The Summer Knows – part 4 forwards

She sees the doubts
Within your eyes

If you want to summarize the Sharks reason for losing games, they scored less than the opposition.  And the forwards are those counted on for most of the offense.

(Note – depth chart position does NOT necessarily denote line combinations.)

Depth chart (of signed players):

Centers: Pavelski, Thornton, Couture, Hertl, Tierney, Marleau, Wingels, Jevpalovs, Burish

Left Wings: Nieto, Torres

Right Wings: Goldobin, Smith, Goodrow, Brown, Carpenter

Pending RFAs: Chris Crane, Petter Emanuelson, Eriah Hayes, Melker Karlsson, Rylan Schwartz, Daniil Tarasov; pending UFAs: Michael Haley, Bryan Lerg, John Scott, Travis Oleksuk; expiring AHL UFAs: Vincent Arseneau, Jimmy Bonneau, Daniel Ciampini, Willie Coetzee, Daniel Doremus, Brendan Ellis, Trevor Parkes, Evan Trupp.

Given the Sharks estimated cap space, the team MAY choose to buy out Burish (two years remaining).

The Summer Knows – part 3 defense

The summer knows
The summer’s wise

While the goalie may be the last line of defense, the defenders of the blue line are important to prevent the puck from getting too close to the net (and a helping hand in offense).

(Note – depth chart position does NOT necessarily denote pair combinations.)

Depth chart:

  • Vlasic
  • Braun
  • Burns
  • Tennyson
  • Mueller
  • DeMelo
  • Bergman
  • Ryan

Defensive pending RFAs: Abeltshauser, Dillon, Doherty; pending UFAs: Fedun, Hannan, Irwin, Stollery; pending AHL UFAs: Bigos, Jones, Taormina, Young

Still lots of options for expanding depth chart, including re-signing some key players (and/or upgrading AHLers to NHL deals), which have been on hold waiting for the future of the hockey operations of the Sharks to be solidified.

The Summer Knows – part 2 goaltending

And lovingly
She warms the sand
On which you lie

One of, if not THE, key elements of good defensive in hockey is the goal tending.  (Not excusing the defensive play and breakdowns in the defensive zone and neutral zone which lie outside the nominal responsibility of a goalie.)

And the Sharks did not get good (enough) goal tending this past season.

Last summer, all the Sharks did to “improve” their goal tending was re-sign pending UFA Stalock.  (Pending RFA Sateri defected to Europe; Sharks still hold his rights.)

So, the 2014-15 season starting goal tenders, and coaches, were the same as the previous season.

Niemi and Stalock platooned the first month or so of the season, but then Niemi was given the lion’s share of the work load.

Over the course of the season, they signed Aaron Dell to an AHL contract, later upgrading to a NHL contract. And they signed undrafted free agent Joel Rumpel (currently in the playoffs with ECHL Allen on an ATO).

Depth chart as of today:

  • Stalock
  • Rumpel

Note that Anderson, Dell, Grosenick are pending RFAs and Niemi is pending UFA.  (And Sharks hold rights to Sateri.)

GM Wilson has stated that the organization would be adding 4+ goalies (so Rumpel is the first).

Obviously there will be deeper depth chart and more names on that list when the season starts.  More than five months of speculation and change to come.

As for the goalie coach(es): Wayne Thomas is 67; Corey Schwab lives on the east coast. With the AHL team moving to California, Schwab may look for emplyment elsewhere.  And Thomas may finally be ready to retire.

Changes are coming.

I expect a different pair of goalies in the NHL by October and different coaching.

The 2014-15 season is SOOOO different than 2002-03

My $0.02

The 2014-15 season is so very different from 02-03 (the last time the Sharks missed the playoffs).

First, we’re in the cap era now. (Back then you could “buy” your way out of trouble.) All kinds of contract management now that wasn’t even considered then.

Second, Shark defenseman Gary Suter announced his retirement in the summer of 2002. Arguably a much bigger loss than Boyle not re-signed this past summer.

Third, the team was “out” of the playoffs by Thanksgiving. (Head coach Darryl Sutter was fired the last week of November)

Similarly to this season, the Sharks did not do a lot of signing from the UFA market (unless you consider re-signing Selanne).

