Battle for roster spots in full effect


Battle for roster spots in full effect

SAN JOSE There may be just two months left in the regular season, but the battle for roster spots in still going strong for the San Jose Sharks.

Andrew Murrays departure the veteran forward was waived by the club on Monday morning, as it hopes to reassign him to Worcester was a reminder of that competition. Players like Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Jim Vandermeer and Tommy Wingels are all expected to compete for either playing time or a spot on the team when everyone is back and healthy.

Todd McLellan said after Mondays practice that with Murray now off of the active roster, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate some of the other younger players the John McCarthys, and Wingels, and the Ferrieros while they are here, to see what we have and where they fit in.

The Sharks fourth line and their roster, really has been in a state of flux since Marty Havlat was hurt in late December. Wingels, Ferriero and McCarthy were all still with the AHLs Worcester Sharks when Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring on Dec. 17 against Ottawa.

Ferriero got the first chance, and was recalled immediately after Havlat went down. He scored goals in three of his first six games back, but since then, has just three points in 13 games despite playing mostly on the second line. Ferriero was scratched Feb. 2 at home against Dallas before returning in Phoenix on Saturday on the fourth line.

McCarthy was recalled in time for the game on Jan. 21 in Vancouver, with Ryane Clowe and Wingels both hurt. Hes scoreless in five games on the fourth line.

Vandermeers spot on the roster is safe for now, as he provides defensive depth and has the ability to play as a physical forward, too, which he did in the three games prior to Saturday in Phoenix when he was a healthy scratch.

REWIND: Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

We really feel comfortable playing him as a forward, McLellan said. But, as a reminder to us and to him, hes still a defenseman. If we need one, he provides us tremendous depth, but with the ability to go up front thats also nice to have.

Wingels, meanwhile, is still recovering from an apparent left shoulder injury he suffered on Jan. 19 against Ottawa. He has resumed skating and theres an outside chance he could play Friday against Chicago, although his return during the teams long road trip looks more likely.

The 23-year-old Wingels may be the most intriguing of the bunch, and played the best game of his brief NHL career just prior to getting hurt. On Jan. 17 against Calgary, the Evanston, Illinois native played a career-high 21 minutes and 23 seconds on the teams top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

He was asked if the timing of his injury made it that much more frustrating.

I think any time you get hurt theres frustration, Wingels said. There was a good opportunity to play. You just try to work yourself back into the lineup now and go from there.

He did play some good games, McLellan said. We gave him every opportunity to have an impact on the game.

His injury set him back a little bit, but with that being said, once we get bodies healthy its going to be a competitive environment for not only ice time, but for roster spots. We cant keep everybody. Given the opportunity and the time on the ice, they have to make good on it, because we will have to get down in numbers.

Sheppard update

James Sheppard skated with the Sharks again on Monday, and still wants to return to a competitive game by March 1. In all likelihood, that would come with Worcester on a conditioning assignment.

He still feels pain in his right knee after an ATV accident in the summer of 2010, but doesnt notice it as much now when hes on the ice.

Once you get warmed up the pain kind of leaves, which is nice. I think your body gets warmed up so naturally it feels better. Then, just the adrenaline and having so many things coming at you takes it away, Sheppard said. I think afterwards its a bit there, but I dont really care about that, as long as you feel good during the game I can deal with that.

Hes still not ready to play yet, though.

The coaches have watched enough hockey to realize when someone is ready and someone is not. Its going to be kind of a collaboration. We both have to agree that Im ready to play, he said.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”