Doug Wilson Steps Down, Search For New Sharks GM Begins

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson at a news conference Sep 18, 2018 stepped down on Thu Apr 7, 2022 after 19 seasons as GM. Interim GM Joe Will is running the club until a new general manager is found (AP News file photo)

By Mary Lisa Walsh

SAN JOSE- Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson has been quietly but conspicuously absent for most of this season. Last Fall, shortly after being inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, Wilson began a leave of absence for health reasons. Assistant GM Joe Will stepped in. On Thursday, the Sharks announced that their GM of 19 years had stepped down. In a press release, Wilson said of his decision:

“Finally, I want to thank everyone who has reached out during my leave of absence. While I have made great progress over the last several months, I feel it is in the best interest of the organization and myself to step down from my current duties and focus on my health and full recovery. I look forward to continuing my career in the NHL in the future.”

Thursday morning, the Sharks released a statement from owner Hasso Plattner:

“I want to personally thank Doug for his 19 seasons as general manager of the San Jose Sharks. Doug and his staff produced remarkable results over a span that very few NHL teams can match, highlighted by our 2016 Stanley Cup run. Doug has been an integral part of this franchise since the team’s inception in 1991, and his impact – on and off the ice – will continue to be felt long into the future. Doug, and his wife Kathy, will always have a place as members of the Sharks family.”

The team in charge of the search is made up of Sharks President Jonathan Becher, Interim General Manager Joe Will and Hasso Plattner. It does not seem that anyone expected Wilson to make this decision at this time. Of their plans so far, Becher said:

“Quite honestly, this is a late-breaking thing, so to say we have a hard list of criteria written down and I can cite them all would be exaggerating. Joe and I are going to meet this afternoon, put together the outline of the kind of person we’re looking for, probably bat around even some original ideas.”

Accordingly, the Sharks have no set timeline for finding a new GM. While they do not expect to fill the position before the draft, they anticipate finding someone before the next season starts. While the search is described as an external one, they have not absolutely ruled out choosing someone from within the organization.

Becher was asked whether they anticipate any changes to the team culture or style of play. He said:

“The culture of San Jose as a destination, as a family environment, that is highly unlikely to change as part of that. The culture of winning first, winning in the right way, that is unlikely to change. As I said in my opening remarks, Doug’s fingerprints are all over this thing and they’re unlikely to disappear. But as candidates come through they’re likely to have ideas that we haven’t thought of before and that’s what we want to be open to.”

Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner heard the news Thursday morning. He called the news “stunning,” and said: ” Doug means a lot to me personally, I know what he’s done with this organization and, you know, his legacy is tough to compare. I think that a lot of people in that dressing room, including myself, have a lot to be thankful to Doug for. It’s, I guess, a changing of the guard and we’re trying to get our head around that.”

Several Sharks players spoke with the media Thursday afternoon, expressing their surprise at the news and also gratitude for the support that Wilson gave to them through their careers in San Jose. Sharks captain Logan Couture said: “Definitely going to miss him. Hopefully see him down the road here and talk to him and all that. But, happy that he’s taking steps to, you know, get to where he needs to be and doing what’s best for himself and his family.”

San Jose Sharks podcast with Len Shapiro: NHL teams zeroing in on Hertl; GM Will says Sharks looking forward to negotiating with Hertl

The San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) is thrilled after scoring a first period goal against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Thu Jan 20, 2022. Hertl is rumored to potentially to be sought by a number of teams. The NHL trade deadline is Mon Mar 21, 2022 (AP News photo file)

On the Sharks podcast with Len:

#1 Len, from all aspects the San Jose Sharks will could get some players for the future or a key player for Tomas Hertl but Sharks interim general manager Joe Will says he doesn’t want to do anything else outside of contract negotiations concerning Hertl.

#2 Hertl has said that he would even take less money to stay in San Jose and go somewhere else and play and play out his full financial potential when he could go all out in San Jose for the rest of his playing days.

#3 The Sharks and other teams pursuing Hertl are aware that Hertl at 6’3 presents a player who executes on the power play and penalty kill. Hertl also can score 30 goals a season, handles the center position as one of the best in the league. However things turn out Hertl is a presence.

