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2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 14. San Jose Sharks

Part 18 of 31 in our NHL previews where Burgess, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Starting from the worst, we’ll be giving you the reasons why we ranked each team where we did.

Check out the other parts to this series:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers#18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins, #15. Ottawa Senators

2016-17 Recap

Record: 46-29-7 (99 points) 3rd in Pacific Division (11th Overall)
GFPG: 2.67 (19th)
GAPG: 2.45 (5th)
PP%: 16.67 (25th)
PK%: 80.66 (18th)
Corsi For %: 50.5 (10th)

Following a year that culminated with an unexpected Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Sharks managed to find their way back to the postseason, claiming the third spot in the Pacific division. This standing left them in a first round meeting with the young Edmonton Oilers that proved to be too much to handle, as they were eliminated in six games. The Sharks were carried by the usual suspects in 2016-17, as Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton provided the offence we’ve come to expect. Starting goalie Martin Jones put up a solid year in his second season as the Sharks starter, finishing 6th in Vezina trophy voting, proving he is a legit, reliable starter moving forward. The Sharks downfall in this season was their secondary scoring production. After a dreadful debut for Mikkel Boedker, and an injury to Tomas Hertl contributing to what was almost a bottom third finish in goals per game for the team.

2017-18 Outlook

List of Key Additions: errrrr, nobody?

List of Key Departures: Patrick Marleau, Mirco Mueller, David Schlemko, Tommy Wingels

The San Jose Sharks obviously didn’t do anything to help themselves this offseason, all you need to do is take a look at their offseason additions and subtractions. This means making the playoffs this season could be one of the more challenging times in a while. If you can believe it, this Sharks franchise has only missed the playoffs twice dating back to 1997. That’s 17 of the last 19 seasons(!!!). The common denominator for that stat? That was the rookie season of Patrick Marleau, who will be suiting up with another team (Toronto) for the first time in his career. The Sharks still have a solid core despite the loss of Marleau and I believe that they’ll be right there in the race for a playoff spot at the end of the season, but it’s going to be tight. Their offence this season comes with a fair amount of questions, so don’t be shocked if they’re on the outside looking in.

X-Factors:

Team MVP – Brent Burns

After a 2015-16 season that included a 75 point outburst, few would’ve believed that Burns could top that unreal production. But the “bearded one” is coming off of a 76 point season, that included a jump from -5 to +19, and we were quickly shown that Burns had another gear. This showing led to Burns being awarded the Norris trophy as best Defenseman in the NHL. Very well deserved for Burns, as this was a season that included him leading all defensemen in goals, points (9th among all skaters) and leading the entire league in shots on goal. Burns’ ability to produce high end offensive numbers as a defenseman is extremely rare and it’s why he’s the go to guy in the Shark tank.

 

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Team’s Strength – Seasoned Veterans

The Sharks are certainly not short of experienced players on their roster, which is an asset they can use to put towards success. This is the third oldest roster in the NHL at an average of 29.1 years old (younger than just Detroit and Ottawa) and the main pieces of this group have been together for a long time. The Sharks have been a perennial playoff team recently, and those appearances have included a number of disappointing playoff exits, but also a Western Conference Championship in 2015-16 too. The likes of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic – who has the best nickname in the league by the way, “Pickles” -and Paul Martin can be relied upon to supply the production they have been for their entire careers and their leadership qualities will be key to this team’s success. While these guys aren’t getting any younger, they each have the ability to uplift the production of their supporting cast on the offensive and defensive ends.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 8.30.28 PM.pngTeam’s Weakness – Goal Scoring

The San Jose Sharks finished 19th in goals for last season, which is simply not good enough for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. On top of that, they lost Patrick Marleau in free agency to the Maple Leafs. You’re probably thinking “Marleau is old anyways, it doesn’t matter”, but the fact remains, he was one of four guys to score 25+ goals on this team last year (Burns, Pavelski, Couture). The highest scorers after those four guys? Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson with just 11. Losing 25% of the group that carried this team’s goal scoring and not replacing him is going to be an issue for them. The Sharks have to be banking on Mikkel Boedker to bounce back from his horrendous debut season. Another player that needs to take a step is forward is Tomas Hertl. Hertl missed 33 games last season due to injury and needs to return to his 2015-16 form when he scored 21 goals.

