One week in, Hansen fitting in seamlessly on Sharks' top line

One week in, Hansen fitting in seamlessly on Sharks' top line

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ brain trust was already confident that Jannik Hansen would be a good fit on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but that impulse was reinforced shortly after a trade with Vancouver brought the 30-year-old forward to San Jose.

According Pete DeBoer, assistant Johan Hedberg “got a note from one of the Sedins” that Hansen “would be a real good fit with those two guys. That just reinforced it,” said the coach.

The Sedins are obviously aware of the type of player that Hansen is, as he was frequently on the wing with brothers Henrik and Daniel. It was that familiarity and experience with those two players that seem to have a sixth sense with one another that’s allowed Hansen to transition so seamlessly to the Thornton-Pavelski line – two other players that can also display that type of chemistry, even if they’re not blood related.

And, it has been seamless. The Sharks’ top line has generated one even strength goal in each of the four games Hansen has been in the lineup, winning three of them. The season-long quest to find a fit for the two Joes looks like it’s finally over, and it’s happened at just the right time with only four weeks to go before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Joe and Joe play the same way as a couple guys in Vancouver,” Hansen said, referring to the twins. “They want the puck, they want to hold on to it, they want to make the plays. For me, it’s fairly simple as to how I’m playing. It’s the same thing – digging pucks out, going to the net, getting pucks back for them.”

Pavelski can see how playing with the Sedins could be similar to playing with himself and Thornton.

“Obviously those guys are on a [high] level passing and knowing where each other are,” he said.

You and Thornton are too, though, right?

“Yeah, we’ve always got an idea of what we want to do,” Pavelski said. “Over the last few years we’ve been able to figure that out even more. [Hansen] just compliments it well. He gets in there, he’s around the puck, if something’s loose he’s right there. He’s not out waiting for anything, he’s right in the mix.”

The instant chemistry has been a bit surprising to both of them. There aren’t a whole lot of off-ice meetings happening, because they just haven’t been necessary.

“The system is the system. There’s [only] so much you can do, and then after that it’s about winning some one-on-one battles, getting pucks back and making plays in tight areas with each other,” Pavelski said. “That’s actually been one of the nice things, is we haven’t had to talk much.”

Make no mistake, the Sharks were searching for a top line left wing ahead of the March 1 trade deadline. There were other names out there, like Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Tomas Vanek or Patrick Sharp (before it was revealed he was hurt), but Hansen was a player that the Sharks already knew could have success skating on a line with top offensive talent.

It was “absolutely” the plan to put Hansen on the top line to start, according to DeBoer. But if that didn’t work out, the coach was confident Hansen could play somewhere else, too.

“When you’re looking at that list of who can help you, there’s guys that were available that if we had acquired it was feast or famine,” DeBoer said. “They either fit [on the top line], or they might not fit anywhere else. This guy, the attractive part about him was we were real comfortable that he would fit somewhere for us.”

Based on his first week, though, it doesn’t look like Hansen will be moving down the lineup anytime soon. In his first experience changing teams, Hansen said the transition has been “a lot easier” than he expected.

“Obviously it’s a team that knows what they want, what direction they’re going,” he said. “I don’t need to come in and do anything special, just play my game and the rest will take care of itself.”

 

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.