After another losing season, the San Jose Sharks are entering a transitional phase fans haven’t seen in a long time.
The Sharks have missed the playoffs for the third season in a row and seem to be a couple of seasons away from being playoff contenders again.
San Jose finished last season with a 32-37-13 record for 77 points, finishing 6th in the Pacific Division. The Sharks struggled offensively almost all season placing 30th in goals for (214) and 21st in goals against (264).
The team showed flashes of playoff contention throughout the season but for every stretch of wins, there was a losing streak to nullify it.
Entering the offseason, the Sharks had quite a lot of work to do. The team needed a new General Manager, coaching staff, and to make the team better overall.
I’ve already highlighted the Sharks’ offseason, so I’ll quickly gloss over the moves they’ve made so far.
One of the first major offseason moves was the firing of head coach Bob Boughner on July 1.
Just days later, the Sharks announced their new GM would be Mike Grier on July 5. A new GM marks the beginning of a new era of Sharks hockey.
The Sharks entered the 2022 draft with the 11th overall pick but traded it to the Coyotes for the 27th, 34th, and 45th overall picks.
While the Sharks had no second-round picks at the start of the draft, this team needs all the high-quality prospects it can get, and there were a lot of good prospects available with the 11th overall pick.
After a controversial draft day, the Sharks made another difficult decision to start free agency.
The Sharks traded Brent Burns and Lane Pederson to Carolina for Steven Lorenz, Eetu Makiniemi, and a conditional 2023 third-round pick.
San Jose is also retaining 34% of Burns’ contract that carries an $ 8 million AAV.
To see a player like Burns go is tough but it’s a trade that needed to happen. Of all the big contracts on the roster, Burns was one that was still moveable.
For the rest of free agency, the Sharks added a number of depth players to bolster the bottom 6.
Some of these players include Oskar Lindblom, Mico Sturm, Luke Kunin, and Evgeny Svechnikov.
The team also added depth defensemen Matt Benning and Markus Nutivaara.
The most important signing was bringing back Mario Ferraro. Ferraro was signed to a 4-year extension with a $3.25 million AAV.
With so many goalies in the system, it meant one had to go. It would be Adin Hill who was traded to Vegas for a 2024 4th-round pick.
Finally, the Sharks hired David Quinn as their next head coach.
The Sharks had one of the busiest offseasons in the league and even added new jerseys to go along with all the new faces on the ice, behind the bench, and in the front office.
The Sharks struggled to find consistent offensive output throughout the 2021-22 season.
Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl both scored 30 or more goals and Logan Couture scored 23. It’s always good to see the best players putting up points however, no other players scored 20 goals last season.
Only three players scoring over 20 goals is nowhere near enough if this team hopes to be more competitive.
A healthy season from Kevin Labanc could help this issue but the Sharks are going to need a lot more from the bottom 6 as a whole.
Adding young, yet experienced players like Lindblom and Sturm could make a difference but this team needs more game-changing talent.
That’s where the excitement around William Eklund comes in.
Eklund was drafted 7th overall in 2021 and notched 4 assists in 9 NHL games last season before he spent the rest of the season back in Sweden.
As of now, Eklund is slated to start the season in the AHL. With a few NHL games under his belt, I can see an opening night roster spot being as good as his if he plays well during training camp.
Eklund is one of the most exciting rookies heading into the 2022-23 season and will be a shot of youth and skill this team desperately needs.
Another exciting prospect for the Sharks is Thomas Bordeleau.
Bordeleau is coming off an impressive performance at the 2022 IIHF World Juniors where he scored 8 points in 5 games. Before a short stint on the Sharks, Bordeleau recorded 37 points in 37 games for the University of Michigan.
He only played 8 NHL games but wasted no time catching the attention of fans. His most memorable moment was the shootout-winning goal to upset the Golden Knights, withholding a much-needed point from them.