This team’s defense is solid and Martin Jones is a legit high end starter in the NHL, but they’ll need to find a way to score with regularity in order to keep this group’s dwindling Cup hopes alive.

Rookies/Farm –

No Sharks rookies have cracked the roster for this season, as the youth movement on the current roster is led by a pair of sophomores, 22 year-old Kevin Labanc and 21 year-old Timo Meier. Each made their appearances fairly quietly last year, but this year will look to fill the offensive void up front for the Sharks.

As for the draft, the Sharks took Josh Norris 19th overall in the draft this past offseason, and he’ll play for the University Michigan this season. Norris impressed at the NHL Combine before the draft this past summer and it’s clear the Sharks have an impressive athlete in him. He finished first out of all prospects in five of the events at the Combine including the Wingate Bike test, Pro Agility test (left and right), Vertical Jump and Standing Long Jump. The 6’1”, 190lbs Norris is an impressive physical prospect and his 61 points in 61 games last season with the U.S. National Development Program is encouraging. It’ll be interesting to watch his development going forward.

Key Player – Logan Couture

We know that Joe Pavelski can be relied upon to produce offense, because of his six consecutive 60+ point seasons (not including the lockout shortened season), and Joe Thornton is Joe Thornton, but after that there are questions for the Sharks up front. Logan Couture has shown flashes in years past of taking a step towards being a star, like during the 2015-16 Sharks cup run when he led the team in points with 30 in 24 games, but the Sharks need him to produce at a high level for a full season in order to succeed. Couture has displayed some inconsistencies in large part due to his health. His games played in the past four seasons have been all over the map at 73, 52, 82 and 65 due to various injury issues. But over those four seasons, Couture has managed to put up a solid 0.77 points per game in the regular season. Couture is now 28, so he’s likely not going to show anything more than what we’ve already seen of him, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It’s just imperative he stays healthy, because now more than ever the Sharks need his production night in, night out.

couture

Our Rankings

  1. Ballantyne: 15th
  2. Burgess: 16th
  3. Waind: 15th

Although this team has achieved regular season success for many years, they haven’t managed to get over the hump and win a cup with this core, even in the times when they may have been “favoured” to. The Sharks time may be running out. This core has lost a signature piece in Patrick Marleau, and it’ll be interesting to see how this team reacts to that major change. A lot of expectation is still being placed on 38 year-old Joe Thornton after he signed a 1-year $8 million deal in the offseason, but he needs Mikkel Boedker and Tomas Hertl to bounce back and support him as Jumbo Joe can’t do it alone. Burns and Pavelski are incredible talents, and Jones, Vlasic and Couture are solid too, but if this group misses the playoffs…have we seen the end of these Sharks as we know them?

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 17. Calgary Flames

Part 15 of 31 in our NHL previews where Burgess, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Starting from the worst, we’ll be giving you the reasons why we ranked each team where we did.

Check out the other parts to this series:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers

2016-17 Recap

Record: 45-33-4 (94 Points) 4th in Pacific Division (15th Overall)

GFPG: 2.76 (T-15th)

GAPG: 2.70 (14th)

PP%: 20.16 (11th)

PK%: 81.59 (12th)

The Flames impressed last season, returning to the playoffs after falling off in 2015-16, despite extremely unreliable goaltending at times. This past season was head coach Glen Gulutzan’s first at the helm of the Flames and his guidance helped them claim the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a more seasoned Ducks team in the first round and were swept in four games. Although this was a disappointing result, the Flames have shown they have what it takes to be a playoff team, and there’s no reason they can’t build on things heading into 2017-18.

Sam Bennett had an underwhelming season, but the emergence of Matthew Tkachuk overshone this as he provided 48 points as a rookie. Johnny Gaudreau continued to prove he was a steal of a 4th round pick, while leading the Flames in scoring (61 points), even after missing ten games. The goaltending situation in Calgary was awful last season, and the position was a clear priority to upgrade after their signing of Brian Elliott didn’t pan out. Even with this being the case, the Flames still only allowed the 14th most goals per game in the league last season, a pretty average standing, and one that makes you wonder what they could be capable of if they managed to receive some timely saves.

