Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time Heals All... Or Does It?

Welcome back to another season of Sharks hockey, and the return of the Puck Sharks Blog!

After an all too short offseason we quickly return to the grind that is the regular schedule. Being 7 games into the season some very preliminary conclusions can be made of the 4-2-1 start.

First, there seems to be a disconnect in upper management's desire to hand the leadership to the "Young Core", and the coaching staff's view of who the leaders of the team are. I found it very odd that at the Stadium Series press conference Logan Couture, Marc Edouard Vlasic, and Joe Pavelski were selected to represent the team, yet when it came time to announce the assistant captains Logan Couture was left off the list in favor of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton (with Pavelski and Vlasic getting the other to A's). At some point you must believe that Todd Mclellan must have made the final decision to hand the assistant captaincy back to Thornton and Marleau as a gesture of goodwill to help repair the riff between them and Doug Wilson. The last point I'd like to make on this subject of leadership is the fact that Patrick and Joe decided to take the whole team to Tahoe (on their dime) and hash out any issues other players had with their leadership style. After calling the locker room culture "business like" its refreshing to see the veterans stepping up and airing the room out on a team trip without the Sharks staff involved, its a big step in the right direction off the healing process.

Second, the Shark's homegrown talent is making it's mark. For a team that supposedly lacked prospects in the minor leagues, 3 rookies (plus a semi-rookie) have made the team out of camp. Chris Tierney, Mirco Mueller, Barclay Goodrow, and Tye Mcginn all made the roster out of camp and have looked liked they will stick (minus Goodrow who is still an injured scratch and have yet to see him). In addition, sophomores Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto are now fully integrated into the nightly lineup, and look to have increased roles with the team. Tommy Wingels, who had a breakout season last year has hit the ground running with 5 points in his first 7 games. Despite the fact that he has been shuffled around the top 3 lines, Tommy's game has looked very consistent; he seems to have gained some more composure\scoring touch with the puck and continues to log quality minutes without the puck. Tommy looks like he will continue to grow into a mold similar to Joe Pavelski with a little more physicality to his game and I expect to see a 40+ point season out of him this season. Someone I identified as a potential impactful player about 2+ years ago was Chris Tierney, since tracking his development as a London Knight (OHL) it was pretty clear the Sharks had found another diamond in the rough. After seeing his first 6 starts it's pretty clear that Chris has definite top calibre potential, his game is eerily reminiscent of Logan Couture's and has in my opinion a similar ceiling. Chris's vision and hockey sense is very evident in his on ice play, however like a young Logan Couture his physical tools need a little time to develop\acclimate to the NHL level, I see a bright future ahead of Tierney, and look for him to continue to develop into a top flight player. The last rookie evaluation of this section I want to cover is Mirco Mueller, drafted in 2013 Mueller's ascent through the Shark's prospect system has been swift to say the least. It's easy to see why the Sharks moved up in the draft to get Mirco, his skating is very smooth and fluid, his defensive positioning is very good for a young d-man and he has an aggressiveness to his game that Vlasic is only now displaying. As a comparison of a current Sharks, he is very similar to Vlasic's defensive ability but possesses an offensive ability akin to Justin Braun, he still has kinks to work out of his game however he is NHL ready.

Third, the goalies have both shown an ability to steal games and look to push each other for ice time. What bothers me is an apparent lack of faith for Stalock to assume full responsibility of the goalie position, but it should be pretty apparent that T-Mac's preference is to ease rookies into full time roles.

Forth, the veterans still hold a lot (maybe too much) pull among the coaching staff. We have seen Mirco be swapped in and out of the lineup in favor of Scott Hannan, Chris Tierney has also been swapped out in favor of James Sheppard and Thornton\Marleau are still leading the team in ice team. Basically we are seeing a similar lineup as last year plus a few rookies, minus Raffi Torres (who is apparently foregoing a third ACL reconstruction and opting for extended rehab) and no Dan Boyle. I'm left wondering WTF, where is the change promised after the collapse to the Kings, I want Jumbo and Patty on this team but I want more integration\responsibility of youth on this team.

Look for another update soon, where the discussion will turn to some of the characteristics the Shark's team is displaying early, some of which is good and some is bad.      

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

OH DEAR GOD, IT GETS WORSE........

