San Jose Sharks 2021-22 Season Preview

No team looks more depressing than the Sharks right now. Sure, the Red Wings may be worse on paper, and the Ducks are pretty awful as well. But San Jose is just on another level. Not only is their roster well below average, but they have veterans tied up for a long, long time. For a rebuilding team, the Sharks have managed to arguably have four of the league’s twenty worst contracts, if not higher.

Offseason additions: F Nick Bonino, F Andrew Cogliano, G Adin Hill, G James Reimer, F Nick Merkley.

Offseason subtractions: F Patrick Marleau, G Martin Jones, F Ryan Donato, F Marcus Sorensen, G Josef Korenar, F Alex True, F Kurtis Gabriel.

Forwards

With various accusations and investigations targeted towards him, the Sharks will miss Evander Kane for some time. The team’s best player last year, Kane scored 22 goals with a team-leading 49 points. His 42 penalty minutes were second on the team, behind only enforcer Kurtis Gabriel. His on-ice presence will be missed. Logan Couture is still a good scoring center, although he has definitely regressed as he has fallen on the wrong side of 30. Couture scored 17 goals with 31 points last year, and he also received a Selke vote. While it may not seem like much, Couture’s 49.3 face-off percentage was actually his best since 2013-14. Timo Meier scored 30 goals in 2018-19, but he has declined in the two years after. He scored just 12 times with 19 assists for 31 points last year. Meier did receive some poor shooting luck, scoring just on just 7.7 percent of his shots. For a top-six winger with an average size, Meier is surprisingly physical. He laid 75 checks in 54 games in 2020-21. Playmaking winger Kevin LaBanc scored 12 times with 16 assists in 55 games, playing a career-high 16 minutes and 25 seconds a night on average. In the last four seasons, LaBanc’s penalty minutes have ranged from 31 to 38 in every season. Entering the final season on his contract, Tomas Hertl could be moved soon. With Kane out, there is a pretty simple case for Hertl being the best player on the team. He is a great two-way center, and his 19 goals with 43 points were the second best on the team. Hertl has played over 500 games as a Shark, scoring 151 goals. Even if it were to be unlikely that he signs an extension, it would take a haul to get him out of San Jose. Alexander Barabanov scored 11 goals in 43 games for the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA, which earned him a contract with Toronto. He unfortunately struggled there in 13 games, but was a completely different player after a trade to the Sharks. In nine games, the 27-year-old scored three times with four assists. That kind of trial will earn you a second look on a bad team. Jonathan Dahlen has played in the AHL before, but 2020-21 should be his debut season in the NHL after he dominated the Swedish league. Playing in 45 games for Timra IK, Dahlen scored 25 goals with 46 assists for a whopping 71 points. A former second-round pick, Dahlen was a part of the Ottawa and Vancouver organizations before a trade to San Jose in 2019. Despite never playing for the team after they drafted him in 2007, Nick Bonino has finally made his way back to the Sharks. Since he was a prospect for the team, Bonino has won two Stanley Cups and established himself as one of the league’s best two-way third line centers. He spent 2020-21 with the Wild, scoring 10 goals with 16 assists in 55 games. He may not exactly be known as a sniper, but Bonino has sustained a shooting percentage of at least 14.4 percent in each of the past four seasons. Originally traded away for Erik Karlsson, Rudolfs Balcers was claimed back off waivers this season. The Latvia native played in 41 games, scoring eight goals with nine assists for 17 points. He also had 81 hits, which was second on the team behind Kane among forwards. A sixth round pick in 2018, John Leonard was about as dominant as can be in 2019-20 for UMass-Amherst. He scored 27 goals in 33 games. Twenty. Seven. Leonard was less impressive in his first NHL season last year, with three goals and ten assists in 44 games. Dylan Gambrell averaged over 16 minutes on ice per night in 49 games last year, which is a ton of a bottom-six center. Gambrell scored five goals with seven assists. The former second-rounder also blocked 54 shots with 77 hits. Former NHL iron man Andrew Cogliano will make the Sharks his fourth NHL team this season. He played in 54 games for Dallas last year, scoring five goals with six assists. The physical veteran played in his 1,000th game at the end of 2019-20. Local kid Matt Nieto returned to the Sharks after a few seasons with the Avalanche. He scored five goals on 45 shots over 28 games. Noah Gregor lit up the WHL, and has played very well for the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL. In 10 games for them last year, he scored three times with six assists. Gregor’s NHL numbers have not been as good. He scored five times in 30 games last year, which is a solid pace of almost 14 over 82 games. Depth defender Christian Jaros was sent to the Devils in July for former first-rounder Nick Merkley. He played in 27 games for New Jersey last year, with a solid ten points. Eight of those were assists.

