Sharks-Coyotes: matchups to watch

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Sharks-Coyotes: matchups to watch

What to watch for as the Sharks open the season at home tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Control the jitters: The Shark Tank will undoubtedly be rocking tonight as the Sharks open their 20th season with Cup aspirations on their minds. The players themselves will have to make sure they dont get caught up in the atmosphere too much, and instead concentrate on their individual respective duties.

Many coaches will tell you they like to start on the road because there is less pressure out of the gate. The Sharks wont have that luxury, but Todd McLellan said after the morning skate that he actually hopes his players have some butterflies.

Players in this league get excited about playing on opening night, but they also get a little bit anxious and nervous, regardless of how many years youve played in the league, he said. I hope that we have that a little bit and our stomachs are turning, and that were able to react appropriately to it.

Patrick Marleau added the team has to not get outside of ourselves or too excited, even though its opening night. We want to use that energy in the right direction.

PREVIEW: Sharks vs. Phoenix
New netminder for Phoenix: The Coyotes lost their best player in the offseason as goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov signed a long-term deal with Philadelphia. Therefore, journeymen Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera are the pair for Phoenix, with Smith getting the start tonight.

It seems no one ever expects the Coyotes to be too much of a threat in preseason prognostications, and then they go out and prove everyone wrong by making the playoffs. If thats going to happen this year, the goaltending will have to play at least close to the level of Bryzgalov to give them a chance.

McLellan coached Smith when both were with the Houston Aeros (AHL) in 2004-05, and said Smith will be a good fit for their defense-first style.

Smith sets up real well with the way they play with their trap and forcing teams to give up possession, said McLellan. He can play the puck very well and initiate the breakouts going the other way. He may make their team even better.

Speaking of goalies: As everyone knows by now, Thomas Greiss will be starting in net for the Sharks as Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are on the shelf. Greiss had a fantastic preseason, but lets face it -- that brand of hockey doesnt much resemble a regular season game. Griess will have more pressure on his shoulders than anyone else in the building, and knows that tonight is the start of a great opportunity to prove himself as a viable NHL goaltender. The first period especially will be key for him.

It already sounds like he has the full confidence of his teammates.

In practice he stops everything, Dan Boyle said. He works hard, and guys want to play for him. Especially with the season he had last year, it was a tough year for him, so we want to come out and give him a good effort.

Odds and ends: Harri Sateri will be the backup goaltender to Greiss tonight. The lines were as expected in practice, with Tommy Wingels skating with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe, in place of the injured Martin Havlat Jim Vandermeer stayed on the ice late, therefore, is likely to be the healthy scratch. Congrats to Sharks radio man Dan Rusanowsky, who will be calling his 1500th game tonight.

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

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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.