#4 Other issues that Will will be dealing with is former Shark Evander Kane’s grievance regarding his termination from the team, general manager Doug Wilson is away for a persistent cough, Kevin Labanc and Nikolai Knyzhov’s are out with injuries, could William Eklund return this season, and head coach Bob Boughner will he be back after this season?

#5 The Sharks take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night at SAP Center and the return of former Shark Evander Kane. What kind of reception do you see him getting on Monday and do you see him playing with a little extra against his former teammates?

Join Len for the San Jose Sharks podcasts each Saturday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Sharks Beat Wild 4-1; Reimer keeps pucks out of the nets with 26 saves

The Minnesota Wild’s Marco Sturm (7) takes a shot on net as San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer (47) gets a pad save on Tue Nov 16, 2021 in Minneapolis (AP News photo)

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks won 4-1 on the road, against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday. The win was a nice follow-up to Monday’s induction of Sharks GM, Doug Wilson, into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Mario Ferraro, Timo Meier, Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl scored for San Jose. James Reimer made 26 saves for the win. Joel Eriksson Ek scored for the Wild and Cam Talbot made 17 saves in the loss.

Sharks Captain Logan Couture, said, of the win: “Great effort. We played more of our style of hockey. Kind of frustrated them at times.” He also mentioned the upcoming game as a chance to show that the team is back on track: “St. Louis is a big game for us too, to finish off this trip on a good note. A three and two trip, with what we’ve gone through, would be pretty good.”

Mario Ferraro opened the scoring at 5:55 of the first. Timo Meier made a neat pass off the boards to Logan Couture, who was on his way to the net. Instead of taking the shot, Couture made a pass across to Ferraro by the opposite goal post. The puck landed right on Ferraro’s stick for the shot. It was his second goal of the season.

Timo Meier scored the next one. Coming out of the corner, he slipped between the Wild defenders to get the rebound from Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot. He had one knee on the ice as he took the shot for his sixth goal of the season. Assists went to Vlasic and Couture.

At the end of the first period, the Sharks led in shots 9-7. The Sharks power play got only one shot on goal, a power play that bled into the start of the second period.

Joel Eriksson Ek scored for the Wild at 5:25 of the second. Though two Sharks were right with him as he entered the zone, his shot went by them and over James Reimer’s glove. It was Eriksson Ek’s sixth of the season. Assists went to Kevin Fiala and Jonas Brodin.

At 8:42 of the second, Matt Dumba threw a hit on Alexander Barabanov that looked ugly. Tomas Hertl took issue with it and went after Dumba. Hertl went to the box for roughing. Soon after, Jonah Gadjovich tried to revisit the matter with Dumba, but Marcus Foligno wound up being his fight partner.

After the game, Boughner described these events as turning points in the game and said:

“Tommy Jumping in for Barabanov and then later on [Gadjovich] going out and, you know, looking to get physical. I think our team feeds off of that, we need that element and I think it’s very very important.”

At 9:32, Erik Karlsson scored his third of the season to make it 3-1. With the teams playing four-on-four between abbreviated power plays, Karlsson let loose a blast from the top of the circle. The shot went off of the bar and in. Assists went to Jacob Middleton and Rudolfs Balcers.

The Wild took the shot lead in the second, 13-8. Four different players spent time in the penalty box during the second, but neither team had a full power play out of it because penalties overlapped. The Sharks got two shots during their abbreviated power play and the Sharks penalty kill allowed no shots to the Wild.

Tomas Hertl scored the only goal of the third period at 9:25. The Sharks moved the puck from the goal line to above the circle and back down to Hertl who was just above the goal line. Assists went to Barabanov and Balcers. It was Hertl’s seventh goal of the season.

Late in the period, Mario Ferraro blocked a shot and seemed to sustain an upper body injury. He went down the tunnel but returned and was on the ice when the final buzzer sounded.

The Sharks made a good showing in the face-off circle, winning 59% of the draws. The Sharks penalty kill allowed just one shot in the game.

The Sharks next play on Thursday, in St. Louis against the Blues at 5:00 PM PT.

