Hey now, I’ve been thinking about column ideas for six weeks now, gonna just holla about different stuff, so hear goes (pun intended). What do we make of the Sharks at the quarter mark of the 2015-16 season? Streaky is one thing, won 4 straight to open the season followed by 3 wins in 11 then an epic road trip with record results. Six wins and saving the best for last, a third period comeback against the Blow Jackets!
So does this scream mediocre, parity, new coach/system? Maybe all of that, but as a jaded Sharks fan I can’t find faith that this new/old incarnation of the Sharks can do some damage in the playoffs. Playing in the Pacific Division will require garnering one of the top three spots because of the strength of the Central. It is quite possible that all the wild cards will come out of this division.
I digress, so to continue the positive slant of the column I will say congrats to future Hall of Famer Patrick Marleau for reaching the 1000 point plateau! That dude has been hell on wheels this year, blowing past guys 15 YEARS younger and playing a playoff brand of hockey already.
Martin Jones has been a pleasant surprise as the #1 goalie, and the addition of veteran defenseman Paul Martin has shored up a defense that was shaky at best last season. Signing Joel Ward as a 3rd line energy player has paid monster dividends for the Sharks already, as he is on pace to post career high numbers. Love what he brings to the table.
The Logan Couture injury watch is close to being over, as he is slated to return next week from a broken fibula. That should be a helluva Christmas present because he is definitely one of the main motors that drive the Sharks. Playing in all situations, 5 on 5, PK and PP he is arguably one of their top four players. Speaking of top players, Brent Burns is playing out of his mind with his All Star caliber stats and playing beside the steady Paul Martin has helped mask some of his reckless style of play that led to some atrocious defensive breakdowns last year. Thankfully these haven’t happened anywhere as much this campaign.
The Euro influence cannot be discounted on the Sharks roster as Swede Melkar Karrelson has returned from an early season injury to resume his clutch play and penalty killing strength for San Jose. Finnish league MVP Jonas Donskoi has cracked the lineup and has played on all three of the top lines and has contributed a skill level previously absent from the Sharks.
Center Chris Tierney has anchored the fourth line and has shown flashes of Joe Thorntonesque skills, delivering tape to tape passes and a high level of defensive responsibility. Recently signed Dainus Zubrus is a bit of a puzzle to me because he is an older player, but he played for Coach Peter DeBoer in New Jersey for the past three years. Perhaps he has some goals left in his stick, Sharks can always use more offense!
The rest of the defense has played well with the pairing of the Pickle, Marc-Eduard Vlasic and Justin Braun a very good 1A to the # 1 of Burns and Martin. Brendon Dillon brings the nasty element nightly and his partner has often been the homegrown player, young Matt Tennyson. I see a big upside for this player because he adds a nice offensive skill to his D game. The Sharks have alternated him with #1 draft choice Swiss born Mirco Mueller, a skilled guy who needs some more seasoning.
Moving forward, the Sharks enter play tonight one point out of 1st place and with several home games in December, they need to make some hay at the Tank. They have a very unSharklike home record of 3-6 and an amazing road record of 10-3. This is unacceptable for a potential playoff team. That being said, I hope they can return to their former home ice advantage that they have enjoyed for many years. Beginning tonight with the Calgary Flames, a very beatable team. Go Sharks!