In the last two weeks the San Jose Sharks have surprised us all and seemingly made a bad situation even worse. I'm now convinced that the ownership group that had once been hands off are now knee deep in changing the Sharks organization.

Before we delve into the more controversial topics it's time to do some housekeeping. June 30th marked the day NHL teams were to hand out qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents (or RFA for short) on their respective clubs. A qualifying offer is simply an offer for a new deal that is at least 100% of their original contract value if they made over 1 million dollars in a single season. If they made less than 1 million but more than 6 hundred thousand dollars the percentage value of the next offer must be 105% of the original, and if they made less than the 6 hundred thousand threshold the percentage moves to 110%. If the team chooses not to offer a new contract the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (or UFA for short) who is able to sign with another team, if the team offers a contract but the player deems it to be "unfair value" he is then able to have an outside arbiter re-evaluate the deal that the team can accept or walk away from the player (making him an unrestricted free agent).

During the unrestricted free agent signing period the San Jose Sharks resigned goalie Alex Stalock and forward Mike Brown both to two year extensions. After this season's performance on the ice it's fair to say Alex has cemented himself as the future goaltender of the Sharks, since Nemi is still on the team its possible that Alex could remain the backup this year and succeed him in the following year. The Mike Brown extension on the other hand is a little more controversial in regards to value vs. pay, in flashes he proved to be a catalyst on the 4th line, however at times the skill level of the opposition really outmatched him.      

So with that little explanation, here is the list per @SanJoseSharks of RFA's not to be offered a new contract. Most of these players not offered contracts had their fair share of opportunities in the Shark's organization, to note Nick Petrecki had been given ample time to mature into a top d-man he was billed to be. Unfortunately, Marek Viedensky was not able to stick in the system his natural offensive ability at times was great, however his defense was suspect and he was prone to offensive slumps.   


Name Pos. Acquired 14' GP 14' G 14' A 14' PTS
Sena Acolatse D 2010 FA 41 5 12 17
Adam Comrie D 2008 3rd Rd 56 3 16 19
Nick Petrecki D 2007 1st Rd 35 1 2 3
Brodie Reid RW 2011 FA 55 11 14 25
Sebastian Stalberg RW 2012 FA 50 9 13 22
Marek Viedensky C 2009 7th Rd 54 6 17 23

The players that were tendered new offers will not surprise anyone, all were product members of the Shark's organization and have a place in the organization.


Name Pos. Pro Level Acquired 14' GP 14' G 14' A 14' PTS
Jason Demers D NHL 2008 7th Rd 75 5 29 34
Taylor Doherty D AHL 2009 2nd Rd 69 4 11 15
Matt Tennyson D AHL 2012 FA 54 7 14 21
James Sheppard C\LW NHL Trade (Min) 67 4 16 20
Tommy Wingels C\LW\RW NHL 2008 6th Rd 77 16 22 38


Name Pos. Pro Level Acquired 14' GP 14' GAA 14' SV%
Harri Sateri G AHL 2008 4th Rd 45 2.95 0.894

The only interesting twist to any of these signings is that Harri Sateri is set to go to the KHL and continue his development there. Per the rules of the CBA the Sharks must tender an offer to retain Sateri's rights and if he returns to the NHL the Sharks have his exclusive rights (however no money is guaranteed and or given with the QO)

During the opening of the free agent window July 1st, the Sharks looked like a team that was not going to make any massive movements and or commitments to free agents. A few rumors had ex-penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Sharks on a massive contract, and while I believe Shark's management reached out to negotiate ultimately his price was just too high for the Sharks to take on. With everything seemingly at a stand still, GM Doug Wilson made a move sending defensemen Brad Stuart to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for 2 draft picks, a 2016 2nd rounder and 6th rounder. After that he signed a former Edmonton Oiler defensive prospect Taylor Fedun to a one year contract.

Here is where things go off the rails so to speak, Doug Wilson then decides to sign bruising forward\defenseman John Scott to a one year 7 hundred thousand dollar contract. Let that sink in, HE SIGNED F**KING JOHN SCOTT! The guy is totally devoid of any skill, his puck possession stats and his regular stats show he is a negative on the ice and is there only to bash people's skulls in. What is mind boggling though is that we have a fighter on our team we just resigned Mike Brown, so now we have 2 roster spots being taken up by guys who should not be playing full time in the league. I just don't get how you're supposed to hand over a team to the young kids when you have these guys taking up valuable ice time.

