Three takeaways: Martin impressing on Sharks blue line; finding Nemo

Three takeaways: Martin impressing on Sharks blue line; finding Nemo

SAN JOSE – It took some time for the Sharks to get going, but the end result on Sunday against Dallas was a fairly easy 5-1 win over a disappointing Stars team that will miss out the postseason. The veterans led the way, as we focused on in the game recap, but let’s dig a little deeper in the three takeaways…

1 – Martin finding the scoresheet

On Sunday morning Sharks coach Pete DeBoer was asked about Paul Martin, who rarely makes headlines but whose unassuming game this season has been a huge part of San Jose’s success.

“I think he’s gotten better as the season’s gone on,” DeBoer said of the 36-year-old. “The tougher the grind of the schedule, the more he’s rising to the occasion. I thought [Saturday afternoon] he might have been our best defenseman. That’s great to see. He takes good care of himself, he’s a pro’s pro, and a big part of our group.”

Martin had another notable performance on Sunday, notching a pair of assists on the two most important goals of the evening. He sprung Joe Pavelski on a two-on-one that the captain finished off, and continued a quick passing play from Patrick Marleau to Logan Couture that Joel Ward slammed home early in the second.

He’ll bring a three-game point streak (1g, 3a) into Tuesday’s game against Buffalo.

“The guys have made some good plays on just some pucks that I’ve passed to them, so I think it’s just a coincidence,” Martin said of his scoring uptick.

Pavelski gave his teammate a little more credit than that.

“He’s been up in the play. He’s been really solid with the puck, the way he’s been reading plays,” Pavelski said. “That’s what we know he can do. He’s at a high level right now.”

2 – New second line generates a pair

Ward was promoted to the second line in place of Mikkel Boedker late in the loss to Nashville on Saturday, and remained in that spot against the Stars. The 36-year-old scored his first goal in 10 games early in the second period, after linemate Marleau opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game.

The Sharks would love to get more from Ward, who has shown to be a clutch playoff performer, as the postseason approaches. He has eight goals and 26 points in 66 games, after finishing with 21 goals and 43 points in 79 games last season.

“For me, it’s just trying to get pucks out, get to open areas, help my linemates as much as possible, and just try to do little things and believe in that process,” Ward said. 

“Our team gets chances, so it’s just a matter of when you do, you just try to have some opportunities. I’ve had opportunities, just couldn’t score. Today I got a good pass from Cooch, and fortunate to put one in. If you stay with it and believe in it, you’ll get your opportunities.”

The Couture-Marleau-Boedker line had started together the previous 17 games (other than Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, which Couture missed due to illness).

3 – Finding Nemo, Dallas edition

Perhaps the most memorable event of the night came just after Ward’s goal made it 3-1, when Dallas coach Lindy Ruff wanted to pull Kari Lehtonen for Antti Niemi. The problem was, Niemi was nowhere to be found more than two minutes into the middle frame. Jamie Benn had to come off of the bench and leave the ice to go find the netminder, who entered the game at the next stoppage of play.

Cameras showed the Stars head coach was not too pleased behind the bench at the time, but he was restrained after the game when asked about the delay in the tunnel, where Niemi should have been.

“[The referee] said, ‘you’re going to have to wait until the next shift,’ so it was probably the right call," Ruff told reporters.

Niemi said: “I got the word when they decided [to change goalies], so I don't think it matters. Just a few more steps. Maybe it was better to get a few extra seconds there to get mentally ready.”

On the Sharks bench, Martin indicated they weren’t sure what was happening as Lehtonen floated towards center ice, but was then forced to go back to the crease as the puck was dropped.

“I thought Benn was maybe hurt and getting off the ice,” Martin said. “Usually the goalie is sitting right over there. Obviously he was in the back, so…haven’t seen that before.”

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.