unlikely that this signing will work out as favorably as the organization and fanbase expect.

    The Sharks signed free agent right winger Joel Ward to a 3-year deal with an average annual value of $3.275 million. Ward has a total of 220 points in 517 career NHL games, including back-to-back productive seasons in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, scoring 24 and 19 goals, respectively. However, at least some of that production can be attributed to playing alongside Alexander Ovechkin for part of the year and/or playing on the Washington Capitals’ first power-play unit, which has been one of the best units in the league for years (Ward had six power-play goals last season). Before the past two seasons, Ward averaged 31 points a year, assuming he would have maintained his scoring pace in the lockout-shortened season and would have finished with 37 points in 73 games. Ward has only reached the 20-goal mark once in his career, which he did two seasons ago in Washington when he scored 24 goals. Considering it is doubtful Ward will crack the Sharks’ impressive top power-play unit, his power-play production will most likely decrease, and his strength of linemates could decline. It’s possible the Sharks could move Ward up to the first or second line in case of injury, but he is not a top-six forward. The only reason he has seen time with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom is because the Capitals have been unable to find a suitable third linemate for the team’s two superstar forwards; as a result, the team has experimented by using almost every player in that third slot on the top line, including Ward (note: Washington has finally addressed this matter, which will be covered in the Washington Capitals edition of Offseason Analysis later this month).

    Ward’s career playoff points-per-game average is 0.66; during his time with the Capitals, Ward’s playoff points-per-game average was around 0.51. He did score a few key playoff goals for the Capitals, including this buzzer-beater in game 1 of this year’s Conference Semifinals matchup against the Rangers as well as the series-clinching overtime goal against Boston in the 2012 Conference Quarterfinals. However, his Boston OT goal was later overshadowed by his game 5 performance against the Rangers in the following round. Late in game 5 of that series, the Capitals held a 2-1 lead over the Rangers. With 21.3 seconds left in the game, Ward took this double-minor penalty for slashing Rangers’ forward Carl Hagelin across the mouth. As a result of the call, the Rangers were able to tie the game on the power-play with 6.6 seconds on the clock, and the Rangers eventually won by scoring (once again, on the power-play) 1:35 into the overtime period. The Rangers went on to win the series. However, a game, and especially an entire hockey series, is never one player’s fault.

    The main issue with this move is that signing Joel Ward does not address the Sharks’ needs. Ward is a bottom-six forward (middle-six at absolute best) who is not a dependable 20-goal scorer, is inconsistent throughout the year and who does not significantly elevate his game in the playoffs. Giving $3.275 million for three years to a 34-year-old bottom-six winger makes little sense, especially since it’s unlikely he’ll be much of a factor in the playoffs, which is what the team really needs. Ward will be 35 by the time the real playoff hunt begins, so it’s unclear what the organization was thinking when this deal was completed. To put it simply, Joel Ward was not and is not the answer in San Jose.

 

Possible Line Combinations

Since it is unclear at this time how the lines will shape up after training camp and the preseason, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Sharks in 2015-2016:

Forwards
Karlsson-Thornton-Pavelski
Marleau-Couture-Hertl
Nieto-Wingels-Ward
Brown-Tierney-Smith

Defensemen
Martin-Burns
Vlasic-Braun
Dillon-Mueller

Goalies
Jones
Stalock
 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

All in all, the Sharks have not had a very productive offseason. Considering the team went from being a perennial regular-season threat to missing the playoffs, one would have expected more to be done during the offseason, especially after the year before featured blowing a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs. A coaching change was made, which could make a difference for the Sharks moving forward; however, it’s unclear if Pete DeBoer was the best choice for the job. In any case, DeBoer has found success before, and the Sharks still have a talented lineup that can thrive under the right conditions. Martin Jones will be the new number-one goalie in San Jose this year. This will be a fresh start for the player and for the team, but it remains to be seen if a Jones-Stalock duo can be truly effective. Signing Paul Martin was a solid move in the short term for the Sharks, as his two-way play will add to the defensive unit’s nice blend of styles, with defensively-minded d-men like Dillon and Vlasic, as well as offensive defensemen like Burns. But Martin’s play could severely deteriorate by the time he reaches the final year or two of the contract. Sometimes free agency is the best option for positive change, but signing Joel Ward to a 3-year deal was not a smart move for the Sharks. Though the situation with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau seems to have settled down temporarily, it seems like a waste for the Sharks to wait out the last two years of the veterans’ contracts, especially after leadership changes clearly did not work this year. The team should be in the hands of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns, not Thornton and Marleau. The Sharks have some young talented players, like Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl and newly-drafted Timo Meier. The Sharks will be no match for the division-rival Anaheim Ducks, but in a weak Pacific Division it’s possible the Sharks could put together a decent campaign and squeeze into the playoffs. It’s unlikely the team will be able to mount a deep playoff run, however.

burns couture pavelski

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


 
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Featured image: Jed Jacobsohn-Getty Images