Sharks

The path to 34-25-10, and eighth place in the West

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The path to 34-25-10, and eighth place in the West

It is the question of questions amongst Sharks faithful: "How exactly did we get here?"

The Tipping Point: San Jose was relatively comfortable, both in their play and their standing through the month of January, which saw them sport a 9-3-2 record. It was a Feb. 4 game in Phoenix where the troubles began appearing in the results.

Coincidentally, this one-game roadie was also the Sharks' annual fathers trip, where players bring their dads on the team plane and to the games. Since then, the team has spiraled to a 5-12-3 record. You might recall last year's fathers trip was also a turning point in San Jose's season...only in the opposite direction. They went 25-6-4 to finish off their regular season campaign after getting some inspiration from the dads.

"Chasing their game": That's how head coach Todd McLellan put it after returning from the season-long nine-game road trip in February. He described trying to fix one part of their game, only to find another began showing troubles. For example, after addressing and correcting defensive miscues, the team would have issues scoring goals. Or after getting the power play back on track, the penalty kill would fail the team. It's like the old cartoon reference: you plug one leak just to find another spring up before your eyes.

On a basic level, San Jose has continued to "chase their game" during this rut. In the beginning of February, the Sharks had no problem scoring the puck, but could not hold enough teams below that all-important reference point of three markers. Then, the challenge became goaltending, where starter Antti Niemi was uncharacteristically pulled in two of three starts. Then Niemi found his groove again...only to face his own team in a scoring slump. The Sharks have just 12 tallies in the last eight games. Simply put, San Jose has endured a multitude of challenges with their game, not just a singular one.

Lack of traction: The best metaphor I can make of the Sharks is this: A tire stuck in the mud. The wheels are spinning awfully hard at times, but the car is not going anywhere. In fact, sometimes it's making the hole deeper. There is a lack of traction right now for San Jose to get themselves out of the dirty stuff and moving forward with their season. As is the case with any streak, the Sharks have trouble getting consistent positive results. It's been win one, lose one. Win one, lose four. Win one, lose two. Win one, lose five. And so on.

Here are some facts that are difficult to swallow:

- The Sharks have not won back to back games in six weeks (Jan. 31, Feb. 2)
- The Sharks have not won back to back games on the road in more than two months (Jan 12, 14)
- The Sharks have not won by a multiple goal margin in more than four weeks (Feb. 13, 5-3 vs. WAS)
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Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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