San Jose Sharks Stick with Boughner

San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner will get another season behind the bench for the Sharks as general manager Doug Wilson is happy to bring him back for 2020-21 (AP News photo)

By Mary Walsh

On Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks announced that Bob Boughner would be their ninth Head Coach. Boughner took over as Interim Head Coach for the Sharks half way through last season, replacing Peter DeBoer.

In Tuesday’s press release, the Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson assessed Boughner’s time as Interim Head Coach. “Bob did a tremendous job last season, getting our group back to playing with an identity and structure that we need in order to be successful,” said Wilson. “We saw a marked improvement in our play in several key areas during the second half of the season, before losing some key players to injury.”

After a long NHL playing career and several successful seasons coaching Junior Hockey, Boughner joined the Sharks in 2015 as an assistant coach. In 2017, he was named Head Coach of the Florida Panthers. Two seasons later, he was replaced by Joel Quenneville in Florida and returned to the Sharks as an assistant coach. As a Head Coach in the NHL, his record is 94-82-25.

In the partial season as Interim Head Coach for the Sharks, Boughner saw his team win just 14 of 37 games, continuing the abysmal trend they were on when Peter DeBoer was fired. To make an already terrible season worse, the team lost Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson to injury shortly after Boughner took over.

After the announcement Tuesday, Boughner thanked the Sharks owner and General Manager for bringing him back:

I’m very excited about the opportunity to return to the San Jose Sharks organization as head coach. I want to thank Hasso Plattner and Doug Wilson for their trust in me. Last year was a difficult season for everyone but I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a group and we made some positive strides over the second half of the year.

The roster that Boughner will have when regular play resumes will be somewhat changed from last season. While the injured players will likely be back, some long-time Sharks were traded at the deadline, such as defenseman Justin Braun and forward Barclay Goodrow. After struggling as the team did through the abbreviated 2019-2020 season, the Sharks would likely benefit from change. Whether the new Head Coach is enough of a change remains to be seen.

The Sharks also added Rocky Thompson as associate coach and John Madden as assistant coach. Of Thompson and Madden, Wilson said: “We’re also very pleased to add Rocky and John to our staff. Both come with a wealth of experience, both in playing the game and as teachers and leaders. With a healthy and motivated group of players, we are confident that this staff will do a terrific job leading our group in the coming years.”

Bob Boughner looks forward to working with his new coaches. In the Sharks press release, he said:

Rocky and John will bring some fresh energy and excitement to our group. Both have been head coaches, worked on coaching staffs in the NHL and have lots of experience working with and developing young players. It was important that anyone we brought in from the outside come from a culture of winning, which is what we are used to in San Jose. Rocky and John have the credibility and work ethic to help us get our talented team back to that level.

The coaching staff is rounded out by Evgeni Nabokov as goaltending coach, Dan Darrow as assistant video coach and Charlie Townsend as analyst/assistant to the NHL coaching staff. All are returning from last season.

NHL Podcast with Daniel Dullum: A Peter DeBoer sighting in Las Vegas, Ovechkin moving up on goal scoring list, Sharks may stand pat at deadline, more

usatoday.com photo: Vegas Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer behind the Knights bench

This week on the Sports Radio Service NHL Podcast with Daniel Dullum:

1 There’s been a Peter DeBoer sighting in Las Vegas

2 Ovechkin moves up on all-time goal scoring list

3 Stars activate Stephen Johns after 22-month absence

4 Report: Sharks GM Doug Wilson won’t disrupt team core at trade deadline

5 Canadian network to televise six games in Plains Cree language

Daniel Dullum does the NHL podcast every Sunday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Joe Pavelski signs with Dallas Stars

Photo credit: @NBCSSharks

By Mary Walsh

As the 2019 NHL Free Agency season begins, the San Jose Sharks say goodbye to Joe Pavelski, who will play for the Dallas Stars next season. According to hockey insider Pierre LeBrun, the contract is for three years and $21 million.

After the news broke, Sharks GM Doug Wilson released the following statement:

From being a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 to serving as captain of our team for the last four seasons, Joe Pavelski’s place in Sharks history is firmly cemented and he will be sorely missed.

