It's been easy to pile on the Sharks this
season. Well, the past three seasons for that matter. After a 2-7 start to the
2022-23 campaign, this is clearly a team in need of fixing. First year General
Manager Mike Grier and head coach David Quinn knew this was a reclamation
project when they took their respective jobs, but it would be interesting to
know if they thought the Sharks were 2-7 bad. The Sharks are easy targets for
the jabs and criticisms right now, so let's turn the tables and focus on the
positives through the team's first nine games. Nico
The German forward has been the most consistent player in
a teal sweater this season, which has translated into one of the few players
generating any offense. Rooted on the Sharks 4th line for most of the season,
Sturm actually leads the team in goal scoring with 4 tallies this season. After
winning the Stanley Cup last season, the Sharks signed him to bring some
experience to their roster.
That experience brings a voice to the
locker room, which has been one of the most prominent this season. Sturm has
been critical of his teammates play at times, but more importantly, he's
calling out the obvious. When the energy levels have been questioned, Sturm has
made it a point that he and his teammates are paid professionals who shouldn't
need a head coach or general manager to inspire them.
Sturm has been
the voice that has been absent from those who wear letters on their sweaters.
It wouldn't be a stretch if Quinn was using Sturm as a sounding board. He's a
new figure in the locker room, but his Stanley Cup credentials carry a lot of
weight. There's a ton of youth in San Jose, so a new guy that's won is a great
tool for Quinn to leverage. The Penalty
When you look at statistics, it's easy to see why the
Sharks have struggled this season. Penalty killing isn't one of them. The
Sharks finished 2nd in the NHL in that specialty last season and they sit 3rd
best in the league through the first two weeks of the season.
even more remarkable is the fact that the Sharks are doing it while taking a
high volume of penalties. They rank 10th in penalties allowed, which isn't a
surprise given that they have played more games than any other team in the
league, but when you average out goals allowed per game, they rank 3rd (0.11
power play goals allowed per game).
With the turnover in the roster
this season, it's tough to pin the success on one or two players. Matt Benning,
Luke Kunin and Sturm rank 5th, 6th and 9th respectively in short-handed ice
time. Steven Lorentz has also seen time on the penalty kill. Those numbers may
increase as the Sharks wait for Nick Bonino to return from his injury. He and
Matt Nieto are the primary penalty killing forwards. Mario Ferraro and
Marc-Edouard Vlasic lead the Sharks in ice time while on the penalty kill.
1st Period Defense
Oh if hockey games
were only 20 minutes long. If that were the case, the Sharks might just be
early odds on favorites for a Stanley Cup. OK, that's a bit far fetched, but
believe it or not, the Sharks have the best goals against average in the 1st
period. They have allowed a total of 2 goals in the opening frame in 9 games,
averaging .222 goals per 1st period. In contrast, the Minnesota Wild average
2.16 goals per 1st period.
Let's skip past the Sharks 2nd period
performance, because this is a feel good piece. Let's just say that it's a bit
higher. The 3rd period isn't much better, but who's to say what's driving the
outstanding opening period performance.
So all the Sharks need to do to right the ship is to
bottle whatever it is that they're doing in the 1st period and apply that to
the trailing 40 minutes. Of course it's not that simple, but there's something
to be said about maintaining momentum. The Sharks seem to be waking up the
opposition later in games, and by allowing it to happen, they're failing more
So if they can figure out how to score, things could shift
considerably for this team. That's not easily correctable, but the numbers say
they will have success simply by improving the scoring, while maintaining their
defensive play. James Reimer
should surprise anyone, but James Reimer is a good goaltender. While his record
may not show it, his play has kept the Sharks close in most of those games. The
failure to counter with their own scoring has been the issue for San Jose.
Reimer's statistics don't tell the whole story. He has played the 2nd most
minutes in the NHL even though the Sharks have platooned him with Kaapo
Not surprisingly, he's faced more shots that any other
goaltender in the league, but the Sharks had opportunities to win the 4 losses
that have been credited to him so far. As has been the case for the better part
of the last 4 years, the Sharks make goaltenders look bad because they don't
afford them with enough defensive protection out in front.
leads the league in saves, which isn't fueled by games played. The rest of the
top performers in the league have played in an equivalent number of games, or
within one start. If the Sharks can get their defense in order, they have the
pieces in net to win. That is a tall order, but one Grier and Quinn should be
focused on. David Quinn's Temper
jury's still out on David Quinn's ability to lead a hockey team at the NHL
level, but there's no doubt that he's a little more fiery than the last five
head coaches in San Jose. Losing tends to light a fire, but Peter DeBoer and
Bob Boughner both went through tough stretches and never seemed to react
Professional athletes are strange animals, and a rough edge
from the coaching staff can be disastrous if not tempered for each personality
in the locker room. What is clear through the first 9 games is that the losing
is starting to irritate Quinn and he's not masking it in post game media
Words that sting may just be what this team requires. They've
been handled with kid gloves the last three seasons and it's netted them
nothing. Seeing things like positional mistakes off faceoffs is a bad sign,
because it means the fundamentals are starting to slack off. If behaviors like
that become the norm, this franchise will go through a full fledged implosion
and Connor Bedard is as sure as theirs.
It's refreshing to see some
fire from the coaching staff. As Sturm said, "losing sucks." So having a coach
that wears his heart on his sleeve is something that might actually inspire the
effort to avoid all this losing.