Three takeaways: Sharks not concerned about potential rematch

Three takeaways: Sharks not concerned about potential rematch

SAN JOSE – There wasn’t a whole lot of action in the Sharks-Blues game at SAP Center on Thursday. That’s usually a good sign for the road team, and it was in this case, too, as St. Louis claimed a convincing 4-1 win. 

Still, we can find a few topics to discuss in our three takeaways…

1 – Worried about a potential rematch?

There’s a decent chance the Sharks and Blues will get to rematch their Western Conference Final series from a year ago in the first round. If San Jose surpasses the Wild and Blackhawks and gets the top seed, or the Blues move up to the first wild card position, it would make it much more likely.

Should the Sharks be worried about that, considering they were handled fairly easily by the Blues in the three-game season series?

“I’m not concerned about it,” Pete DeBoer said. “We’ll deal with that if we get them in the playoffs. I think if you go two games back we’re not very good, if you go the last 10 games against them we’re pretty good against them. I’m not worried about it.”

The Blues are surely doing something right against the Sharks. Since Jan. 1, two of San Jose's three lowest shot totals have been against St. Louis, including 23 shots on Jan. 14 (a 4-0 loss) and just 20 on Thursday, tied for a season-low.

Paul Martin said: “The last time we played them (on Jan. 14) was awhile ago, and two different teams I think from last time, but definitely we were not happy with our performance or the way we’ve been playing against them. We were off tonight, we didn’t have one of or better games, obviously. They did the job of bottling us up and not giving up a whole lot.”

2 – Burns going cold

It’s now been 11 games since Brent Burns has scored a goal, despite his registering 43 shots since Feb. 19. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, but that’s now tied for seventh in the league, nine behind leaders Connor McDavid and Brad Marchand. He’s also just seven points ahead of Erik Karlsson for the NHL lead in scoring among defensemen, too. Is the Norris Trophy still a lock?

More concerning, though, is that Burns hasn’t been all that effective in his own end lately and is making some curious decisions with the puck and with his positioning. While Thursday’s game was a team loss – as we mention below, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun weren’t any better in terms of defensemen – it was Burns’ unforced turnover to Scottie Upshall in the neutral zone led to the Blues’ first score.

"When you pick off a pass from the best defenseman in the league," Upshall told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "and make them pay for it, it's a big added bonus for your team, so it was a big goal for us to get us going."

As the team’s most important player now, Burns’ game will be something to monitor over the next little while. 

3 – Tarasenko takes over

One of the biggest reasons that the Sharks got past the Blues in six games last season was keeping Vladimir Tarasenko under wraps. That didn’t happen on Thursday, as the Blues’ forward registered a game-high eight shots and 12 shot attempts while recording a power play goal and an empty netter.

His line, with Jaden Schwartz and Paul Stastny, was dominant while skating mostly against the Sharks’ top shutdown pair of Vlasic and Braun, as Stastny had five shots and Schwartz another two.

Blues coach Mike Yeo like his team’s game overall, as it responded from Wednesday’s loss in Anaheim.

"I thought we competed at a real high level tonight,” coach Mike Yeo told reporters. “Right from the drop of the puck, guys were paying a price for each other.”

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.