Finally on an even brighter note (sarcasm at its finest), the Sharks management in all of it's infinite wisdom has decided we need Ice Girls. Now as a red blooded American male seeing scantly clad girls in sports uniforms is definitely intriguing, however it's 2014 and many cheerleading squads across sports are questioning their relevance (not to mention their pay) to the games they cheer for. Look at baseball for example, the Giant's nor A's have any sort of cheer squad and or scantly clad work crews the fan experience at both venues is great. The Sharks have cemented themselves as a classy organization, and not having ice girls set them in a league of class on par with Detroit or Montreal who keep their environments family friendly. I have one message Sharks KEEP IT CLASSY AND FAMILY FUN! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

OH BOY........

Well, it's been quite an interesting week and a half since I last post, somethings have been put into perspective and some drastic measures have been taken.

First we must say goodbye to a beloved member of the Sharks broadcast family, Drew Remenda was not offered an extension on his current contract that expires on June 30th of this year. In his interview with Greg Wyshynski and Jeff Marek, Drew explained that the decision came from the upper management, more specifically the final decision was with new Sharks COO John Tortora.1What really disgusts me is the fact that a man who has been in the COO position for less than 18 months is making a decision on a broadcaster who has been with the Sharks in some capacity for over 20 years! For newer fans of the Sharks (myself included, I started watching games religiously in 2009) Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda have been the only dynamic duo of broadcasters we have known. I'm am so upset about this latest slap in the face by Sharks management that I'm considering the idea of starting an online petition to have him reinstated. From the Twitter, Fan, and Mass Media reaction its safe to say about 80% have viewed this as a massive negative mark on the Sharks organization.

The second bit of shocking news for the day is that the San Jose Sharks may in fact be in financial trouble. According to Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News the Sharks are trying to renegotiate their Television rights deal with Comcast Sports, which they signed in 2009. Apparently the deal is only good for $7 million dollars a year, compared to markets like Los Angeles and Anaheim which come in at about $20 million dollars plus. It's to the point where the Sharks could threaten to leave and is so perilous that Gary Bettman the Commissioner of the NHL has personally stepped in to help negotiate.2 Before we all start to panic at possibility the Sharks could relocate we must realise that the city has a vested interest in the team (the team bears the city name), Comcast Sports has a binding contract, and the Sharks have leased the SAP Center; these factors alone will by sometime to hammer out a fair T.V. deal for the team. In addition, I find it incredibly hard to believe that the other owners and governors would allow the NHL to vacate from a major media market namely the greater Bay Area.

Blow after blow this summer is turning into nightmare, what will we have to deal with next? All i know is that the most volatile time of this franchise's history will be in the next week leading up to the draft where are beloved team could be dismantled.

1 MvsW Interview with Drew Remenda
2 Mark Purdy article San Jose Mercury News     

Monday, June 9, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Welcome to another edition of the Puck Sharks Blog, since we last left off Dan Boyle was shipped to the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick and the rumor mill surrounding Joe Thornton has begun to swell.

First, Dan Boyle as reported by the San Jose Shark organization has been dealt to New York Islanders for a conditional 4th round draft selection in the 2015 class. If Dan Boyle is signed to a contract by the Islanders the Sharks are given the aforementioned 4th round pick, if he chooses to resign with another team July 1st (as his contract will be up) the Sharks will be given a 5th round pick in the same draft. Its also worth mentioning that the Sharks own an extra 4th round pick in the 2015 draft from a trade that sent forward T.J. Galiardi to the Calgary Flames in exchange for this pick.

My overall feeling of this trade is a positive one for the Sharks, the Sharks get a pick for a pending unrestricted free agent who they had no intention of resigning and stated as such. From the Islanders perspective this seems like an unnecessary gamble, if Boyle chooses not to resign they have given up a 5th round pick essentially for nothing. Boyle was set to become a free agent July 1st and the Islanders could have offered him a contract then. I believe that Garth Snow thinks he can persuade Dan Boyle to resign with the Islanders after seeing the state of their club and the future of the franchise in Brooklyn, but again a 4th round pick seems like a steep price to pay for essentially 1 month of exclusive negotiating time.

The next bit of information surrounding the Sharks includes a rumor about current captain Joe Thornton, The Globe and Mail reports that the Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs have apparent interest in upgrading their center depth.1 While a trade to Anaheim seems highly unlikely given the natural in-division rivalry, the Ducks wealth of defensive and forward prospects make an attractive trade partner at first glance. However it must be stated that the likely hood of the Sharks making the playoffs significantly diminishes if both or even just one of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are moved this off-season. As devoted as the Sharks fans are, I fear that 2-3 losing seasons of hockey will diminish interest in the sport here in the Bay Area like other larger marks (for example Chicago).

Honestly, the Sharks greatest chance at securing the Stanley Cup is to continue to stay the course with the current roster and change the message from the front office. I feel like Joe Thornton needs to buy more into the fast\aggressive style of hockey the Sharks want to employ by simply shooting the puck more. Now I know the old adage "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" will apply to Jumbo, however I think if the coaching staff explains to him the benefits of shooting a little more will actually make the passing lanes open up a more so he can make that picturesque play he could buy in. In addition I think that applying a little pressure from management on Joe in the form of trade rumors could heat the seat up a little.

Anyway, more articles coming in the off-season discussing the moves and proposals involving the Sharks.

1 Globe and Mail Article plus Toronto Sun Article
Also here is a great resource for Draft Pick Ownership in the NHL            

Friday, May 23, 2014

Goodbyes

Well, as you may or may not have heard we have some news coming out of San Jose within the last week. The San Jose Sharks organization have opted to not resign pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Boyle, who was rumored to have turned down a one year extension. In addition, Martin Havlat was notified that he will not be returning to the Sharks for the 2014-2015 with one year still remaining on his contract he signed in Minnesota. The last piece of news which came as a little bit of a surprise, Brent Burns will be moved back to right defense (presumably due to Boyle's departure).

More along the speculation front, it is assumed that Martin Havlat will be bought out with one of the two compliance buyouts the Sharks obtained during the new NHL collective bargaining agreement ratified last year. A "compliance buyout" is simply "buying" the remaining years and money owed to a player without penalty to the cap payroll with the intent to release the player from team control, however the player is still payed the real money owed by the team. Otherwise the only other option available to the Sharks organization is to trade Havlat, and it is rumored that any prospective team wishing to obtain him would want the Sharks to take back part of his remaining salary.

Moving back to Dan Boyle, it is truly sad to see him let go by the Sharks. A player that always had the desire to win, was so fun to watch his puck movement and skating every time he stepped on to the ice. When Rob Blake retired it seemed that the logical next captain of the team would have been Boyle, who I argue would have been a more vocal leader in the dressing room. Alas, even without the "C" pinned to his chest Dan Boyle helped to form a formidable defense in front of the goaltending. Without Dan Boyle the Sharks string of consecutive playoff appearances may have ended. From the bottom of my heart I wish Dan all the best in his future endeavors.

In further news, both Todd Mclellan (Head Coach) and Doug Wilson (General Manager) have been actively engaging in talks with the media about the future of the team. If you read between the lines of what they have been saying it looks as though Joe Thornton maybe stripped of his captaincy and or traded in the off-season. I have to believe that Patrick Marleau will also be moved, if in fact Joe Thornton is traded away. Something that Wilson said during his interviews that seems to be resonating in the media was his statement of moving a step-backwards to go a step-forwards. When I heard his new philosophy on the team's future I immediately thought that playoffs might not come to San Jose in the 14-15 season.

Of the events that have taken place so far my opinion is this, San Jose will not be a playoff team if both Marleau and Thornton are traded away period. Being a huge fan of Patty and Jumbo I'd hate to see them in any other jersey but our own, but I can understand why a change maybe needed. Next post I will give some thoughts on potential returns for these players.

Links To some of the news from the week.

Doug Wilson call to the media

Dan Boyle call to the media

Yahoo! Sports talk live interview with Doug Wilson                  

    

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick Update

Yesterday (5/11/2014), Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper on twitter) reported that both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators were in the midst of shopping both Dion Phaneuf and Jason Spezza to Western Conference teams. In addition to the tweet Kypreos sent out, he explained on hockey central @noon that the San Jose Sharks could be interested in one of them.

A quick glance at his point totals indicate that his offensive numbers have remained steady in recent years, going from a 44 point year in 11-12 season, 28 points in 12-13 (the lockout shortened season) and 31 points in this past year (13-14). After the back slide Toronto took in the standings post olympic break, the new management is clearly looking to shake up the core of their group via trade.

Enter the San Jose Sharks, clearly needing a roster shake up of their own, we could see a potential match develope here. Depending on the return, could we see Phaneuf in a teal sweater next year? I highly suspect that the Toronto management will be talking to the Sharks about a trade revolving around one player... Joe Pavelski. The reason for this interest in one player stems from the Winter Olympics of 2014, while there Pavelski centered a line that included two Maple leafs players (James van RIemsdyk and Phil Kessel) which arguably was the best line Team USA Hockey employed in the tournament. Just the thought of reuniting this line might make the Maple Leaf Management offer the moon in exchange.

Here is my thought on a possible trade scenario, with the possibility of draft pick swaps as well.

To the San Jose Sharks:
Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner
Nazem Kadri

To the Leafs:
Joe Pavelski
Martin Havlat and/or Tyler Kennedy

Why would this trade be good? Well first off the Maple Leafs get there first line center they have so desperately sought after, they trade Dion Phaneuf who has potential leadership questions and Nazem Kadri who has been the target of much criticism in Toronto. From the Sharks perspective, you have traded for a stabilizing D-Man with great potential in Phaneuf, traded for a future two-way top 3 d-man in Jake Gardiner and replaced Pavelski with a center of the same mold who is younger.

Only time will tell what's on the radar for a potential trade, but where there is smoke surely there is fire.      
  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Updates, Injures and Future Posts

After a few days of reliving that horrible loss in Game 7 of the Sharks-Kings series I think it's time start the post mortem autopsy of this team.

In the last couple of days news had started to trickle out about the various injuries that had occurred while the series wore on. Some injuries included center-man Logan Couture's wrist not fully healing from his wrist surgery that occurred during the olympic break1. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic suffering from both lower-body and upper-body injuries presumably being a leg\knee injury plus a head injury2. Lastly, Raffi Torres returning to action still suffering from soreness due to his ACL injury he sustained in the preseason3. I suspect that in the coming days we will see official updates from the Sharks staff, with my guess being that Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski all had been playing through injuries as well. Not to say that the injuries are a viable excuse for this season's epic melt-down, it does help explain the quick exit a little better.
The philosophies central to the Shark's style of play require them to have possession of the puck, quickly attack through the neutral zone and create a strong forecheck that generates a) chances on net b) turnovers in the opposing team's offensive zone. With each center-man fighting through apparent injuries it was hard to win key faceoffs and start with possession of the puck (as seen in game 3 and on). I conjecture that sometime in this series Joe Pavelski sustained an injury that prevented him from fully executing his responsibilities as a center-man, thus leaving Todd Mclellan no choice but to keep flipping him back and forth on lines.

In another bit of news, the General Manager of the Sharks, Doug Wilson reiterated his belief in the current coaching staff and will recommend to the owner that they all be kept on4. With his comments during the locker-room clear out day, GM Doug Wilson quieted the rumors of a potential head coaching change. It had been suspected that teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks had been keeping tabs on the situation in San Jose, possibly looking for a potential replacement for their respected coaching positions5.In all the articles I had previously mentioned however, one particular message was quite evident it's time for changes in San Jose.  

During the next few posts, I will be giving my view on how best to shape the roster with free agent acquisitions and potential trades for the upcoming season. Overall, I will be explaining and investigating ways to improve the forward, defence, goaltending, powerplay and penalty kill situations. In addition, some additional posts will be dedicated to the NHL draft (Specifically Shark's picks) and current prospects in the Shark's development system.

It seems like the off-season always comes too quickly, but this year's offseason feels like a change is in the air.


1 Ryan Dadoun via ProHockeyTalk
2 Kevin Kurz via CSN Bay Area
3 see above
4 Jason Brough via Mark Purdy via ProHockeyTalk
5 Kevin Kurz via CSN Bay Area