Sharks spotlight: Antti Niemi


Sharks spotlight: Antti Niemi

Editor's note: Over the next month, Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz and Postgame Live reporter Brodie Brazil will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Sharks spotlight -- the series
Sharks spotlight: Antti NiemiAge: 28 GIn his second season with the Sharks, goalie Antti Niemi posted34-22-9 record with a 2.42 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 68games. His six shutouts tied him for fifth in the league. In five playoffgames, Niemi was 1-4 with a 2.45 GAA and .914 SP.Kurz says: Niemi was never able to get on the kind ofroll he enjoyed in the second half of the 2010-11 season, despite starting thefinal 21 games. On several occasions, Niemi and coach Todd McLellan said thatthe more Niemi plays, the more comfortable he gets and the better he is butit just didnt happen this season. Although his numbers werent terrible, Niemiallowed far too many weak and deflating goals that cost the Sharks points downthe stretch. It carried over into the playoffs, when he was very good for longstretches, but still maddeningly inconsistent. Niemi also must shoulder some ofthe Sharks penalty kill failures, as its now been two seasons with Niemibetween the pipes that that unit has been poor.SLIDESHOW: Grading the Sharks
Brodie says: Therewas much concern over Niemis health heading into the season, as theremoval of a cyst kept him out near the end of training camp and through thefirst 3 games. However, all uncertaintywas put to rest, as the Finnish netminder returned healthy and stayed that wayfor the rest of the campaign.To see how Niemi correlated with the team this season, Ithink its beneficial to contrast his monthly GAA vs. win-loss record. October(2.65, 4-2-0), higher average but offense wins games. November(2.12, 5-2-1), definitely successful.December (2.37, 6-3-3), goodmonth for a higher workload. January (1.96, 7-3-1), goalie making adifference in the best stretch of the season.February (3.42, 3-5-1), worstmonth of the season defense clearly a challenge. March(2.20, 7-7-3), highest working month offense clearly a challenge. April(3.28, 2-0-0) small sample size, difficult to judge crazy games. April Playoffs (2.45, 1-4), PK didnt help average, and we all know Sharks hadtrouble scoring goals.In summary, you can see portions where the goaltender savedhis team. But on the contrary, with theexception of October when goals were plentiful, the team did not regularlymuster up enough tallies to save its goaltender. Its quite clear that February was Niemis(and the collective teams) worst month, when preventing goals was aproblem. However he personally reboundednicely in March during the teams busiest month: although thats when the teamhad challenges scoring their own goals.2012-13 expectationsKurz says: Niemi is one of a number of Sharks players thatwill have to improve if the team wants any chance of battling for the PacificDivision title. If he falters early next season, he could conceivably end upseeing less playing time if the coaching staff wants to give Thomas Greiss orAlex Stalock a more serious look at being the starter.In fact, the Sharks organizational goaltending depth couldlead to trying to move Niemi, who still has three years remaining on hiscontract. There would likely be some interested parties, too, as Niemi has alreadyproven he can lead a team to a Stanley Cup championship.Related: Niemis stats splits game logs
Brodie says: TheSharks ultimately have expectations of winning a Stanley Cup, which cannot bedone in this day and age without a red-hot goalie. The question you must then ultimately ask yourself:does Antti Niemi have the capability to perform at that seemingly unbelievablelevel? My feeling is, absolutely. He has done it before.Part of what could help Niemi, are the 5 but mostly 4skaters in front of him. Certainly thepenalty kill was San Joses Achilles heel during both the regular andpostseasons. And its not to say thatNiemi could have bailed his special teams out a few more times just thattheres also that expression of hanging someone out to dry.Im torn on how to manage time between San Joses goaliesnext year. On one hand, Id like Niemito get comfortable and conditioned, with all the high minutes he and thecoaching staff desire. On the flipside,the development of Thomas Greiss (and others) are very important, in terms oftheir value and contributions. The jobof a backup does entail coming in when the team needs you, but it cant beconsidered a recipe for success to go weeks, and even a month between starts,as Greiss did.Bottom line: Niemi is the guy, and he will be expected to dothe heavy lifting once again.Up next: Daniel Winnik

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.

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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.