2017-18 Outlook

List of Key Additions: Mike Smith, Travis Hamonic, Jaromir Jagr, Eddie Lack, Tanner Glass

List of Key Departures: Brian Elliott, Deryk Engelland, Chad Johnson, Dennis Wideman, Alex Chiasson

hkn-flames-hamonic-smith-20170626

The Flames acted on their goaltending priorities in shipping out both of their top two (Elliott and Chad – not Ochocinco – Johnson) and bringing in the pair of Mike Smith and Eddie Lack via separate trades with the Coyotes and Hurricanes. The Flames hope Smith is the solid number one they’ve been desperate for since Kiprusoff. It’ll be interesting to see how well he performs in what’s surely a situation where the D corps is the best he’s played with in years, after he’d been left out to dry in the desert for so long. Actually, it’s arguably the best defenseman group in the league as well after the addition of Travis Hamonic to join their solid, preexisting core. The Flames are a team built from the crease out, so that means their top forwards are going to be relied upon heavily because of a lack of depth in terms of scoring. That being said, Gaudreau aside, Sean Monahan has become a reliable 60-point front line option, you know what you’re getting from Michael Frolik, Sam Bennett can’t be any worse than he was last season, Tkachuk will likely take another step, and…the Flames now have the ageless wonder, Jaromir Jagr (Your prayers have been answered, Burgess). If nothing health related hinders the Flames’ top forwards, they should find their way back into the playoffs.

X-Factors:

Team MVP: Johnny Gaudreau

After many questions in the early parts of his career as to whether his game and size will translate to the NHL level, the 2011 4th round pick has developed into the offensive catalyst that sparks the Flames attack. In each of the past three seasons (the only full seasons of his career) Gaudreau has put up at least 60, with an average of 67.6 per season. Gaudreau is a shifty playmaker that lead the Flames forwards in even-strength and power-play ice time last season. He missed 10 games last season after taking a slash on the hand and requiring surgery to repair a broken finger. It’s key for the Flames that Gaudreau stays healthy and contributing for them this upcoming season, because even at just 5’9” 157lbs, there’s no one in their organization that can fill his shoes in terms of offensive impact.

Team’s Strength: Defense

This Flames D-corps is a crazy deep group. It’s clear they’ve decided to adopt the philosophy that “defence wins championships”, and it has gotten them to a point where they arguably have the best top-4 in the league. Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and a trade for Travis Hamonic gives them a balance of young and old, high end guys that can each contribute on the offensive end on a fairly regular basis (Hamonic less so). The resigning of Michael Stone just magnifies the embarrassment of riches they have on the blue-line as they have five different guys they can throw out on the ice that can play high-teens minutes in their sleep. Mike Smith’s numbers were trash in Arizona over the past few years, but playing behind this group should be a stabilizing presence.

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 12.09.56 PM

Team’s Weakness: Right Wing

It’s no fluke that the legendary Jaromir Jagr chose to join the Flames recently, it’s because there’s opportunity for a top-six role. The current right side depth chart of the Flames forward group is Michael Ferland, Michael Frolik, Jagr and Troy Brouwer. Frolik is a solid player, but he’s never had more than 45 points in a season in his career. While Ferland and Brouwer are coming off of seasons of just 25 points each (they’re paying Brouwer three more years at $4.5 million per, ouch). Even though Jagr has over 1700 games of proven NHL production, he’s still 45 years old, so you never know, this could be the season time finally catches up to him. Bottomline, the Flames right side lacks impact players and has questions to be answered, hopefully for them they can find someone who steps up and exceeds in their role.

Rookies/Farm: After Matthew Tkachuk’s impressive Rookie campaign last season, he remains the “kid” on this Flames roster as their are no new rookies making the jump this season, at least out of camp. But a lack of rookies does not mean a lack of young talent on this team, as the Flames’ Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau, Dougie Hamilton (when is he just going to be Doug?), Sean Monahan, and Tkachuk are all 24 or younger, so there’s nothing to worry about in that respect.

As for their prospect stable, Spencer Foo was a nice addition this past offseason. Foo was signed as an undrafted free agent as the Flames scooped him from Union College of the NCAA after attracting a lot of interest league wide. The 23-year old is a bit older than your typical prospect, but his 62 points in 38 games last season give the Flames reason to believe Foo at least has the chance to one day fill in one of the their glaring holes at right wing.cut1

The Flames used their 16th overall pick in the most recent draft to select Juuso Valimaki from the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. Valimaki is a defenseman, so the Flames certainly aren’t needing his services at the NHL level anytime soon, but his 61 points in 60 games last year is certainly a nice talent to have tucked away for their blueline in the future.

