Desjardins thriving after benching

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Desjardins thriving after benching

SAN JOSE The biggest challenge for any first year NHL player is maintaining focus and energy over the grueling 82-game schedule.

Andrew Desjardins is no different. The undrafted rookie, who made the opening night roster after being far from a sure thing to do so in training camp, has had his ups and downs in his first full season in the pros. It began with a bang, when he scored two goals in a 6-3 opening night victory over Phoenix way back on Oct. 8.

It took 69 games the number on the back of his jersey for him to double that output, when he found the back of the net against Colorado in the second period on Monday. His fourth goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner, and was the third time in as many games that his line, along with Daniel Winnik and Tommy Wingels, found the scoresheet.

I thought Desis line was probably the best line all night, Joe Thornton said after the Sharks 5-1 win. They played hard, worked hard, and were always around the puck.
RECAP: Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado
Thats our job, get the momentum back and keep the momentum going, said Desjardins, who signed with the club as a free agent in June, 2010. Thats obviously what were trying to do. It seems like were turning over pucks and were doing the right things, so we just want to keep moving forward and doing those things.

The coaching staff likely aided Desjardins recent resurgence and drive at the beginning of the month. He was a healthy scratch for the first three games in March, and the thinking was that the rookie may have hit a wall and lost his spot in the lineup. After all, center Dominic Moore was brought in from Tampa Bay, and Michal Handzus, despite a disappointing season, still can provide a steady and veteran presence on many nights.

Todd McLellan thought Desjardins, who suffered a concussion against Columbus on Jan. 14 after a violent shot to the head from the Blue Jackets Dane Byers, needed a break.

It got away on him, and he got hurt at one point in Columbus with the elbow to the head, and I think from that point on, it took him a little while to get going again, McLellan said. He was reminded he was important but didnt play a few nights, and now hes giving us some of his best hockey of the season when we need it.

Desjardins reflected on his time spent watching from the sidelines as a healthy scratch.

It teaches you or shows you that you have to do the right things, and do them every night. It definitely puts you in your spot and makes you stronger, and to not take things for granted, I guess.

Although he missed two games after the head injury in mid-January, Desjardins was thrown right back into the fire when he returned. Ryane Clowe, Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat were all out of the lineup, and McLellan decided to plug Desjardins on the wing of the Thornton line for a stretch. In fact, Desjardins played more than 10 minutes in each of his first seven games after the injury, recording four assists.

The coaching staffs belief in Desjardins helped the players confidence, too, according to McLellan.

Thats where his season really evolved. You could see that he got confident at that point and blossomed a little bit more, said the coach. He really believed that he belonged.

Now, hes showing why. Desjardins seems to have settled in with Wingels and Winnik since the former returned from an upper body injury three games ago, and the coach is rewarding that trio with more and more ice time. All three played more than 15 minutes in the win against Colorado.

Its too early for Desjardins to think about personal success or what hes achieved in his brief career so far, though.

Im never satisfied. Im always trying to grow, he said. It comes down to more of a team thing now, where its just the next few games. We have to just keep going at it.

I havent really thought of it at all on a personal level at this point. Usually I wait until the end of the year. Im just trying to focus on doing what I have to do and help the team win right now.

Spoken like a true veteran.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.