Mailbag: Which teams pose biggest threat to Sharks in 2017 playoffs?

Mailbag: Which teams pose biggest threat to Sharks in 2017 playoffs?

Some mailbag questions as the end of the regular season draws near…

Which teams pose the biggest threat in the Western Conference to the Sharks’ playoff run? (@Broly2442)

The obvious answers are Minnesota and Chicago. That Wild team, in particular, looks like it may have San Jose’s number based on what we’ve seen in two games in the regular season. I think the Sharks match up slightly better against the Blackhawks, who have more top end talent but aren’t quite as deep as the Wild. Last season, the Sharks did a great job shutting down the opposition’s top players in the first three rounds. It's was Pittsburgh's depth that did them in.

If you’re looking for a dark horse team that could be trouble for the Sharks, though, I’d suggest Nashville. San Jose struggles most of all with speedy teams, and that’s the Predators’ identity, especially after swapping Shea Weber for P.K. Subban in the offseason. If there’s one team I would hope to avoid in the first round if I’m a Sharks fan, it’s Nashville.

Anaheim is another club that the Sharks probably don’t want to see in the first round. Although they’ve had an uneven regular season, the Ducks are a team with a Stanley Cup-winning coach, have given the Sharks problems in recent years, and will be out to make up for some recent playoff failures. The records could go out the window if the Sharks and Ducks face off.

Jones and Dell have been great, but with Groesnick on fire in AHL, are we going to see him called up? (ichael @mleeb)

Well there’s no reason to carry three goalies or to use Troy Grosenick at this point on the NHL club, but I imagine he’ll stick around as the third goaltender for the playoffs if the Barracuda get knocked out before the Sharks do.

The 27-year-old has picked a good time to have a standout year in the AHL, too. There’s very little chance of him returning here, since Aaron Dell is signed through next season and Martin Jones obviously isn’t going anywhere. As a pending unrestricted free agent Grosenick should draw some interest around the league, especially considering how many teams have struggled with their goaltending this season. 

Do you think Micheal Haley makes [the] playoff roster or do you think they'll put a scorer in his place? (Marcus Zimmerman @3zimmem45)

I like what Haley’s brought this season. Whether that earns him a place in the active lineup when the postseason starts could depend on the opponent, much like it has throughout the season. Obviously, guys like Haley tend to become less important in the playoffs, but it’s not like he’s hurt the team when he’s been in there. His 10 points (1g, 9a) and plus-six rating in 47 games are evidence enough of that. 

That all said, I would still be a little surprised if he’s in the lineup for Game 1 of the first round, as young guys like Kevin Labanc and/or Timo Meier could be back by then. But it wouldn’t shock me, either.

With Jannik Hansen part of the team, do you see him as someone they want to expose or protect during the expansion draft? (Joshua Williams @JWill_707)

Very little doubt in my mind that the Sharks will protect Hansen. He’s signed through next season, and the Sharks are on the hook for just $2 million of his salary. They are much more likely to expose forwards Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward.

On another note, I’ve canvassed quite a few scouts lately about the Sharks’ acquisition of the 30-year-old Hansen, and not one of them thought it was a bad move. According to one, the Sharks acquiring Hansen may have been the best move of any team in the league before the deadline.

Given the age of the team and the fact they were runners up [last season], do you think they could have gone more all-in at the deadline? (@ZaakJiwa)

If you’re suggesting could they have made a bigger move, that wouldn't have been the correct approach. Keeping in mind they were already up against the salary cap, if they were going to try for, say, a Matt Duchene, they would have had to part with at least one or two key players. 

That wouldn’t have made much sense based on where they are in the standings, and how much they value this team’s chemistry.

 

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

braun-justin-sharks-teal.jpg
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.