Looking at the 2002-03 roster:

  • No player with “double digit” +/- positive rating.
  • Sharks had not one “full time” D man with a + rating in 2002-2003 (Davison was the lone plus rating  — +4 in 15 games). Rathje was blueline-worse at -19. (That season, the team started with “Rat and Rags”, as arguably the top defensive pair, but Ragnarson was traded for McGillis — who didn’t even last the season.)
  • Selanne (28+36=64, -6), Damphousse (23+38=61, -13), Marleau (28+29=57, -10) were the only players with 50+ points on the season.

150302 – trade deadline notes and pregame Canadiens @ Sharks 7pm

Shark Trade Tracker

  • Sunday: Sharks put Tye McGinn on waivers; claimed by Arizona Coyotes
  • Pending-UFA James Sheppard to New York Rangers for 2016 4th. $100,000 salary retained per reports
  • Pending-UFA Andrew Desjardins to Chicago for C Ben Smith; to wear #21, expected in lineup tonight
  • Pending-UFA Tyler Kennedy to NY Islanders for 2016 conditional 3rd-7th pick
  • Pending-RFA Freddie Hamilton to Colorado for D Karl Stollery

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Sharks are coming off a month without one win at home. One final game on a short home stand before heading out on one game road trip to Vancouver and returning home. On Sunday, the players stayed off the ice and went off site for a player-only meeting.

Montreal is in town for the first meeting of the teams this season.

Stalock vs Price tonight

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Shark chum or apex predator?

The NHL trade deadline for the 2014-2015 season is March 2, noon PT.

The Sharks are still pushing for a younger “generation” as leaders and key players as part of a “reset, refresh” (aka “rebuilding on the fly”), with finding new homes for ineffective veterans and expanding roles for young vets and rookies.

What did the Sharks do last year?

Last year in the weeks leading up to the March 5 trade deadline, the Sharks were sellers, trading away 3 minor league players, only acquiring 1 minor league player and a conditional 7th round pick in exchange. Not very active, and no NHL roster impacts.

Over the summer, they traded Dan Boyle’s rights, bought out Martin Havlat; traded Brad Stuart. They also signed four UFAs (Scott plus 3 minor leaguers), and made one trade acquisition (McGinn).

Since last spring, the Sharks have signed three undrafted free agents (Carpenter, Goodrow, Jevpalovs) and three draftees to ELCs (Bergman, Chartier, Goldobin); Goodrow is the only one that made the NHL roster out of camp.

Where are the Sharks this year?

The Sharks have swapped D men (Dillon for Demers, retaining salary), and demoted Burish to AHL.

And managed to stay in the playoff sweepstakes, even with some impactful injuries, even after setting NHL record with 15 road games in the first 21 games of the season.

What assets do the Sharks have for trades?

Sharks have more than $4m in cap space, and about five NHL contract slots available to acquire players, with 4 goalies, 12 defensemen, 29 forwards active on NHL deals. (That contract limit reduces if any player heads to the NHL after their European/junior year is over.)

The Sharks have 14 pending RFA (and/or group VI UFA) players, 10 pending UFAs, plus 10 players on AHL deals.

The Sharks have their own 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th plus acquired 4th and 5th 2015 draft picks, but given the expected depth of the draft, I’m guessing the Sharks would like to acquire more picks if possible.

What do the Sharks need?

Goal tending is an obvious need.

The fans are not sold on Niemi as a starter, but neither Stalock nor Grosenick have shown the skill and drive to take the net from him. Some fans have expressed an opinion that no goalie currently in the organization is the long term answer to the Sharks need in net. Sateri went to Europe (defected RFA), but I don’t feel that he can take the starter position either. Bergvik is the only unsigned draftee goalie in the pipeline, and it would be a year to two before he’d be in the NHL, if he has the skills and drive.

Since the death of Warren Strelow, the Sharks have not developed any NHL starters (back ups, yes, including Carter Hutton, Thomas Griess). This may also point to a need to change the goal tending coaching/development in the organization.

