Late-season acquisitions make their mark vs. Stars


Late-season acquisitions make their mark vs. Stars

DALLAS The Sharks late-season trades are starting to look a little bit better, after all.

Daniel Winnik, TJ Galiardi and Dominic Moore all played a major role in San Joses biggest win of the season, 5-2 over Dallas on Tuesday night. Winnik and Galiardi scored goals, with Galiardis coming after some shifty moves behind the net by Moore just before a pass in front.

For Galiardi, it was his first point in a Sharks uniform in 12 games since being acquired, along with Winnik, from Colorado at the trade deadline on Feb. 27.

Its been ridiculous how long its taken but its been coming for awhile, said the affable fourth-line winger, who missed six games with a presumed back injury last month. Weve had our chances; I think the thinking is you should be worried when youre not getting your chances. Its been a long time coming, but its nice, and this is a good time to start producing.

It may have been the biggest goal of the game, too. Dallas had just taken its first lead of the game, 2-1, about half a minute earlier on a blast by defenseman Alex Goligoski midway through the second. But the fourth line came out on the next shift, and promptly re-tied it.

It was a reversal of fortunes a bit for the Sharks, who were having a problem surrendering goals on the next shift after they had scored one themselves during their struggles in early March. At one point, it happened a total of five times in just nine games for San Jose.

They go out and win a draw, play in the other teams end, and get a big goal, Todd McLellan said of his fourth-liners. They give us valuable minutes, energetic minutes, hard checking minutes, and ended up rewarding themselves with a goal.

Moore said: Hockey is a game of momentum, and you want to push back when you have a chance to do so.

Couture contributes: At Tuesdays morning skate when I mentioned to Logan Couture that he hadnt scored in 10 games, the All-Star appeared to be caught off-guard a bit.

I didnt know it was 10 games without a goal, so weve got to change that, he said.

Change it, he did. Coutures redirection of Marty Havlats tape-to-tape pass on the power play from the high slot turned out to be the game-winner. For the team-oriented Couture, he was happy to break his personal scoring slump.

You want to contribute offensively. It feels good to score goals, he said. You ask anyone in this room, you come to the rink to score every night. Its nice to get one and help the team. But, weve got to move forward here. Weve got two huge games coming up.

McLellan said: To get the one there to make the difference, and for him to feel good about himselfI thought he had a tremendous game, for him to get rewarded I thought was important, too.

Coutures 31st of the season ties him with Joe Pavelski for the team lead.

Playoff feel prevalent: Its an overused phrase in professional sports, but the Sharks-Stars game on Tuesday night truly had a playoff-type feel from the drop of the first puck.

Thats not exactly astonishing, either, given the stakes for the eighth and ninth place teams in the Western Conference. The first period was frantic, back-and-forth, physical, and virtually non-stop. In fact, there was a stretch of more than six minutes without a single whistle.

Absolutely, said Couture, when asked if the players felt the same playoff-type vibe as all of us watching from above. You look at the first 12 or 13 minutes, there werent many whistles and the pace was up and down. Im sure it was exciting for fans. It was fun to play in.

McLellan has been preaching for weeks that the playoffs have arrived early for his club, and he didnt deviate from his coach-speak message post-game.

The two games against Dallas were the two biggest games of the year, said the coach. Were in a playoff series. Weve talked about that. When you can win back-to-back games in a playoff series, one and home and one on the road, youve usually set yourself up pretty well.

The message now shifts to keeping the momentum the Sharks have built in their convincing wins over Dallas. San Jose visits the Kings on Thursday and hosts Los Angeles on Saturday to conclude the regular season. Two more points assures the Sharks of a playoff spot, regardless of what else happens among the other bubble teams.

Good teams keep their highs and lows at a very even keel, McLellan said. We still have work to do. We cannot let our guards down, and that will be the message again sent to the players Wednesday.

The Sharks practice on Wednesday afternoon in El Segundo.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.