Sharks Trade Sheppard, Waive McGinn

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks have traded forward James Sheppard to the New York Rangers for a 4th round pick in 2016. The Sharks acquired Sheppard in 2011 from the Minnesota Wild. After a lengthy recovery from a knee injury sustained before coming to the Sharks, Sheppard gradually became a regular in the lineup, playing 67 games last season and 57 this season. He had 5 goals, 16 points this season and was -3 and 50% in the faceoff circle.

The Sharks also put Tye McGinn on waivers. McGinn saw relatively little playing time with the Sharks after being acquired last offseason from the Flyers. He had 1 goal and 5 points in 33 games. He is a +1 so far this season. McGinn is still a Shark as of Sunday evening, but waiving him does show a willingness to part with him for very little compensation.

The NHL trade deadline is Monday. There is still time for Sharks GM Doug Wilson to make a more significant move, but in light of the “no equity” claim at the beginning of this season, these moves are underwhelming. If in fact no Shark gets a pass based on seniority, how are Sheppard and McGinn the first to go? Neither move is very surprising or detrimental in itself. Neither player had the sort of impact the team probably hoped for this season. For James Sheppard, the trade is a positive one as he joins a very exciting group in this season’s Rangers. But such moves hardly send a message to the rest of the Sharks, unless the message is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

That said, these changes leave some holes in the lineup, and the Sharks have cap space to fill those holes. Maybe they are precursors to something very exciting. If so, it is probably too late for us to see the benefits this season. Per David Pollak:

@PollakOnSharks: Wilson also said players he’s eyeing for future pick-up not really available now, so #SJSharks acquisitions probably wait till summer.

Oilers Slip By Sharks 2-1

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Frans

By Mary Walsh

A 2-1 loss in Edmonton ended the San Jose Sharks’ winning streak at four, and the Oilers’ losing streak at eleven.

As they have done often lately, the Sharks started slow in Edmonton. A poor first period did not seem to hurt them much, as they finished tied at zero. But their sluggish start may have given the Oilers some much needed confidence. Fairly solid defense in the third allowed the Oilers to hang on to a 2-1 lead and break their eleven game losing streak. It was also the Oilers’ first win this season over a western conference team.

The game winning goal went off of Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon. After the game, he said: “A shot like that, it’s going wide, I’m kind of almost just trying to get out of the way, it hits me perfectly and just goes in.”

The Sharks’ lone goal was scored by Tye McGinn, in his first game since November 29. He described the goal after the game:

I just tried to get to the net. Paddy’s a great player, he can find you pretty much anywhere you are on the ice, so I tried to go to the net as quick as I could and he made a great pass.

It was a great pass, a very pretty backhand pass from the corner. Marleau had a very good game in general. He led the team in shots, had a couple of breakaways, and created several good chances for his team.

The Oilers goals were scored by Nail Yakupov and David Perron. Devan Dubnyk made 21 saves for the win, while Al Stalock made 22 saves on 24 shots. It was Stalock’s first game after returning from a knee injury.

The Oilers outshot the Sharks 11-2 in the first period. That may have helped goaltender Al Stalock find his game in a hurry. After the game, Stalock said as much: “I felt good, got some work early, got into the game, got my legs under me and got into it. So it was good that way.”

The first period saw Tomas Hertl miss a few shifts with an arm or wrist problem after he fell over an Oiler, but he was back in play before the end of the first.

The first penalty of the game went to Mirco Mueller for delay of game. That was almost 15 minutes into the period. A close call during the power play had Al Stalock scrambling but alert. He did stop it in his skates. Another Edmonton chance found Stalock out of the net and playing the puck. The Sharks finished killing the penalty off without incident.

6:18 into the second period, James Sheppard and Keith Aulie went to the penalty box with fighting majors and minors for roughing (Sheppard) and boarding (Aulie). Neither team got a power play out of that but just over a minute later Brenden Dillon was called for holding.

Seconds into the power play, Jordan Eberle skated through the paint in front of Stalock as the goaltender came out to freeze the puck. After the game, Stalock explained how he and Eberle ended up tangled up away from the net: “He had his stick under my glove and I was trying to freeze it and he wanted the puck and he won the battle.”

That became more complicated when Justin Braun, skating backwards, fell over Stalock, leaving the net open and two Sharks out of play. The Oilers managed to capitalize on that and take the lead with a power play goal. Nail Yakupov was the beneficiary, with assists going to Eberle and Jeff Petry.

A couple of minutes after that vaudevillian moment, the Sharks came back with a goal from Tye McGinn off a very slick backhand pass from Patrick Marleau in the corner. It was McGinn’s first of the season and as a Shark. Assists went to Marleau and Brent Burns.

By the end of the second, the Sharks had nine shots for the period, to the Oilers’ seven.

Early in the third period, Logan Couture drew a high sticking penalty against Boyd Gordon. The Sharks power play did not go particularly well, despite a good start. Once the Oilers got the puck out, the Sharks could not get set up again. Edmonton responded with some aggressive offense, keeping the Sharks on their heels for several shifts. That ended with a roughing penalty to Oilers forward Steven Pinizzotto at 5:30. This Sharks power play was a little more tenacious. Even after the penalty expired, the Sharks continued to attack for several shifts.