Defensemen

Two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson still has offensive talent, but his defense, which was never particularly strong, has completely fallen off. Even Karlsson’s production with San Jose has not been too strong. He was healthy last year, missing just four games. Still, Karlsson scored eight goals with just 22 points. Not a good thing at all for an offensive defenseman earning $11.5 million a season against the cap. Another former Norris winner having a rough go of things lately is Brent Burns. Now 36-years-old, Burns had 29 points, 22 of which were assists. He blocked 94 shots, just narrowly missing extending his streak of six seasons at triple-digits. Since 2013-14, Burns has not missed a single game. Mario Ferrero was an impressive defender in his second season, with 17 points in 56 games. Despite being undersized at five-foot-eleven and 185 pounds, Ferraro recorded 155 hits with 96 blocked shots. Six-foot-three Nikolai Knyzhov played in all 56 games last year when he had only three NHL games coming into the season. The six-foot-three defender recorded ten points with 84 hits in relatively sheltered ice time, at under 17 minutes a game. Once the game’s best defensive defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been a shell of his old self since signing a massive contract extension. He had six points last year, and an average 50.4 xGF%. That’s fine for a guy averaging 17-and-a-half minutes like he did last year. But for someone with a $7 million cap hit for the next five seasons? That needs to be elite. At age 34, that probably won’t happen again. Vlasic actually had a higher xGA/60 than Radim Simek, who just turned 29 after his third NHL season. Simek only played 14 minutes a night, but still had 76 hits with 49 blocks in 40 games. A second-rounder by Colorado in 2015, Nicolas Meloche made his NHL debut last year, with an assist in seven games. He had nine helpers in 29 games for the Barracuda. Jacob Middleton had seven points in 22 AHL games last year, and has played in 14 NHL games over the past three years.

Goalies

Compared to the disaster that has been Martin Jones over the past couple of seasons, this year’s goaltending is much, much better. A second-round pick was sent to Arizona for Adin Hill, who has solid fringe-starter potential. Hill played in 19 games for the Coyotes after starting the season as the third goalie, and he had a .913 save percentage with a 2.74 GAA. Hill’s 2.8 GSAA is solid for a guy who was in his age 24 season. James Reimer may be known as a Maple Leaf, or a Panther, or a Hurricane, but he was a Shark at one point. In eight games back in 2015-16, Reimer had a .938 save percentage for San Jose. Of course, he is not that goalie still, nor was he ever. For Carolina last year, Reimer had a .906 save percentage in 22 games.

Projected Lines

Alexander Barabonov – Logan Couture – Timo Meier

Jonathan Dahlen – Tomas Hertl – Kevin LaBanc

John Leonard – Nick Bonino – Rudolfs Balcers

Andrew Cogliano – Dylan Gambrell – Matt Nieto

Extras: Nick Merkley, Noah Gregor

Mario Ferraro – Brent Burns

Nikolai Knyzhov – Erik Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Radim Simek

Extras: Jacob Middleton, Nicolas Meloche

Adin Hill

James Reimer

Prediction

The Sharks have young talent that could grow into their core of the future. But their veterans are the ones holding them back. The contracts are awful. Everyone over the age of 30 has fallen off a cliff. I’m not sure if there is any other team that would be less attractive to a future General Manager. Not only is this team not a playoff squad, they are a lottery pick contender.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: