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Get ready for a long season
Not much has changed in San Jose
10/5/21 - By Mike Lee
The Sharks kickoff their 2021-22 NHL campaign in a little more than a week and from the looks of it, that will be the start of a very long season. San Jose did little to improve on a roster that that lost 14 more games than they won the prior season. There was no marquee free agent signing during the offseason. No blockbuster trade. Nada. Zilch. It has all the makings of a repeat of the last two seasons. Any success will be lauded as a great achievement. If the Sharks do what everyone expects, and mop up in the Pacific Division basement, then they will have simply accomplished what everyone expected.

Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson added a couple of journeymen free agents that are on the downside of their careers, in Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano and James Reimer. All serviceable players, but not guys that are going to make a mark in the playoffs, much less get you there.

The question is, is there no incentive to draw key free agents or is Wilson sticking to his latest plan of building from within. The problem with the latter is that he doesn’t have the pieces to build from within. William Eklund has impressed in training camp, but after that the cupboards are bare. The Sharks farm system is regarded as one of the weakest in the league.

How do you flail in the standings for two full seasons and come away with nothing in terms of prospects? That’s Wilson at his finest. He sold his soul when he acquired Erik Karlsson. Gave away key draft picks and turned a competitive lineup into a defensive liability.

With the addition of Karlsson, the Sharks were supposed to score so often that it didn’t matter that they couldn’t play defense. Except they didn’t score. The defensive liabilities have been gaping, and nothing really changed during the offseason to address those issues.

So here we are.

Hope springs eternal on opening day, then the reality of the situation will set in. Evander Kane decided to go all in on the season of misery when his private life spilled on to the front page. His situation is a mystery, but don’t expect him to contribute much if at all this season. If the domestic violence allegations that have surfaced pan out, he’s done in San Jose.

Given today’s social climate, there’s no room for that kind of headache, although Wilson may be begging for a distraction once the casual paying fan discovers that this Sharks lineup just isn’t very good. Opposing offenses are poised to run roughshod through the holes that the Sharks defense will provide.

New goaltender Reimer and Adin Hill will be blamed, as all Sharks goaltenders who fail to win inevitably are. They will be vilified for not stopping pucks that no mortal has a chance to stop because the defensive layers in front of them failed.

Reimer is a quality netminder. Hill has the makings of one. Together, they will be lucky to keep their save percentages above .900 as Martin Jones and Devyn Dubnyk can painfully attest.

Bonino and Cogliano are 33and 34 respectively, which doesn’t bode well for offensive players. Just ask Joe Pavelski. Except these guys aren’t Joe Pavelski. They’re both centerman playing on a team that used to expect their centers to play defense first. Old legs are not well suited to do that, even if that was still the Sharks game plan.

San Jose will lean on Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Tomas Hertl to produce. That’s two centers and a right wing. After that, there’s a steep drop off in the talent pool, which will allow the opposition to key off a trio to keep the Sharks pinned down on the scoreboard. Kevin Labanc, Dylan Gambrell and Matt Nieto simply don’t have the acumen to be an offensive threat in the NHL.

Brent Burns can go into offensive mode, but as we’ve seen the past two seasons, the Sharks expose themselves (and their poor netminders) when they allow Burns to push towards the net. They don’t have the defensive skill set in their centers to cover up for Burns when the opposition is counter attacking.

It will be a whole lot of what we’ve seen the past two seasons. New coaching addition (and former Shark) John McLean will attempt to address the power play issues, but McLean isn’t the answer to solve the Sharks defensive liabilities.

Get ready for a very long season.


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