32 for 32: San Jose Sharks preview

NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of the 32 teams between August 8 and September 8. Today, the San Jose Sharks.

Logan Couture likes the San Jose Sharks’ new approach and is hopeful for training camp after three disappointing seasons.

« When an organization has been stagnant for that long, sometimes change is needed to shake things up, » said the Sharks captain. And I hope it will give us energy and life as a team to get back on track. »

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Since appearing in the Western Conference Finals in 2019, San Jose has failed to qualify for the playoffs. In fact, the Californian team has missed the post-season tournament the last three seasons after being there in 19 of the previous 21 seasons. The Sharks have missed the playoffs just six times since joining the NHL in 1991-92.

Major changes have been made in San Jose this offseason. Mike Grier was named general manager, a position he holds for the first time in his career, and David Quinn was hired as head coach. The Sharks also traded the defender Brent Burns to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Grier, who became the NHL’s first black general manager on July 5, replaces San Jose GM Doug Wilson for 19 seasons.

Last season, Grier served as the New York Rangers’ hockey operations advisor.

Quinn, hired on July 26, led the Rangers from 2018 to 2021 and the United States at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

« I’ve had a chance to chat with some of the players, there’s frustration with the last three years, » Quinn said. But I think it comes with the fact that the Sharks have been so good for so long. It gets even more frustrating. It’s frustrating when you trade hopes and draft picks [et que ça ne fonctionne pas]. But I think Mike has done a good job of reshaping the roster and I know our guys can’t wait for the season to start. »

The Sharks traded Burns, who played 11 seasons in San Jose, to the Hurricanes on July 13. But they also acquired the center Luke Kunin in a trade with the Nashville Predators and signed free agents Oskar Lindblom, Nico Sturm, Matt Benning and Markus Nutivaara.

Couture admitted that Burns’ departure was going to be felt; the 37-year-old veteran leads all NHL defensemen with 594 points (172 goals, 422 assists) since 2011-12.

« ‘Burnsy’ will be missed, without a doubt, » Couture said. He led the league in ice time last season (2,144:02) and he’s a great person in the locker room. It is something that we will miss. But we have guys who can play those minutes that we’re going to rely on. Maybe Erik [Karlsson] will play more and more often on the power play. He is one of the best defenders in the world. »

Karlsson could be the key to the Sharks’ season.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner (2011-12 and 2014-15) ranks second behind Burns in points among defensemen since 2011-12 (589; 135 goals, 454 assists). Quinn said Karlsson is healthy and that at 32 he can definitely be the number one defenseman he once was.

Karlsson was sidelined for two months last season with a forearm muscle injury that required surgery. He missed 79 games during his four seasons in San Jose.

« If he stays healthy, he’s a No. 1 defenseman on any team, » Quinn said. We met and he told me he felt better than ever. I think in his mind he sees an opportunity to be the player he was during his NHL career. »

Video: SJS@EDM: Karlsson completes the tic-tac-toe

The Sharks will have to find a way to generate more offense if they want to become a playoff team again. They finished 30th in the NHL with a 2.57 goals-per-game average last season after finishing 27th (2.57) in 2019-20 and 25th (2.61) in 2020- 21. San Jose ranked 22nd in power play (19.0 percent) last season after finishing 23rd in 2019-20 (17.5 percent) and 29th in 2020-21 (14.1 percent).

the attacker Timo Meier led the Sharks last season with 76 points (35 goals, 41 assists). The center Tomas Hertl had 64 (30 goals, 34 assists). Couture had 56 points (23 goals, 33 assists) and Bruns 54 (10 goals, 44 assists). No other player has amassed more than 39 points.

« If you look at the last few years, it’s pretty obvious they’ve struggled offensively, » Quinn said. I think there are various ways to score goals. This is something that we are going to focus on and try to remedy the situation. »

The Sharks also need their goaltenders to step up their game.

James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen will compete for the No. 1 spot. San Jose had three goaltenders who were expected to be in contention for the starting role before trading Adin Hill to the Vegas Golden Knights for a fourth-round pick in the 2024 draft on Monday.

« For me, every guy has to be better, 5 to 10 percent better, » Quinn said. If we get that from everyone, that’s where you fix the lack of offense or the shortcomings in general, and that’s what makes the difference for a playoff appearance. »

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