Joe led by example, not only as a player but as a person, and the impact he has had on this franchise and his teammates will be felt for years to come.

Under a cap system, these extremely difficult separations are a reality and, unfortunately, we could not find common ground on dollars and term to keep Joe in San Jose. However, like many other players around the NHL, Joe has earned the right to become a free agent. We respect his decision and want to thank Joe, his wife Sarah and son, Nate, for 13 wonderful seasons. They will always be part of the San Jose Sharks family.

Starting in 2010, Pavelski was a reliable 60+ point player for San Jose, playing both at center and on the wing. He is one of the best in the league at tipping the puck into the net. He is also known for being responsible defensively, ending just one season with a minus rating.

The Sharks named him captain in 2015, replacing Joe Thornton. The 2018-19 season was the last in a five year, $30 million contract with the Sharks. Last season, Pavelski led the team in goals with 38 and 64 points in 75 games. In the playoffs, he had nine points in 13 games.

Pavelski joins a talented Dallas team, boasting the likes of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn. Corey Perry, bought out by the Anaheim Ducks, will also head to Dallas, adding yet another veteran forward to the Stars roster.

Pavelski talked about the move to the NHL Network today:

If we were going to be leaving San Jose, we wanted to go to a contender, a team that you really respected and thought were close to winning. And, you know what, looking at Dallas and some of the teams we looked at, they were one team that really checked off a lot of boxes for us. And, you know, in my time in San Jose, that organization, I’ve only played with great players and it was something that I don’t even think you understand. It’s a nice privilege to have, to play with Joe Thornton, Patty Marleau, and Logan Couture and these guys that like to compete and play hard, show up every day and really have a great environment around the rink.

So it’s, you know, going to Dallas, there’s a great goalie, their goal tandem, they’ve been really good. And then you look at their D-corps and they’ve got some great young defensemen, are offensive-minded and really compete back there and you’re playing with some high-end players up front. So, checks off a lot of boxes, like where the team’s at, like some of the additions they’ve made along the way too.

After the Sharks signed defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million contract, it became unlikely that they would have cap space to hold on to all of their top players. At 35 years old, fan favorite Pavelski is one of those cap casualties. Joonas Donskoi is also leaving the team. The 27 year old forward has signed a four-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman Joakim Ryan is leaving too, signing a one year contract with the Los Angeles Kings

Playoffs Over For Sharks, World Championships Underway

By Mary Walsh

The dust has settled around the Sharks’ 2014-15 season, Todd McLellan will be choosing another team to coach, Doug Wilson will continue as San Jose general manager. Brent Burns was named a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award, for his work with Defending the Blue Line. The Sharks are negotiating an extension with the City of San Jose, so rumors that the team plans to leave town should die down.

The Worcester Sharks played their final game on Friday against the Hershey Bears. The Sharks lost in fairly spectacular fashion, giving up ten goals to the Bears while scoring four. Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, Daniil Tarasov, Brian Lerg and Chris Tierney were all on the playoff roster for Worcester. In the series, Tierney had a goal and two assists, Tarasov had three assists, and Goodrow and Lerg each had one assist. Rookie goaltender Aaron Dell started three of the four games, while Troy Grosenick started one. It was a regrettable final appearance for the Worcester Sharks. Next season, they move to San Jose to play at SAP Center as the San Jose Barracuda.

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner published a statement of confidence in his GM, in which he addressed the fans directly. Plattner also expressed disappointment with the team’s recent failures. The letter came soon after Doug Wilson’s press conference, where he was asked if Plattner would be available to the media. Someone did suggest Plattner might address fans directly, maybe the letter was a response to that. In any case, Plattner continues to have little interest in discussing his decisions with the press.

Offseason changes that Sharks fans can expect will probably include a new starting goaltender. That Niemi was not resigned before the end of the season is strong evidence of that. Hardly any Sharks veteran gets this close to free agency and returns to the team.

In the choice of a new coach, Wilson has said that he will take the time he needs. It is odd that he did not even suggest he would like a new coach before the draft. He might not necessarily need his head coach’s input for drafting prospects. What one would expect the coach to participate in would be trade activity that happens around the draft. Perhaps Wilson has no intention of making any trades for players. Some might consider that an ill omen for next season.