He may spend some time in the AHL, but that doesn’t mean Bordeleau won’t receive his fair share of call-ups throughout the season. Like Eklund, I can see Bordeleau becoming a mainstay on the Sharks roster as the season progresses.
Even if all the new faces contribute offensively, Hertl, Couture, and Meier will need to produce at the same rates as last season.
If Meier and Hertl can put up 30-goal seasons again, along with a big boost in depth scoring, the offense should find themselves much higher in the goals for statline.
With the departure of Burns, the defense might take some steps back this season.
Now, more than ever, the Sharks need a full season out of Erik Karlsson. Karlsson scored 35 points in 50 games last season and looked more like what we saw from him in Ottawa.
If Karlsson can play closer to a full season and at the rate he was producing last season, he’ll smoothly transition into the top defenseman on the team.
He’ll have plenty of support to play his offensive game playing next to Mario Ferraro.
Ferraro is coming off another good season and he’s been solid defensively throughout his career. He has the speed and physicality that pair perfectly with offensive-defensemen like Karlsson and Burns.
After Karlsson and Ferraro, the Sharks won’t be boasting a whole lot of skill on the blueline.
Players like Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic aren’t known for contributing offensively but can play a stable defensive game. Although, age and injuries have made it difficult to keep up with the speed and skill teams are putting out.
If the Sharks want to gain more speed on the blueline, 22-year-old Ryan Merkley will have to make significant strides in his development.
Merkley has the passing and skating ability of an elite defenseman, but it feels like he tries to do too much sometimes.
If Merkley can take that next step, he could help fill the void Burns leaves behind.
With Adin Hill being traded to Vegas, the Sharks have all but solidified their tandem for opening night.
That tandem will be James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen with a likely 1A/1B style of game starts.
Reimer finished last season with a 19-17-10 record, a .911 save percentage, and a 2.90 goals against average.
I see the 10 overtime losses as an example of how many games Reimer stood on his head, gave the team a chance, and the guys in front of him couldn’t get the job done.
Kahkonen was acquired at the trade deadline and was solid for the Sharks as the season winded down.
Before the trade, the 26-year-old had a record of 12-8-3 and a .910 save percentage for Minnesota.
After the trade, Kahkonen started 10 games for the Sharks and finished with a 2-6-1 record, a .916 save percentage, and a 2.86 goals against average.
While that record looks very shaky, I’m going to attribute that to Kahkonen going from a defensively sound team in Minnesota, to San Jose where his fellow goalies were already getting shelled most nights.
This upcoming season could give a glimpse into what Kahkonen is fully capable of. Is he going to be the next long-term starter for the team? Or just a solid backup for a couple more years?
As of now, I’m hoping for the former. The Sharks will need a much better defensive game if the young goalie is to reach his potential.
For the past couple of years, the Sharks have advertised their reconstruction as a “retool” rather than a full rebuild.
With almost all of their core players having unmovable contracts, the Sharks aren’t in the best position for a rebuild anyway.
The team will do everything they can to compete for a playoff spot but I just don’t think it’s in the cards for them. At least not yet.
The team will likely finish near the bottom of the Pacific again. I just don’t see the defense keeping up with a lot of teams, especially in the West. The offense may improve but it won’t matter how many goals they can score if they can’t keep the puck out of their own net.
No one wants to see another losing season. However, I think it’s in the team’s best interest to get a top draft pick in an exciting draft year.
As I’ve said before, the Sharks need as many young and skilled prospects as they can get to build for the future.
It might not be likely, but until the Draft Lottery is held, I’m going to say that Connor Bedard would look great in teal.
Source for lines: DailyFaceoff.com
Alex Barabnov-Tomas Hertl-Timo Meier
Luke Kunin-Logan Couture-Kevin Labanc
Oskar Lindblom-Nick Bonino-Noah Gregor
Steven Lorentz-Nico Sturm-Matthew Nieto
Mario Ferraro-Erik Karlsson
Radim Simek-Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Markus Nutivaara-Matt Benning