Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: San Jose Sharks

GM: Doug Wilson (since 2003). 7/10
Coach: Peter DeBoer (since 2015). 5/10

2016-17 record: 46-29-7, 99 points, 11th overall, eliminated in the first round.

Departures: Patrick Marleau (LW), David Schlemko (D), Michael Haley (C), Mirco Mueller (D).

Arrivals: Antoine Bibeau (G).

Top forwards: Joe Pavelski (65-70 points), Logan Couture (50-60 points), Joe Thornton (45-50 points),Tomas Hertl (30-45 points), Mikkel Boedker (25-35 points), Kevin Labanc (30-40 points), Jannik Hansen (40 points if he remains healthy), Joonas Donskoi (25-35 points), Joel Ward (30 points but clutch in the playoffs), Melker Karlsson (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Boedker has never been worth $4M per season, and the Sharks on on the hook for three more years of just that.

Top defensemen: Brent Burns (65-70 points), Marc-Édouard Vlasic (25-30 points), Paul Martin (20-25 points), Justin Braun (15-20 points).

Goalies: Martin Jones (87/100), Aaron Dell (77/100).

Top rookies: Danny O'Regan (23 years old, C, point-per-game AHLer), Julius Bergman (21, D), Bibeau (23, G), Marcus Sorensen (25, LW), Radim Simek (25, D).

Full disclosure: I never liked the San Jose Sharks. I didn't like them as an expansion team, I didn't like them for wearing a teal uniform, I never thought they were serious contenders and I always rejoiced at their early exits. When they hired DeBoer, I thought he might do what he usually does: give them a quick one-season boost like he'd done with the New Jersey Devils circa 2011-12 then have them disappear completely for a full decade.

That's where we are now, except GM Wilson has managed to build a half-decent roster that is strong for 20 minutes per game thanks to the likes of Couture, Pavelski, Burns and Vlasic, for 60 games per year thanks to Jones; the rest is just untapped potential that will not develop as long as DeBoer is behind the bench - which suits me just fine.

There's a reason why most of San Jose's prospects are well into their 20s and were drafted by other teams: their win-now mentality has made it so their draft ranks were usually late, and having performance-driven coaches instead of development-driven teachers have left that cupboard empty. And that's if you buy Todd McLellan and DeBoer as being "performance-driven", when neither has won either a Stanley Cup with relatively stacked teams.

Soon enough, when he retires, Thornton will join Marcel Dionne as the best players to have never won a Cup. Through no fault of his own, mind you, he's one of the best playmakers of all time, he just either has never played with good/lucky enough teammates or just didn't have that little extra gear that turns great players into championship winners.

Prediction: 6th in the Pacific Division.

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