Todd McLellan is currently in the Czech Republic coaching Team Canada at the world championships, with Brent Burns on his roster. For those wondering, Burns is listed as a defenseman for Canada. Canada has played two games so far, winning 6-1 against Latvia and 10-0 against Germany. Burns had an assist in the game against Latvia, and against Germany.

Tomas Hertl and Ben Smith are there too, playing for the Czech Republic and the USA respectively. The Czechs lost 6-5 to Sweden and defeated Latvia 4-2. Hertl had a goal in the game against Sweden.  The USA has won their two games, beating Finland 5-1 and Norway 2-1.

Sharks prospect Nikita Jevpalov was named to the roster for Latvia. Poor Latvia has not won yet, losing to the Czechs and the Canadians as listed above. Jevpalov has not played yet.

Sharks Need to Get Stories Straight

By Mary Walsh

The way the San Jose Sharks have proceeded this summer has been heavy on theory and light on specifics. Their plan has been revealed primarily through  inaction and subtraction. “Giving more responsibility to young players,” for example, sounds like a great idea, but removing the C and the A from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is the first specific step the team has taken in that direction. They also removed some veterans, letting Dan Boyle walk, and buying out Martin Havlat. Beyond that, Doug Wilson has left his plan wide open for interpretation. For those of us who like to think the team will take another run at the playoffs fueled mostly by the angry memory of recent failure, there is fodder enough to think that. But that same fodder, the minimal roster and staff changes, could be used to argue pretty much anything or nothing at all.

The Sharks’ captaincy is the more glitzy story, but the Raffi Torres knee surgery mess is at least as significant. In neither case are the specifics that momentous. Hockey players get hurt and sidelined all the time, and the knee should be a long way from a life-altering injury. The importance of who wears which letter is of debatable importance, but both stories red-flag communication problems with the Sharks.

One hint that information does not flow well in San Jose is the apparently catastrophic state of Raffi Torres’ knee. Why Torres had to have his knee repaired a second time due to an infection resulting from a procedure known to be highly susceptible to infections… well that is a saga that boggles the mind. Knee surgeries are supposed to be straight forward, more commonly complicated by things like advanced age. The Sharks have had too many problems with player knee surgeries to ignore the stink. It is enormously disappointing that there is no return date for Torres. In the few games he has played with the Sharks, he has been very much a difference maker, and not for the reasons his dubious reputation would suggest. When playing with discipline, he is exactly what the Sharks need right now: a middle-six winger with all the tools to score and create scoring chances. All of that is moot now, as he is out indefinitely.

The fiasco around who knew what when regarding the letters suggests that the Sharks will need more than new software to fix communication problems. Coach Todd McLellan accepted blame for not being clear in a meeting with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. That lack of clarity resulted in Thornton not being aware of the decision until asked by reporters. Sometimes being clear is only a matter of saying exactly what you mean. Euphemisms and metaphors are nice but people really do need to know what you are doing as well as why you are doing it.

It is easy to see why the phrase “clean slate” would not necessarily mean “we are stripping you of your letters to start training camp.”  In such an environment, McLellan should know that he has to spell things out, especially to his players. It is better to be accused of tedious repetition than of vagueness.

In an interview with TSN last week, Larry Robinson suggested that Joe Thornton might not have been as approachable as a captain needs to be. That came as a surprise to me, not because Thornton is such a jovial fellow with the media. The easy-going style the cameras are used to would not be very effective at motivating his team, so one could only hope Thornton shows a more assertive persona to his team-mates. Yet Robinson suggested the opposite, that Thornton maybe needed to have a softer touch to be a successful captain.

Obviously, leadership methods have evolved a lot since the Middle Ages, where a club served as well as courtesy, but even Machiavelli knew that subtle manipulation often worked better than mass terror. Certainly a hockey team captain should be available to listen to his teammates, but his teammates have to be willing to speak as well. Even if Thornton lacks the mastery to encourage a taciturn person to speak, I don’t buy that the Sharks are a particularly timid lot. I think it is misguided to put communication failures on any particular player.

Sharks media coverage misses Ryane Clowe, we will miss Dan Boyle. They were two of the more outspoken players in public. Were they also the most outspoken in team meetings? Few NHL players share as much as they did, few were as emotive in post game interviews. (Raffi Torres can be a good interview. Too bad his availability has been and will be so limited by injury.)

Is there really such a large gap between what we see in front of the cameras and what goes on off camera? Are the Sharks too careful with their words to get the job done? Will deposing the captain make a difference? Do players defer to a letter or to reputation and status? If longtime Sharks defer to players like Thornton and Marleau out of habit, then new arrivals will be hard pressed to do anything else.

It will take more than putting letters up for grabs to get this team talking. It might sound silly, but maybe they need to get a talking stick and pass it around at every meeting. Nothing could be sillier than a group of grown men unwilling to air their thoughts, good or bad, with a team they are supposed to be part of. They certainly need to do something to get in the habit of saying whatever is on their minds, before it festers and scuttles another season.

NHL: “If They Can Take The Job…”

-By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks did not make any moves this week, they did not even turn up in the rumor mill. For better or worse, it does look like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau be in teal next season. As I have said before, I think that is for the best.

Listening to a radio interview with the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock, I was reminded of Doug Wilson’s comments about the role he expects younger players to take this coming season.

Back in May, Wilson described part of his plan for the team. He was talking about Al Stalock’s chances of taking the starter’s role:

Every one of our young players will be given the chance to take whatever role they want. That includes him. When you go through this you have guys who are aching and begging for that opportunity. If they can come in and do it they can take it.

In an interview with Detroit Sports 105.1 on July 17, Mike Babcock said something very similar:

We’re gonna play the best players. So just like we did last year- it’s always a hard thing when a veteran on a one way contract doesn’t make the lineup, but that’s life- we’re committed to the growth of this team. Most franchises to get back on top have to get bad for ten years. That’s not our plan. We’ve scrounged to get in the playoffs the last two years in a row. I think we did a real good job, had a real good run against Chicago. I didn’t like us in the playoffs last year against Boston, but we like what we have coming. And we like our kids, so the biggest thing is not to rush them. We could really use some puck-moving D. Well we just happen to have some puck-moving D in the minors, big guys who can skate. When are they ready? We’re sure not going to rush them but if they’re capable of taking jobs they’re gettin’ the jobs.

There are some differences there, the focus on giving players time is something that Wilson has put less emphasis on lately. The last part, about giving the young players a chance to take jobs if they are capable, this sends up some red flags for me. My confusion stems from how you get from the first sentence (“We’re gonna play the best players.”) to the last one (“We’re sure not going to rush them but if they’re capable of taking jobs they’re gettin’ the jobs.”).

If these guys are the best players you have, why in the world would they NOT, under any and all circumstances, get the job?

Maybe I am misreading the “taking jobs” part. Do they simply mean “if they are capable of doing the job, since we don’t have anyone better, we will let them play instead of going out and finding someone older”? Shouldn’t they also mean “if they are better than the older players we have, we will use them”? Shouldn’t they always mean that?

It certainly seems like the Sharks have not followed that last rule. Yes, Matt Irwin lacked experience, but all signs pointed to him being a better option in many games last season than Brad Stuart or Scott Hannan. Given the ice time to develop his game, won’t he be a quicker, higher return asset than those two were last season? If he doesn’t play he won’t develop, but that is true of any young player. The team followed the same pattern with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun and to a lesser extent Jason Demers: using older veterans again and again while the young players seemed ready and in need of ice time.

This notion that a younger player with more upside will be benched to let a veteran play is insane. Yes, the veteran might represent a lower short-term risk but if a younger player is capable of taking the job, doesn’t that mean he is not a higher risk long term? Doesn’t that mean he is capable of taking the job from the veteran? To say a younger player will get to play if he is capable of taking the job sounds like the team had previously given far to much consideration to veteran status. This is not just a matter of fairness and meritocracy, it is the difference between winning and losing.

