San Jose Sharks


by Jacob Sundstrom

1. Top six.

The Sharks have solid top-six talent in Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Despite having a down season last year, Marleau will (hopefully) return to form and with Pavelski coming off back-to-back 30-goal seasons it’s hard to imagine the top line taking a step back. While it seems Pavelski centering the third line is a dead and distant dream, playing the two Joes together will do wonders for the numbers of that top line.

2. Top pairings.

With Paul Martin joining the team over the offseason, San Jose’s top two defensive pairings look very solid. Martin naturally complements the wildness of Brent Burns, much like he did with Kris Letang in Pittsburgh, and is adept at sliding breakout passes to his more offensively-minded partners. He joins a top-four that already boasts Marc-Édouard Vlasic, whose excellent defensive play is as consistent as it is incredible. He’ll (likely) be joined by Justin Braun, making the top-two pairings for San Jose even stronger this year than they were last.

3. Intriguing youth.

While Peter DeBoer doesn’t have a great reputation for letting the kids play, he will have some options if he decides to use them in San Jose. With the Sharks’ AHL affiliate now playing in the same building, the San Jose coaching staff will have ample opportunity to monitor the development of the organization’s young players.

Nikolay Goldobin and Joonas Donskoi are young, talented forwards that could see time with the big club this year if given the opportunity. Mirco Mueller played 39 games with the Sharks last year, but will probably start this season with the Barracuda in 2015. Still, whether they start with the Barracuda or the Sharks, having those players just a hallway away as opposed to a continent is a big step up from last season.


by Jacob Sundstrom

1. Defensive depth.

The Nos. 1-4 defense spots are looking good for the Sharks to start the season. After that ... well, optimistically there are some question marks. Brenden Dillon will most likely take that fifth spot, while Matt Tennyson and Mueller will battle for the final slot. Both young players have shown talent, but it’s possible that neither are truly ready to play in the NHL right now. If that’s the case, the Sharks could be in some defensive trouble.

2. Goaltending.

Until it’s proved as a strength, let’s call it a weakness. While Martin Jones may be just what the Sharks were looking for after five years of the much-maligned Antti Niemi, it’s equally possible the young goalie doesn’t measure up to the league-average goaltending we saw a year ago. Alex Stalock hasn’t proven much of anything in his last two seasons, so if things go poorly with Jones there isn’t much of a safety net for San Jose when it comes to keeping pucks out of the net.

3. Unfamiliarity.

There are two ways to spin the hire of Peter DeBoer: A fresh start will re-energize the Sharks right back to Stanley Cup contention, or, more likely, we’ll see some growing pains. After seven good years with Todd McLellan, Doug Wilson made a change during the offseason and with DeBoer will come a new coaching staff and new systems both 5v5 and on the power play. While this might end up being a positive in the long run, in a competitive division it would be best for the Sharks if the feeling-out process is short.


1. How will Martin Jones adjust to being a starting goaltender?
2. How will DeBoer’s coaching strategies affect the way the Sharks play?
3. How much will Thornton and Marleau decline and can the Sharks make the playoffs in spite of it?

Get the answers at Fear The Fin.


by Jon Wold

As the resident optimist, and possibly the biggest Doug Wilson apologist on the internetI thought I’d be the one best-suited to handle the Sharks best-case scenario. This year’s team is much deeper than last year’s, and could even be deeper – or better utilized – than 2013-14’s that fell just tragically short to the eventual champions.

At forward, it should be business as usual for Thornton and Pavelski, while Marleau shows that last season was just a snake-bit fluke, settling back into a 30-30 season in a shutdown role with Couture. Young forwards Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto and Chris Tierney add some consistency between their flashes of greatness. The forward depth gets even deeper when Goldobin forces a midseason call-up after dominating AHL competition. This allows DeBoer to run a skilled fourth line as opposed to an enforcer-filled one. On defense Paul Martin is a calming influence on Brent Burns. Hopefully, at least one of Mueller, Tennyson or Dylan Demelo show they’re capable of playing well with Brendan Dillon. Alternatively, a sixth defenseman is acquired at the deadline, allowing the young trio to serve a depth fill-ins.

In goal, Jones puts up a season that looks much closer to his 2013-14 stats, as opposed to 14-15. He’s able to get some rest in season thanks to a return to form by Stalock in about 30 starts. This keeps Jones rested and his save percentage doesn't crater in the playoffs like most Sharks goalies have in the Thornton-era. With competent postseason goaltending and added depth at forward and the blueline, the Sharks make a deep playoff run. If most of these things happen, it’s not even too crazy to see it end with a Stanley Cup run.


by Marcus White

The Sharks’ worst-case scenario centers on two culprits: father time and inexperience.

Age finally catches up to the Sharks’ aging veterans, as Joe Thornton (36), Paul Martin (34), and Joel Ward (34) decline significantly, Patrick Marleau’s down year from last season proves to be the new normal. The rest of the lineup drops off, too. Joe Pavelski fails to score 30 goals playing with a declining Thornton, while Logan Couture can’t carry two anchors in Marleau and Ward.

Meanwhile, goaltenders Martin Jones and Alex Stalock each post another season with a save percentage below the Mendoza line of a .910 SV%, while young players Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl, and Chris Tierney can’t live up to the promise they’ve shown in the first seasons with the big club.

All of this culminates in the Sharks missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997. As the fans and owner Hasso Plattner lose patience, GM Doug Wilson is fired before the end of the season, but not before making two major moves: trading Marleau and Thornton. Marleau and Thornton head to playoff contenders for underwhelming returns. Couture then demands a trade at the end of the season as he sees the walls crumbling down around him.

To make matters worse, the Sharks are just not bad enough to miss out on top prospect Auston Matthews. With a lack of blue-chip prospects in the system and their best remaining player demanding a trade, a long rebuild begins in earnest in the 2016-17 season.