But can the Sharks acquire one via trade, or do they have to draft a possible #1 goalie? What are they willing to “spend” to get one via trade?

Defense is always a need.

Sharks have had some blue line prospects that have succeeded in the NHL, but a few that flamed out in development as a bust.  There are a couple AHLers (Tennyson, Abeltschauser) close to NHL time, but limited number of other drafted blue liners close to being in lineup.

Additions to the pipeline are always needed.

Forwards are forwards.

You can never have enough top flight offensive players.  Goldobin is someone who will be in the NHL perhaps as early as next season; Chartier and Jevpalovs have been showing their skills in the CHL; and Rod made a very good impression in the WJC tournament.

But finding young (under 27) such players available via trade can be a very expensive proposition.

The Sharks have had a good track record of finding/developing “character”/glue players for the 3rd and 4th line, but you’re always looking for more to keep the pipeline filled.

While often “less expensive” than an offensive player, it still takes the right combination to “make a deal.”

What might the Sharks do?

Wilson has said the Sharks won’t be acquiring any rental players at the trade deadline (I’d define “rental” as pending UFAs), but he might be targeting some pending RFAs or prospects for acquisition.  (This emphasis on youth has eliminated the Sharks from the services of top UFAs in the past couple of off seasons, as most of these players are closer to or past their “best used by” date, and the Sharks aren’t just “one player away” from a sure-fire Stanley Cup finalist (on paper). Plus given the Shark’s salary structure, they are not likely, nor willing, to offer the “max term, max $$” contract that some UFAs would be demanding.)

Some might be thinking Wilson is “overdue” for a big splash at the trade deadline. But right now, I’m just not seeing that as a very likely outcome.  The Sharks are probably more focusing two seasons down the road when Marleau’s and Thornton’s contracts expire, as to what the Sharks will be and become starting in the fall of 2017. (Not that they aren’t looking at filling the needed holes between now and then.)

While there were many rumors over the summer and continuing into the winter (perhaps brought on by the removal of captaincy/assistant letters) that the Sharks were looking for new homes for Marleau and Thornton (by waiving their respective NMCs), the team has never confirmed they were on the trade block, but has confirmed neither player was asked player to waive their NMC.  The truth is that both Marleau and Thornton are still effective on the ice and it would be hard to make any trade that returned even half of the offense (much less an equivalent amount of hockey sense). (And given their contract $$s, it would make more sense to trade them in the off season than at the deadline.)

There are a number of former Sharks players/prospects I cringe every time their current team faces the Sharks, including Bonino, Carle, Coyle, etc.  There are some very good former Sharks out there because they were traded away (for what I now perceive to be more of a short term fix). With the Sharks emphasis on youth, many of these players might not be offered in a trade today.  But you have to “give” a good player to “get” a good player.

However, I believe GM Wilson is more likely to be a seller.

NHL-experienced assets the Sharks might be looking at trading include Burish, Kennedy and Niemi.  While I might lump Hannan in that category, he’s been a solid #6/7 D man and has been depended on this season, so might not be offered.

There’s a rumor that the Sharks have been unable to trade Tyler Kennedy. But even if the Sharks did want to trade Burish, Kennedy, and Niemi (even as a package), it’s unlikely they’d get much return.  But realistically, if the Sharks get a good return for any of the pending UFAs, the return might be the thing that helps consummate the trade.

The Sharks have been much more conservative with their draft picks in the past few years, trying to hang on to them to help keep the pipeline filled.  The 2014 draft was the first in years where they selected not one collegiate-bound player; and while they have had some pretty good results from drafting the college-bound, they also have had some pretty horrendous busts, like the Daniels twins they drafted years ago. The philosophy seems to be to find more collegians as undrafted free agents, where they have had very good results (especially with spots opening up from players not retained meaning a higher slot in the depth chart).

Even if there’s a key injury between now and the trade deadline, the Sharks may lean more on their AHL depth to fill the hole, than attempt to acquire an asset for a short term fill.  (Now, if a good replacement for a season-ending injury comes up, that might be made, but I’d say it less likely, with the desire to hang on to draft picks and quality prospects.)

Time will tell what actually does transpire between now and the trade deadline.