The Oilers got themselves together by the middle of the period, and after a long spell in the Sharks’ zone, took their second lead of the game. A shot from David Perron near the faceoff dot deflected off of Brenden Dillon and in. Assists went to Teddy Purcell and Mark Fayne.

Patrick Marleau led the Sharks in shots with five. Brenden Dillon led the team in hits with four. Brent Burns led the team in ice time with 24:33.

Tayor Hall led the Oilers in shots with three. Andrew Ference led is team in hits with six, and in ice time with 26:25.

With Matt Nieto out for a second game in a row, and Tyler Kennedy injured in Saturday’s game, the Sharks had all available skaters in the game with Tye McGinn and John Scott both playing.

The Sharks play the Oilers again on Tuesday in San Jose at 7:30 PT.

NHL Free Agency Day 2: What Are The Sharks Doing?

By Mary Walsh

What are the Sharks doing? This is a question that came up over and over on Twitter today, from near and far. Today the team made three announcements. The first announcement was that the Sharks are holding auditions for women to join their co-ed ice crew, and they will wear short tops and tights. Men’s auditions tba. Second, the Sharks signed 31 year old left wing John Scott. Third, they traded a 2015 3rd round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 year old left wing Tye McGinn.

The team’s activity at the draft and on the first day of free agency seemed consistent with General Manager Doug Wilson’s promise that he was not going to make any big moves that would cost picks, prospects, or young players. He used his picks, trading them only for more picks.

He signed Taylor Fedun, a 26-year old free agent defenseman from the Oilers system on the first day of free agency. He signed him to a low-risk two-way, one year contract at a modest salary. Fedun spent last season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, scoring 38 points in 65 games.  Fedun has played 4 NHL games. He played four seasons with Princeton University, finishing with 68 points in 127 games, and receiving collegiate honors.

All seemed to be going as promised. On the second day of free agency, the gloves came off.

The ice crew is not exactly an addition, though broadcasting public tryouts for it is new. Additionally, while the ice cleaners of the past all wore simple pants and shirt, the female crew members will now wear a sort of midriff-baring modified jersey and tights, while the men will wear a style-coordinated version of what they have always worn: top and pants. The team is not calling these female crew members ice girls, but few teams do. While that news was sinking in, the Scott signing was announced.

The last GM to acquire Scott is now out of a job, after he put together a team that broke records with its awfulness. On a team that performed as badly as last season’s Sabres, Scott averaged 6:45 of ice time and managed to rack up 125 penalty minutes (25 minors, 5 majors, 4 misconducts) in 56 games. He had one goal, his first since 2009. Scoring is not what Doug Wilson expects Scott to do.

“John brings a physical, no-nonsense element to our lineup,” said Wilson. “As we integrate more younger players to our team, John’s presence alone can act as a deterrent and help keep teams and opposing players honest.”

Wilson has brought other players to the team over the last two seasons, advertising their toughness, grit, energy, or combination of those. Raffi Torres, Adam Burish and Mike Brown all got introductions of that sort. Unlike those players, the 6’8″, 259 pound Scott has not demonstrated a lot of versatility in his game. He is unlikely to surprise the team with a multi-point game just back from injury, or a timely goal, or bursts of speed at just the right moment. It is hard to say how his fighting ability will help the team, since few players will engage him. In any case, he is now a Shark. It may be safe to say that this dwarfs recent roster moves in shock value.

Tye McGinn is an interesting acquisition. Younger brother of former Shark Jamie McGinn, Tye has spent his professional career with the Flyers organization. Early last season, while the Flyers were flatlining in the starting gate, while captain Claude Giroux couldn’t score a goal to save his life, McGinn was given a chance with the big club. He scored three goals in his first two games of the season, all in losing efforts to Vancouver and Detroit. Like his brother Jamie, he seems to have a knack for performing well when everyone else is reeling. After that, he went pointless for four games before being sent back to the AHL for most of the season. The Flyers’ rationale for this is unclear, in view of the players who were put in the lineup in his place. Zac Rinaldo, penalty-taker of some repute, was probably the most productive of them. What a struggling team does might not be a model anyone should follow.

Of McGinn, the Sharks’ news release said:

“Tye is a hardworking player who plays an honest game,” said Wilson. “We’re excited to add him to our group of young forwards.”

McGinn could be a very good addition to the Sharks, if they can instill the confidence and structure he needs. He has speed and grit and has shown flashes of skill. Despite playing only 18 games a season in the NHL, his shooting percentage went up significantly from season one to season two. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he had 33 shots and 3 goals. Last season, he took 19 shots and scored four goals. He also cut down on his penalty minutes by a large margin, going from 19 to 4. The addition of John Scott makes me wonder if the Sharks care about minimizing penalties, but fans might. McGinn is a bit of a dark horse, but he is still young enough to grow into a bright spot.

These moves still do not answer the question “what are the Sharks doing?” They do, however, open up a host of possibilities. The team appears to be determined to change its image, every which way it can. Who knows, they may move after all, to Seattle or parts unknown. Maybe it’s time for the NHL to go south of the border.