The San Jose Sharks enter 2017-2018 without Patrick Marleau, their all-time leading scorer. Last season, the 37-year-old produced 27 goals and 19 assists for a total of 46 points in 82 games. Now that he’s a Maple Leaf, the Sharks will have to move on.
Of course, the notion of San Jose as an aged franchise incapable of obtaining any major playoff success is well-known. In 2016, they reached the Stanley Cup Final and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. In 2017, they lost to an upstart Edmonton Oilers team in the first round and several key players were left off the scoreboard.
Apart from losing Marleau, the Sharks are very much the same team going into the upcoming season. The team signed Joe Thornton to a one-year deal in the summer and will hope he and Logan Couture have overcome their injuries from late last season. They also signed Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goalie Martin Jones to contract extensions.
33-year-old Joe Pavelski leads by example on the ice. He had 68 points in 81 games last season, including 29 goals and 39 assists. He spends a lot of time with Thornton, averaging 19:07 of ice time in 2016-2017, and he’s a solid clutch player. Pavelski registered four points in four playoff games and was one of a handful of Sharks to put up numbers against the Oilers.
Couture is the top centre. The 28-year-old collected 52 points in 73 games, including 25 goals. The Guelph native also had three points in six playoff games and averaged 18:18 of ice time in the post-season. Couture is a natural goal scorer, but injuries can be a problem. He’ll do well if he’s paired with Joel Ward or Joonas Donskoi.
Thornton may be 38-years-old, but he can still produce as long as he’s not on the shelf. He put up 50 points last season, but posted his lowest goals total since the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. It’s hard to argue that he’s not declining in some way and that may be a tough pill to swallow, but the London native will almost always be able to dish the puck to Pavelski.
Tomas Hertl may be the future for San Jose or he may not. The 23-year-old has yet to reach 50 points in a season and was limited to 49 games last season, producing 22 points. A knee injury shut down what was shaping up to be a legendary rookie season in 2013-2014 and since then the versatile forward has been getting by largely on promise. But with Marleau out of the picture, Hertl’s time may have come.
It’s hard to get much better than Brent Burns on the blueline. He had his best season to date in 2016-2017, putting up 76 points in 82 games. The 32-year-old scored 29 goals and cracked off a league-leading 320 shots on goal. He was involved in 32 percent of San Jose’s goals last season, which is just nuts.
Vlasic was good for 28 points last season, including six goals. He took a dip in points-per-game and saw time on the second power play unit, coming up with seven points. Dude’s a workhorse at his position, but expecting huge numbers out of the Montreal native is a fool’s errand. Luckily, the 30-year-old can boost secondary scoring for the Sharks.
Veteran blueliner Paul Martin may be worth a look. He’s got 13 years of experience at the NHL level and put together a 26-point campaign last season. He had a goal in six playoff games. The Minneapolis native is mobile and averaged 19:13 of ice time a game in the regular season.
Jones has a new deal in his back pocket and should be in line to bounce back from a second-rate 2016-2017. He won 35 games in 65 starts, with a 2.40 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. That’s not far off his career mark, but the 27-year-old can do better. He proved it in the playoffs, putting together a valiant effort for a losing cause.
Aaron Dell is the backup in San Jose. He took home 11 wins in 17 starts last season and posted a 2.00 goals against average with a .931 save percentage. He also had a shutout in his debut season. The Sharks like his worth ethic and he’s always trying to make improvements like a true student of the game. The 28-year-old should excel in a support role.