Cancelled season could hurt several Sharks

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Cancelled season could hurt several Sharks

The 2012-13 NHL season is on life support, and the cord will likely be pulled some time in the middle of January if the league and players’ association can’t agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by then.

A lost season would be beneficial to absolutely no one, but there are certain players that it would damage more than others. That includes several on the San Jose Sharks’ roster.

Here, in no particular order, are the five Sharks with the most to lose should the league lose its second season in nine years.

Ryane Clowe - In his seven years in a Sharks sweater, Ryane Clowe has developed into one of the better power forwards in the league while also leading in the locker room. Still, it was a down year for the rugged forward in 2011-12. Clowe saw his point total go from 62 in 2010-11 to just 45 in 2011-12, as he battled through a number of injuries, including a concussion that was only revealed by the club after the season. The 30-year-old was due to make $4 million in 2012-13, and is an unrestricted free agent next summer. It would be hard to imagine him making that kind of money on a multiple-year deal considering his performance last year, injury history, and fearless warrior mentality – even if he is such an important locker room presence.

Michal Handzus - A lost season would likely mean that veteran center Michal Handzus, set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has played his last game in the NHL. The Sharks erred when they signed him to a two-year deal in the summer of 2011, as Handzus never found his groove and was benched at the end of the season and in the playoffs, although it was later revealed that he had been battling a hip injury throughout the season. Even if a shortened NHL season begins in mid-January, Handzus may not be in the team’s plans, depending on the progression of James Sheppard in Worcester.

Jason Demers - After he showed such promise in 2010-11, Jason Demers’ development took a step backwards last season. This year, Demers seems to be having a solid season in Finland, where he has five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 30 games for Karpat in the competitive SM-liiga. He’s still just 24 years old, so Demers could very well rebound and become a solid NHL blueliner going into restricted free agency this summer. But, he’ll need a season to show that last year was just a bump in the road.

Dan Boyle - Forget for a second that Dan Boyle was set to make nearly $7 million this season, after already losing a year of his prime in 2004-05 – preventing him from defending his Stanley Cup championship with Tampa Bay. The 36-year-old knows time is not on his side if he wants to make a run at another championship, which is likely the reason he has been among the more outspoken players throughout the work stoppage. Boyle is signed through 2013-14, but a full no-trade clause last season is now just a limited no-trade clause and Boyle’s name was tossed around in a few trade rumors this summer.

Thomas Greiss - The Sharks like both of their young goaltenders currently playing for Worcester, in 25-year-old Alex Stalock and 22-year-old Harri Sateri. Stalock, in particular, could be NHL-ready in 2013-14 to at least be Antti Niemi’s backup. Thomas Greiss had a decent season in 2011-12, but it was not enough for him to be considered a surefire future starter in the NHL. This season would have been a great opportunity for Greiss to show if he belongs in the league for good, especially if Niemi, who had an inconsistent 2011-12, got off to a slow start. Instead, a lost season could mean the Sharks would move on from Greiss and allow him to leave via unrestricted free agency while promoting Stalock.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of fire, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?

 

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
 
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
 
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
 
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
 
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
 
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
 
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
 
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
 
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
 
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
 
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
 
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
 
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
 
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”