Sharks

Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

SAN JOSE – Even after the Sharks were shut out in back-to-back games of their first round series with the Oilers, Brent Burns spoke about how enjoyable it is to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs even after some rough results.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” Burns said on Monday.

Game 4 was presumably a whole lot more fun for Burns and his brethren.

The Sharks smoked the Oilers, 7-0 on Tuesday at SAP Center, outplaying Edmonton from the opening faceoff to the final horn in tying the series at two games apiece.

It took just 15 seconds for the Sharks to break their 120-minute scoring drought, and the rout was on from there. Not surprisingly, it was captain Joe Pavelski who set the early tone, redirecting a Justin Braun shot past Cam Talbot.

That permitted the Sharks to play with the lead for the first time all series. In their Game 1 win they had to erase a 2-0 lead before Melker Karlsson’s overtime marker, and they hadn’t found the net since.

"It was critical,” Pete DeBoer said of scoring first. “That's an important piece, getting that momentum. We weren't able to do it last game. To get it early tonight and get that feeling was critical."

Pavelski said: “It allowed us to really stay with our game. … It was good to see the guys get that lead and not really sit back. We wanted more.”

They got more, alright. Pavelski added another, while Logan Couture scored twice and Patrick Marleau, Marcus Sorensen and David Schlemko also found the net in the Sharks’ most convincing playoff win in franchise history. Previously, the Sharks had never won a playoff game by more than five goals.

The power play, which prior to Game 4 had been about as potent as a North Korean missile test, also came alive. Four of San Jose’s seven goals happened with a man advantage, including the most important score of the night.

Just after Zack Kassian stepped out of the box early in the second period, turning a five-on-three into a five-on-four, Marleau whipped in a pass from Burns past Talbot’s far side at 2:02 of the middle frame.

Had the Oilers killed it off, they could have seized the momentum. Instead, Sharks continued to dictate.

San Jose’s power play was just 1-for-14 in the series through the first three games, after finishing 25th in the league in the regular season.

“We’ve been saying we have confidence in it,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s just a matter of time before we strike. Just keep to our fundamentals and we’d be fine, and you saw that tonight.”

DeBoer said: “They've tried to play physical and they've taken some liberties, and we haven't made them pay a price for that until tonight. I don't think it's a secret that as our key guys are getting healthier and feeling better we're starting to look better in that area."

Couture, who has shown nerves of steel in coming back from a severe mouth injury but hadn’t done much through the first three games, played his best game so far. Despite getting whacked by a high stick and requiring a between-periods visit to the dentist to get his teeth numbed, he was a force.

“I think he’s getting more confident as this series goes on,” Thornton said. “It was nice to see him have a game like he did tonight.”

Couture said: “I felt better tonight. I felt this was my best game of the series.”

His teammates, of course, can say the same as a collective group. But just like a disappointing loss, they’ll have to quickly move on for the all-important Game 5 back at Rogers Place on Thursday.

“It’s nice, but you win 1-0 [or] you win 7-0, it’s just one win,” Couture said. “It was nice to score some goals.”

Pavelski said: “We got a split there, they got one here. We have to go back and get one there.”

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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AP

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.

Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent

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AP

Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent

Dany Heatley last played in the NHL in the 2014-15 season, but he's still raking in hefty paychecks.

The former Sharks forward was awarded $6.5 million on Wednesday, when a judge ruled in his favor in a lawsuit filed against Heatley's former agent, Stacey McAlpine, and McAlpine's parents. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, claimed that McAlpine coaxed Heatley into unwise real-estate investments and withdrew over $4 million from Heatley's accounts without authorization.

After a five-year legal battle, Heatley was awarded $4.1 million from defendant company Presidential Suites Inc. and $2.3 million from the second defendant company Waterfront Development Inc, according to CTV Calgary.

Heatley, 36, played two of his 13 NHL seasons in San Jose, where he totaled 146 points (65 goals and 81 assists) in 162 games.

McAlpine was also sued in 2016 by former Senators defenseman Chris Phillips.