On the other hand, it can be risky to put too much on a younger player. Eric Gilmore published a piece on NHL.com suggesting that Mirco Mueller could crack the Sharks lineup this coming season. Doug Wilson has suggested as much in the past. Tomas Hertl cracked the lineup last season, in his first year in North America. Couldn’t Mueller make the big club early too? Other defensemen have done it but comparing Hertl’s role to Mueller’s is clearly comparing apples to oranges. A defenseman’s job is much more complicated, traditionally defensemen take longer to develop their professional game. To move any player up to the NHL too soon can have a negative impact on his game, and with defensemen that impact can be that much worse.

So, as eager as fans might be to see Mueller make the jump, it seems unlikely that such a move would be a good thing for the Sharks or Mueller.

It might just be noise. Hannan is returning, Thornton and Marleau very probably are too. The team will have no shortage of veterans to fall back on. If their humiliation as group at the end of last season stung them as much as they claim, less roster turnover is better than more.

Sharks Keep Demers and Doherty in the Fold

By Mary Walsh

Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks announced the resigning of defensemen Jason Demers and Taylor Doherty. The team gave Demers a two year contract and Doherty one year. The moves solidified the team’s current blue line and add some depth for the future. It might not be enough to improve their offseason PuckDaddy grade from an F, but it is a start.

Last season was a bounce-back season for Demers, who performed below expectations the two seasons prior. Those seasons were marred by injury but also found him often benched as a healthy scratch. His improvement this past season could be attributed to better health and the changes on the coaching staff that occurred before the last lockout season. All of the team’s young defensemen have shown improvement since Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson joined the team.

Demers’ career path could be considered a cautionary tale about why you do not want to rush players, especially defensemen, into the NHL. He started playing in San Jose when he was just 21 years old, one season after being drafted. He got off to a great start with the team, posting 21 and 24 points his first two seasons, then bottomed out with 13 in his third season and just three in the fourth. Perhaps his sophomore slump came late, and he took a lot of heat in those two poor seasons for not repeating earlier success. Nevertheless, the Sharks’ coaches have shown slowly increasing faith in him and his performance has improved accordingly. His 34 points last season were a reminder of why expectations were so high for him.

Demers’ role as an offensively-minded defenseman will always make him prone to risk-taking. Much as fans would like to see all the players, forwards and defensemen alike, play a diligent defensive game, playing well at both ends of the ice is harder than it sounds. Well, obviously it sounds pretty hard, barring teleportation powers. Additionally, fans don’t actually enjoy perfect defensive games– those tend to be low-scoring and uneventful. So that’s the cake- eat it or leave it. If Jason Demers is supposed to keep an eye out for scoring chances and even create some, his defensive game might on occasion leave something to be desired.

His contract is eminently reasonable. Looking at the defensemen around Demers in the standings, his salary is lower than most players of equivalent value to their teams. Whether measuring by points or time on ice or age, his $3.4 million per year is a good deal for San Jose. It is such a good deal that one wonders if it isn’t a setup for a trade. The last Shark to file for arbitration (TJ Galiardi) only got one year out of the team, but he was not signed and traded either. For the sake of San Jose, we can hope the Demers contract is not just a set up to move him out.

Taylor Doherty was drafted by the Sharks in the second round in 2009. This year, he will enter his third full season with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. Last season saw him miss a number of games due to injury, and he has yet to play in the NHL. There was a little more buzz around his name a season ago, but the Sharks obviously think he is worth another look.  Just 23 years old, 6’7″, he has not been heating up the score sheet but last season showed some improvement over the season before. With a little down tick in the +/- column (from +2 to -2), he improved his points total from 6 to 10, playing 23 fewer games. He has a strong shot that he could probably use more often.

Doherty, like Demers… and Braun, and Burns, is a right-handed shot. That is worth noting as such defensemen seem to be in short supply elsewhere.

The Sharks’ offseason is looking like a long slow one, but that is what Doug Wilson promised at the end of last season. If Wilson is serious about not wanting to bring any veteran player in who may supplant younger players, that remaining cap space ($6.145 million, per CapGeek.com) will continue to sit there and taunt those who had hoped for any exciting new additions.