88 games of hockey was the Sharks’ fill this season. After their first Stanley Cup Final appearance a season ago, the Sharks failed to move past the first round of this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. After such a deep run last season, many people feel that there are failed expectations for San Jose. With every season though, there are some positives to take away. It is time to sit back and remember the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 26th edition of the San Jose Sharks.
This season’s Opening Night for San Jose was a first for the franchise. They were able to raise a new banner to the SAP Center rafters; 2015-2016 Western Conference Champions. They faced off against the L.A. Kings and came away with a 2-1 win over their bitter rivals. Brent Burns scored the game winner early in the third (more on Burns to come in a little bit). That night was the beginning of great expectations for the Sharks.
Now to the aforementioned Defenseman. Burnzie had an incredible season, tallying 29 goals and 47 assists. For about 75% of the season, Burns was in the running for the Hart Memorial Trophy, but it looks like he will have to settle for the Norris Trophy. Burns was definitely the Shark’s MVP this season.
Perhaps highly underrated was the development of Sharks fourth liner Melker Karlsson. Statistically, the numbers were not as great as Burns, but the Melkman fought for every lose puck along the boards. The highlight of his season was the OT game winner against Edmonton in Game One. Shark fans, get excited for this guy. Karlsson will further develop and turn into a puck hunter, who can throw some pucks into the back of the net.
With long careers, milestones are sure to come and go. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton recorded two major milestones apiece. Marleau scored career goal #500, while Thornton reached assist #1,000. February 2nd, in Vancouver, on the power play, the Sharks drove up the ice. Burns sent a pass to Joe Pavelski, who slid it across the ice to Marleau and was able to beat Canucks Goalie Ryan Miller.
Jumbo’s 1,000th assist came against the Winnipeg Jets on March 6th. With a late 2-1 lead, the Winnipeg net was empty. Thornton found Marc-Edouard Vlasic, then Vlasic passed to Pavelski and put it in the empty net.
Over the course of a season, injuries are bound to happen. It was not until the end of season press conference with Coach Pete DeBoer that we knew just what the Sharks were dealing with. Patrick Marleau was dealing with a broken thumb. Joonas Donskoi dealt with a shoulder separation a couple times this season. Tomas Hertl broke his foot April 2nd in Vancouver.
Couture took a deflected Burns screamer to the jaw, which knocked out some of his teeth. He will have dental procedures over the offseason for potential implants, but is unsure how many will need to be replaced. Couture also suffered two facial fractures. One being a fracture above his upper lip, which extends toward his nose. This could be why he said it was painful for him to breathe and eat. The other fracture is under the bottom row of his teeth.
***Graphic photo. If squeamish, scroll past photo.***
However, what Thornton dealt with truly makes the jaw drop. The same day Hertl broke his foot, Jumbo took a knee-to-knee hit and it tore the ACL and MLC in his left knee. Folks, that does not heal in a week or two. It is a six month heal. The fact that he played on two tears in his knee just proves hockey players are a different breed. If you do not yet own a Thornton 19 jersey, do yourself a favor and go get one. Maybe you can channel this guy’s toughness on a hard day.
Yep. Warrior https://t.co/QD0jJkOWO8— Logan Couture (@Logancouture) April 24, 2017
(Couture’s response to Thornton playing through ACL and MCL tears)
Lets face it; March was the undoing of the Sharks’ season. March 9th was the last time the Sharks looked like themselves. In a 4-2 win, they made the President’s Trophy Washington Capitals look like they did not belong in the NHL. It was a complete team win, but unfortunately it would be pretty much the last. The Sharks began to drop games, and drop them in a hurry. They were getting out-worked on the boards, out-defended, out-skated out-everything. They let a nine point lead in the Pacific Division dissipate, and were barely able to hold on to a divisional playoff spot.
#SadFace. The Sharks were beat up pretty bad, but nobody knew just how bad. What started off as hope and promise, turned into disbelief and disappointment. The defending Western Conference champions were bounced in the first round in six games against the Edmonton Oilers. A comeback win in Game One led to back-to-back shutouts to put the Sharks down 2-1. Game Four saw an offensive explosion, shutting out Edmonton 7-0, but that would be all she wrote for San Jose. The Oilers won Games Five and Six to end the Sharks season.
The Power Play
San Jose’s power play this season was downright ugly. For so long, the Sharks’ man advantage unit was feared. The “Jaws” theme that played before a home power play was fitting, because of how deadly it was. However this season, that dominance was nowhere to be found. A top three power play turned into a 25th ranked power play (16.7% on the season). Assistant Coach Steve Spot is on the hook for the performance of the power play. His primary focus is the power play. Coach DeBoer ultimately took the blame for the unit’s performance, saying it comes down on him, since he is the head coach.
GM Doug Wilson will have a lot on his plate this offseason to ponder. One of those being the role of Spot; will he remain on San Jose’s bench next season? From the press conference held yesterday, Wilson said he is confident in the coaching staff. He said they did an “outstanding job.” Wilson does acknowledge there are things that need to be improved upon, saying the power play “(has) got to be better.”
Two of the best things to come out of this Sharks’ season has been Thornton and Marleau’s milestones. However, as the season comes to a close, so do their contracts. The Sharks have expressed interest in resigning the long time skaters, and both have expressed desire to remain in San Jose. Wilson needs to ask himself; do we really want to see two all-time Sharks play in different sweaters?
Ultimately, Jumbo has a few good years left. His knee surgery Monday will cause a delay for the upcoming season, but a fresh Joe Thornton late in the season could be a blessing in disguise. As for Marleau: He was the best Shark forward this season, and it seems production is still there. He was dubbed “Mr. San Jose Shark” this season. That alone could bring him back on a two or three year contract. Jumbo and Marleau live in the area. They both have their families here. This late in their career, it seems very unlikely they will uproot all of that for a couple more years with a new team. Either way, 12 and 19 will remain at the SAP Center; whether those numbers are on sweaters, or in the rafters.
And so ends another edition of the San Jose Sharks. High expectations could not overcome fatigue and massive injuries to key skaters. Although the season is done, there is work to be done this summer as the expansion draft looms (6/21). Check back with us on the Armchair All-Americans for coverage of the expansion draft, as well as the NHL Entry Draft (6/23-24).
Sharks three stars for 2016-2017:
*- Brent Burns
**- Joe Pavelski
***- Patrick Marleau
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