Sharks-Flames: What to watch for


Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

CALGARY Its the last game before the NHL All-Star break, and the Sharks want to end the ceremonial first half of the season with a good taste in their mouths. Of course, so do 29 other NHL teams, including Calgary, which hosts San Jose on Tuesday night at the Saddledome.

The Sharks and Flames are going in opposite directions. San Jose has lost three straight, including four of five, while Calgary is 5-1-1 in its last seven.

San Joses lone win over that span came via shootout over the Flames at HP Pavilion on Jan. 17.

Burns out: The Sharks will be without Brent Burns after the defenseman suffered a right leg injury in Mondays 2-1 shootout loss to Edmonton. Burns and the team may have dodged a bullet, though, as head coach Todd McLellan told Calgary reporters this morning that the injury is not expected to sideline Burns long term.

Burns absence could mean Jim Vandermeers return to the lineup. McLellan hinted before the trip that Vandermeer, who hasnt played since Dec. 6 and was out with a left hand injury, could play in one of the teams games before the All-Star break.

Jason Demers returned to the lineup after a two-game absence in place of Justin Braun last night in Edmonton.

In the crease: Antti Niemi will presumably make his return to the net tonight after sitting out in favor of Thomas Greiss last night. Niemi has had off nights in his last two appearances, losing to Ottawa at home and in Vancouver on Saturday.

Facing Calgary could get him back on track. In eight career games against the Flames, Niemi is 7-1-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

For Calgary, Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start. In 27 career appearances against the Sharks, hes 13-11-3 with a 2.86 GAA and .907 save percentage.

Strong seconds: The second period has been San Joses best this season, while Calgary has struggled in the middle frame. The Sharks are a league best 21 in the second, while Calgary is -15, tied for 27th in the league.

The Flames are a 7 in the first compared with the Sharks -7 mark, and in the third, San Jose is a 5 while Calgary is a -5.

The Sharks 32 third period goals against are the third fewest in the NHL, behind only St. Louis (31) and Boston (also 31).

Odds and ends: The Sharks have not had a four-game winless streak this season. San Joses 23 shots by defensemen last night in Edmonton was a team record. Dan Boyle led the way with nine. This is the Sharks fifth straight game against a Canadian team. San Jose is 5-10-1 in its last 16 games in Calgary. The Sharks lead the league in shots per game with 34.7. San Jose is 4-4-4 in its last 12 road games. In their last seven games, the Flames have outscored the opposition 19-12. Calgary is 13-6-2 at home but 10-14-4 on the road.

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


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.

* * *

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.