Key Player: Sean Monahan

Monahan has became the go-to number one centreman for the Calgary Flames, and is the linemate of left-winger Johnny Gaudreau. Still just 23 years old, Monahan has established himself as a reliable, consistent offensive source for this Flames team. Over the past three seasons, Monahan has put up 62, 63 and 58 points with 27 goals being his floor over that period of time. With a lack of offensive depth down the middle at the centre position, aside from Mikael Backlund, Monahan’s role could not be more defined. It’s key Monahan shows up for the Flames to experience any postseason success, but they shouldn’t have to worry about him.

  1. Ballantyne: 14th
  2. Burgess: 21st
  3. Waind: 17th

This is a team that’s built for playoff hockey with their deep defensive lineup, but the question is, can they get back there? I think they can. I believe the Flames made a solid move adding Mike Smith and that he’ll regain some of his old form playing behind a more stout defensive unit. Glen Gulutzan now has more familiarity with his group, and they should have a better chance to create on offence due to further growth from their key young players within his system. The Flames proved last year they could make the playoffs with inconsistent goaltending, if they get any semblance of something good from Smith they’ll be fine, and you can pencil them into a wild-card spot.

Burgess and Waind ranked this team too low for my liking. I just can’t wrap my head around putting a team any lower on this list than 14 when they will always have one or more reliable, battle tested defensemen like Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton and Hamonic on the ice. As long Johnny Hockey, Monahan and the boys up front pot their fair share of goals, we’ll see these Flames burning teams come spring.

Just How Bad are the New York Giants?

It’s a bit late, but better late than never right? Check out my view on some of the big stories from Week 4 of the NFL season.

Heading into this season, the Jets were expected to be the worst team in the NFL, with some experts predicting an 0-16 season. Yet after Week 4, they’re 2-2 and not even the worst team in their city. The Giants were actually supposed compete with the Cowboys for the NFC East division, but after a slow start they’re one of four teams with an 0-4 record. Which raises the question, just how bad are the Giants?

Read more

Bench Talk 17/06/2017

 

“It’s like the bottom of the ninth and I’m never gonna win. This life hasn’t turned out, quite the way I want it to be.” — Chad Kroeger

Losing can be tough. Losing while riding the pine is downright insufferable. Reach into the styrofoam cooler, crack a cold one and let’s talk some sports.

In the News

Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather: Is this the greatest examples of cross-sport performances or are boxing and MMA too similar?

Cameron Burgess (CB): I’m just hoping this ends up being more entertaining than the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. That fight was supposed to be the fight of the century, yet fans witnessed Mayweather run in circles, land a jab, and then back out and keep running. This tactic isn’t just a one-time thing for Mayweather, and I’m expecting much of the same when he faces off against McGregor. I’d love to see 49-0 become 49-1, but I don’t know how realistic that might be. McGregor has become the biggest star in the UFC, but boxing is a completely different sport. The UFC has a ground game, and obviously many different fighting styles, while boxing is just one style that fighters may specialize in. McGregor is a better all around fighter, I don’t doubt that at all, but Mayweather has been one of the best boxers throughout his whole career and has been training and improving his skills since he was a kid. My heart says McGregor, but my head says Mayweather. Read more

Approaching this Leafs-Capitals Series with 2 mindsets: The Homer vs. The Buzzkill

Embed from Getty Images

The REAL playoffs start tonight and I’m feeling pretty conflicted. While I’m ready to get on the hype train, the Leafs have crushed my spirits at every turn. Being a Toronto sports fan in general has made me a bit of a cynic and at the end of the day I have come to hate that about myself. I’d love to yell at my TV like an idiot, fully-decked out in Leafs gear, but anytime you fly that high the fall is all the more tragic. Read more

Welcome to the Bench: Connor Brown

Born: 1/14/1994 (22 years old) Toronto, ON, Canada
Drafted: 6th round (156th overall) in 2012 by Toronto Maple Leafs
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (2016)
Position: Right Wing
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 170 lbs
Shoots: Right
HockeyDB Profile

Connor Brown Stats

The Call-Up
March 17, 2016 the Toronto Maple Leafs called up Connor Brown on an emergency basis. Read more

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