As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

SAN JOSE – The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away on March 1. It’s highly unlikely that the Sharks, who are coming off of their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance and are in first place in the Pacific Division, will make any blockbuster transactions or overhaul the roster.

The likeliest place they would make a move, though, would be at the backup goaltender position. Although Aaron Dell has been outstanding in his first year, with a 6-3-1 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, there is a thought that the Sharks should find a netminder that has a little more NHL experience in case something happens to Martin Jones. They did it when they brought in James Reimer last season, allowing Jones some valuable time off down the stretch, and it might make sense for them to do it again.

In the dressing room and on the ice, though, the confidence in Dell is high and grows with every outing. Last Saturday in Philadelphia in his most recent game, when Dell stole the Sharks a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, coach Pete DeBoer gave the 27-year-old his most ringing endorsement to date.

“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that Doug [Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”

Dell, speaking on Thursday after an optional practice at Sharks Ice, was aware of DeBoer’s comments.

“It’s an honor to get some compliments like that from a guy like him,” Dell said. “He’s right, though, that it’s Doug Wilson’s decision in the end. Me and him have no control over that either way, but it’s nice to get a compliment like that from him.”

So, what does Wilson think? At the beginning of the month, the general manager was asked his opinion on how Dell has handled his first season in the NHL. 

“A big part of it is, do his teammates believe in him and play for him? Yes, they do,” Wilson told CSN on Feb. 2. “Aaron has come in and given us some big wins at key times. We believe in Aaron.”

Is it a risk going into the playoffs with a backup that has hardly any NHL experience, though?

“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said. 

“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”

* * *

The Sharks are fortunate that Jones has remained healthy this season, although some fatigue may be setting in. The starting goalie has seen his save percentage drop from .924 in November, to .916 in December, to .911 in January to just .882 so far in February. He has started 49 of 58 games, and those declining save percentages seem to indicate he’s been playing too much.

If Dell ends up being the permanent backup, there’s a good chance he’ll get more action than he’s seen so far, as the Sharks saw how valuable it was for Jones to rest up before the playoffs last spring when Reimer started eight of the final 19 games.

After the bye week from Feb. 20-24, the Sharks have 22 games over the final 43 days of the season. Asking Jones to play more than 13-15 of those would be a risk.

Dell believes he can handle more responsibility if need be.

“With every game I think I get some more experience, and get a little more comfortable,” he said. “I think if I was playing more regularly that would come a little quicker.”

Justin Braun expressed confidence that Dell could even handle the number one role, too, if it ever came to that.

“He’s an older guy, he’s been around the leagues and he’s probably learned a lot over the years doing that and [knowing] how to win and handle different situations,” Braun said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s one of those guys that’s going to get rattled or flustered or anything. He’s just going to keep going and doing his job, and that’s a nice thing to have back there.”

DeBoer said: “Every time we [put] him in there he’s found a way to have success or help us win or play well. That’s all you can ask. For me, you don’t overthink those things. He’s getting the job done, and deserves to be here.”

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?