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.