As the Sharks await their second round opponent and schedule, we answer a few mailbag questions. Thanks for all the submissions.
Will the Sharks re-sign Raffi Torres? If so, how much do you think he will be demanding as a pending UFA? I guess that will depend on how deep the team goes, and how he performs the rest of the way, but so far so good.
KK: I would be surprised if the Sharks didn’t explore bringing Torres back on a multi-year deal. His expiring deal is a two-year contract worth $3.5 million, and if I had to make my best guess, I’d say he’ll probably looking for something in the three-to-four year range worth $2 million or so annually. Torres turns 32 in October, so his next contract is an important one for him personally.
The Sharks were prepared to give at least that much to pending UFA Ryane Clowe, and it seems to me that Torres is enjoying his time with the Sharks so far, so why not lock up the feisty winger? I can say with confidence that, like Clowe, his teammates absolutely love the guy. And, he plays the way that Todd McLellan and staff emphasize. It’s a good fit.
I know it's a bit early, but with the success Brent Burns has had at wing this season, do you think McLellan and the organization will give serious consideration to keeping him at wing next season?
KK: It is early, but I’d be very surprised if Burns goes back to the blue line next season. He’s simply been too good as a forward, and we’ve all seen the way that his move up front has transformed San Jose’s offense.
That’s a credit not only to Burns, but Matt Irwin. McLellan recently said that Burns’ relocation simply would not have been possible without Irwin’s progression as an NHL defenseman. Irwin recently signed a two-year contract extension, taking him through the 2014-15 season.
If Demers is ready, do you see him coming in for Hannan? Irwin? Not at all? Or do you think they could pull a Burns and try him as a forward, even though that might be a bit risky in the playoffs?
KK: If Demers does play, it will be for Hannan, but Hannan was very steady against the Canucks (two assists in four games, +1 rating). If Demers is declared ready for Game 1 of the second round (he took a full practice with the Sharks on Sunday), making a change to the blue line after the four-game sweep of the Canucks doesn’t seem likely or make sense. Demers probably has a better chance of getting into the lineup against Chicago, which plays a faster and less physical game than the Kings.
He won’t play as a forward. McLellan shot down that suggestion earlier this week.
Which aspect of their game do the Sharks still need to improve to be successful?
KK: It’s tough to criticize anything in the Sharks’ game after the sweep of Vancouver. The Sharks were the better team at even strength, dominated special teams, Antti Niemi outplayed Roberto Luongo and Cory Schnieder, and McLellan out-coached Alain Vigneault.
Still, getting more production from the second power play unit – an issue all season – would go a long way. All seven of the Sharks’ power play goals in the first round came from the top group.
Scott McAvoy (@ScottLogic4U)
Think T-Mac and Doug Wilson have job security now after sweep of Canucks?
Yes. Wilson arguably made the best moves of any general manager at the trade deadline (and the days leading up to it), somehow managing to make his team better and concurrently stockpile draft picks.
I never got the impression McLellan’s job was in jeopardy this season, although if the team missed the playoffs, it would have been a discussion point much like it was last April. The Sharks don’t disclose information about their head coach’s contracts, but I would suspect McLellan could be up for an extension, as he reportedly has one year left on his deal. Either way, he’ll be back next season no matter how the rest of the playoffs progress.
With Adam Burish now out for the second series along with Marty Havlat, their already poor depth at wing has taken another blow. How do the Sharks handle this going into the next round?
KK: Calling their forward depth “poor” isn’t really accurate – how many teams actually have strong 13th and 14th forwards? Tim Kennedy isn’t a terrible option in an emergency situation, all things considered. He has playoff experience, too, scoring three points in six games with Buffalo in 2010, to go along with his appearance in Game 2 against Vancouver.
That being said, I do think they need Havlat back at some point if they’re going to make a legitimate championship run. Despite his wildly inconsistent two seasons with the Sharks, Havlat is a point-per-game player in the playoffs in his career. He also seems to enjoy playing against his former teams (note his success against the Wild this season), and if the Sharks meet Chicago in the second or third round, Havlat could be a real X-factor after spending three seasons with the Blackhawks. If he does return, I’d expect him to play wing on the third line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. The top line of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Raffi Torres has been too good to break up.
Noel Ramirez (@CrispyChurr0)
Which player do you think needs to step up his game to advance to the next round?
Joe Thornton. The Sharks’ captain had six points in the first round (1g, 5a), but four of those came on the power play. At even-strength, the Thornton-Burns-TJ Galiardi line was good, but not great. Although, to be fair, they were often matched up against the Ryan Kesler line for Vancouver, the Canucks’ best defensive forward line.
As good as Thornton is on the power play, his even-strength play down the stretch was so-so, and a couple times McLellan had him take shifts on the fourth line and even benched him in the third period of a game in Columbus. He’ll have to be consistently better, particularly at five-on-five, for the Sharks to advance.
Can we start round 2 already?