The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks continue to see their team change. Three players departed, defenceman Brenden Dillon along with forwards Patrick Marleau and Barclay Goodrow.
2019-20 San Jose Sharks Future
General manager Doug Wilson netted a fair return, probably getting a bit more than merited for Goodrow, a bit less for Dillon and about right for Marleau. It was a bit disappointing not to see added clauses in the Goodrow and Dillon deals which would sweeten the deal for the Sharks if the team on the other end made the Stanley Cup Final. The net for the Sharks is, most probably, an added pick in each of the first three rounds.
A few names thought to be on the trade block did not get moved. Melker Karlsson wouldn’t have gotten much of a return, but he’d be a reasonable 13th forward and inexpensive depth for a playoff team. Right-shot defenceman Tim Heed has, at long last, been given more chance to play and has played reasonably well. Heed is unlikely to stay with the Sharks next season, so trading him made sense. Alas, the team benched him for all of January and the first part of February, so whatever value he had, evaporated.
The team looked for a deal involving Joe Thornton and while the reasons are somewhat vague as to why none occurred (the operating theory is there was no overlap between the teams he wanted to play for and the teams interested in him), he made it clear he wanted a shot at the playoffs. Also staying put was netminder Aaron Dell. Dell has proven himself an NHL worthy netminder who can handle the load of a starter and deliver competent play.
Was There a Trade Strategy?
One simple way to look at a player on a roster is this: are they part of the solution? In the Sharks case, we’re talking a longer-term solution, next season and beyond. On that front, the trades were disappointing. Of the seven players mentioned, three seem to fit the solution. Dell is a free agent and it seems likely he’ll go elsewhere this summer. But should the Sharks keep him, he can play a valuable role.
The two other players who fit the ‘solution’ label were Dillon and Goodrow. The Sharks have a shortage of middle-six forwards and Goodrow was one of the few who did the job at a price which made sense. Dillon is an excellent complementary defenceman who plays well with elite talent. The Sharks need a defender to pair with Erik Karlsson who brings out the exceptional in Karlsson. Dillon was the lone defender who proved he could do that.
The players mentioned who aren’t long-term solutions comprise the rest of the list. Thornton may return for another season, but at 41, there is no long term there. Given the way the Sharks have handled Heed, he should leave. Finally, the team shouldn’t bring back Melker Karlsson.
Marleau was the lone player traded who wasn’t part of a longer-term solution. There is however, a good chance Marleau returns to the Sharks next season. He’ll have a bunch of major NHL records in his sights, including the most games played. He’ll also have a shot at reaching 2,000 meaningful games played (regular season plus playoffs). He can become the first to do so next season. One imagines he’d prefer to do these things in a Sharks sweater.
While there is some logic in trading away the pieces, there doesn’t seem to be any real strategy.
The Rest of the Season
For the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks, the trade deadline marked a shift, but there is still much puzzling. The Sharks are icing a hybrid team, part San Jose Sharks, part San Jose Barracuda, the team’s AHL franchise. Plenty of younger players who’ve toiled for both this season have the chance to play a lot more games at the NHL level.
The Evolving 2019-20 San Jose Sharks
As the younger players take the ice, it is essential the coaches dial back on the minutes of the team’s veterans. These players have nothing to prove, and reducing their risk for next season is prudent. It does beg the question, why is Brent Burns playing 27 minutes a night in February?
Burns has played more meaningful minutes over the past five seasons than any other NHL skater. It’s time to let him dial it back to around 20 minutes a night. The Sharks can evaluate the top candidates for Burns’ partner for next season by using Mario Ferraro in this role for half the remaining games and Radim Simek for the other half.
The most important move the team needs to make and make soon is to hire a new head coach. There are aspects to admire of the job interim head coach Bob Boughner has done. Yet he isn’t the right leader for this team going forward. He’s made too many questionable calls (why wasn’t Brenden Dillon partnering with Erik Karlsson, for example) and the team hasn’t been successful enough under his leadership. The team is playing better than they did under prior coach Peter DeBoer, at least until injuries and trades decimated the roster. But that is not enough.
In a season with several shocking firings, there are quality coaches for the hire, including Bruce Boudreau and Gerard Gallant. The time to bring in a new coach is now. That will give the new coach a chance to see the young talent, make decisions on where they are and how they need to improve. It also begins the process of putting in new systems and a new culture. There are compelling reasons to begin this important work now.
Sharks Lost Season
The Sharks roster has undergone dramatic change. Since last June, the Sharks have seen departures of Dillon, Marleau, Goodrow, Gustav Nyquist, Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, Joakim Ryan and Joonas Donskoi. Missing for the rest of the season with injuries are Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson. Logan Couture just returned from a broken ankle, Evander Kane just returned from a three-game suspension and Melker Karlsson has missed the last two weeks. That is a lot of flux.
The 2019-20 San Jose Sharks are in the final stages of a lost season. Even in a lost season, there are accomplishments and the Sharks seem determined to underachieve on that front as well. The team traded players who were part of the solution, but kept players who weren’t. The team can cut back on the playing time of key veterans like Burns or not rush the return of Couture, but the opposite is happening.
This is an ideal time for a new coach to come in. This has been the case for a few weeks now. And while the team isn’t likely to give much in the way of advance notice on this front, there’s also no sense this is on the agenda between now and season’s end.
A lost season is frustrating, but management can make the best of it. They can help the franchise in the years ahead. The Sharks aren’t doing well on that front either.
There’s a bit of a joke going around. Goodrow, now that he’s no longer in San Jose, will need to start paying for his own meals. As Sharks fans know, Goodrow scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, ending one of the wildest games in recent NHL history. It is among the biggest goals in team history. No doubt, he had plenty of tabs picked up since that game. At least for now, one expects he won’t have that benefit in Tampa.