Sharks try to avoid rare third straight loss

649960.jpg

Sharks try to avoid rare third straight loss

PROGRAMMINGALERT: Tune into Sharks Pregame Live on CSNCalifornia at 6 p.m. and Sharks Postgame Live immediately after thegame.

EDMONTON Its been more than three months since the Sharks lost three consecutive games in regulation. Theyll try to avoid it again tonight in Edmonton against the struggling Oilers.

San Jose won its season opener handily against Phoenix before dropping its next three games, including two to Anaheim. Since that time, the Sharks have gone two in a row with no points in the standings just twice, including last Thursday against Ottawa and Saturday afternoon vs. Vancouver.

Youre going to lose games. Ive always stressed that its important not to lose the next one, Dan Boyle said on Sunday after the teams skate at Rexall Place. It is going to happen at times, but I think weve done a pretty good job of coming back after losses with a pretty good effort.

Thats not to say that they dont suffer after the losses, though. For Boyle, its not necessarily a bad thing to keep those disappointing feelings close for a brief time.

I think you have to feel it for awhile. Were all different, and some guys turn the page a little bit quicker than others. I think it does need to sting for awhile, but then you do eventually have to turn the page and move on, he said.

Head coach Todd McLellan doesnt want his team to dwell on any kind of streaks, good or bad. Instead, he wants the team to focus each game individually.

I dont want us to carry streaks. I dont want us to refer to numbers, because when we won nine of 10 we werent running around saying hey, we won nine of 10. Thats not how we operate, he said. I want us to play our game, and play sharp.

The team hasnt necessarily played its worst hockey in the two losses. Vancouver capitalized on its primo scoring chances in a game that could have gone either way on Saturday, including a bad bounce on the game-winning goal by Cody Hodgson late in the third period.

And, yes, the team was outplayed by Ottawa on Thursday night, but goaltender Antti Niemi played one of his poorest games of the season - a major factor in the 4-1 loss.

I want us to play how we did in Vancouver, believe it or not, and clean up a few areas, McLellan said. Not major changes, but I want us to be that competitive and execute as well as we did on the power play and the penalty kill, finally. I want us to clean up a few moments in a game that probably cost us.

San Jose has been able to avoid long stretches of bad hockey for a couple of reasons, according to the coach.

Leadership and maturity. I dont think theres a big sense of panic when we lose games. The sense of urgency goes way up, but there isnt a sense of panic. To come out of a losing streak you have to do it collectively. You cant do it as individuals. I think were learning that lesson as we move on. Well win as a group, and well keep losing as individuals."

After a strong start to the year in which they were among the NHLs best defensive clubs, the Oilers have fallen off the map and look like theyll be challenging once again for the top pick in the draft next June. In fact, the Oilers are just six points ahead of Columbus, in 29th place in the NHL standings.

Edmonton is just 1-7-1 in its last nine games, its lone victory a 2-1 win over the Kings in overtime on Jan 15. The Oilers are also coming off of an ugly 6-2 loss to Calgary in Saturday nights Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, and coach Tom Renney subjected them to a hard practice on Sunday.

Thats not the effort we want, especially against a rival like that, on Hockey Night in Canada, Taylor Hall said. Thats not the effort thats going to be needed to win any games this year. This morning was a result of that. It was a tough practice.

Forward Ryan Jones said: I think thats exactly what we deserved. Toms sending a message, and its well received.

While McLellan doesnt want his team looking at the standings when it comes to the Oilers, the Sharks are likely well aware that the Oilers are fading. That doesnt mean theyll take Edmonton lightly, though, since it gave San Jose a tough match on Dec. 17 at HP Pavilion a 3-2 Sharks win in which Patrick Marleaus third period power play goal was the difference.

They got beat up pretty good last game, and teams most of the time seem to come back from something like that and come together, and usually come out with a pretty strong performance the next time, Boyle said.

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

braun-justin-sharks-teal.jpg
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.

* * *

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.