Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1

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Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1

While the hockey world turns its attention to Ottawa for the NHL All-Star Game, we turn our attention to the first half in San Jose, with analysis of who did what for the Sharks, and the outlook for each player in the second half. Saturday we'll take a look at the attacking end of the ice.

Dan Boyle Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: One of the biggest questions surrounding the Sharks in the first two months of the season was, whats wrong with Dan Boyle? The versatile defenseman was turning the puck over, not getting open for shots, and not showing his trademark skating prowess. When he revealed he was suffering through a broken foot during that time, it made much more sense, and Boyle is once again at the top of his game. Along with new partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks can boast of one of the best top defense pairings in the Western Conference.
Second half outlook: Boyles early struggles are behind him, and hes once again one of the most important and productive players on the team, getting more than 25 minutes on a nightly basis.

Justin Braun Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Braun seized his opportunity when he was recalled from Worcester (twice), and its doubtful hes going to be seeing any more time in the American Hockey League. He could probably be a little bit more physical at times, as he doesnt lack in size, but thats something he will learn as he gets more and more acquainted to the NHL.
Second half outlook: Braun could be a target for NHL general managers looking for a solid prospect on defense, but its more likely San Jose would offer up Demers before Braun if it came to that. For now, Braun is a solid third-pair defenseman.

RELATED: Sharks -- midseason statistical analysis

Brent Burns Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Quite possibly the hardest Sharks player to evaluate in the first half. Burns himself admitted even recently hes just now settling in and getting used to the nuances in the Sharks system as compared with Minnesota. His offensive numbers can only be considered a disappointment at the break, but he was showing more of a knack of jumping into the play in the offensive zone to create more scoring chances for him and his teammates in recent weeks.
Second half outlook: Burns appeared to dodge disaster after a knee-on-knee hit in Edmonton on Monday, but may need at least a couple of games off coming out of the break to recover. After that, the key for Burns will be maintaining his solid defensive play while trying to generate more goals and scoring chances he was known for in Minnesota.

Jason Demers Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Demers was benched early in the season before finding his game in early November. He still has work to do if hes going to be a top four defenseman, but typically brings more to the ice than veterans Colin White and Jim Vandermeer on the teams third defense pair.
Second half outlook: The Sharks have depth at defense when fully healthy, which could be a good motivator for Demers, who knows hell have to maintain his game or risk coming out of the lineup again.

Douglas Murray Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Another player who missed significant time to injury (10 games in December), Murray is still one of the Sharks few players that can provide a nightly physical presence. Hes been split up from regular partner Dan Boyle since he got hurt, and now with Brent Burns forms a solid second defense pair.
Second half outlook: Murray is still a reliable top-4 defenseman that can be hard to play against, and seems to have found some chemistry with Burns since regaining his game legs after the injury.

Jim Vandermeer Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: For an eighth defenseman, Jim Vandermeer is about as solid as you can get, and hes made a good account of himself when in the lineup. Thats been rare, though, as the Sharks juggled their eight healthy defensemen for the first couple months before Vandermeer suffered a broken left hand in early December.
Second half outlook: Vandermeer will continue to be used sparingly, probably getting into games that have more a physical element. If the Sharks suffer any significant injuries to their defensemen, Vandermeer is still a good guy to have available.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Arguably the Sharks most valuable player at the break. Vlasic has been a rock on defense, and is probably the biggest reason the team has thrived five-on-five. Hes quite possibly the best defenseman in the league that no ones ever heard of on the East Coast, if you couldnt tell by the All-Star nominees.
Second half outlook: Vlasic will continue to play against the opponents top line with Dan Boyle as his partner. Its hard to imagine that will change at any point in the second half.
Colin White Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: White was not very good when the season started, and was in and out of the lineup until he suffered a hand injury. He had been improving until he was hurt in early December, and is still a good depth guy, but will probably find himself watching from the press box most nights when everyone is healthy.
Second half outlook: Like Jim Vandermeer, White is still a serviceable NHL defenseman in case of emergency.

Thomas Greiss Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Since beginning the year as that Sharks starting goalie for the three games while Antti Niemi recovered from minor surgery, Greiss has settled in and proven himself as a capable NHL backup. Hes allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts (albeit against Columbus twice, and Edmonton), and has outstanding numbers, allowing the club to jettison the veteran (and higher salaried) Antero Niittymaki.
Second half outlook: Niemi will continue to get the majority of the work in net, but with a busy February and March that includes a number of back-to-back games, Greiss will likely see between six and eight more starts. Theres no reason to think his success wont continue.
Antti Niemi Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Niemis beginning of the year was just so-so, but after missing all of training camp and the start of the season, thats understandable. Since then, hes generally looked like the Niemi from last years second half. He struggled leading up to the break in games against Ottawa and Vancouver, but righted the ship with Tuesdays shutout in Calgary.
Second half outlook: Niemi is better when hes getting a lot of work, and hell have plenty with the Sharks hectic schedule. The key will be to not overwork him before the playoffs as the club was forced to do last year, tiring him out for the playoffs.

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.