McKenna’s Musings: It’s time for the San Jose Sharks to burn it down


The Sharks are not very good. And it’s time for the franchise to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and realize it’s time for a fresh start.

I understand San Jose is limited in what they can do given the long-term contracts the team has given to Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Erik Karlsson. They were dodgy deals in the first place. Great for the players, terrible for the Sharks. And with strong commercial protection, they’re virtually unremovable.

It’s been hard to watch San Jose play lately. I admit that at the start of the season I thought there might be hope for the Sharks. At times, they were in the hunt for a Stanley Cup playoff berth. But the team continued to choose to play Adin Hill against James Reimer, although the latter was much more effective at first. It didn’t help. But the Sharks managed to stay competitive.

And then the bottom fell. The Sharks have lost eight of their last 10 games. During that span, San Jose scored a paltry 18 goals, including just 11 in a 5v5 game.

But what I find really amazing is that in those 10 games, the Sharks have the best penalty kill in the NHL at 96.9%. And they scored six times on the power play. Simply put: San Jose is crushed at even strength. And I don’t see that trend changing without an influx of talent at the trade deadline – something that probably isn’t given the team’s status as a potential seller.

I understand that there were injuries. And the Sharks are currently without Hill and Reimer. But there just isn’t enough depth in San Jose’s roster. With the team’s salary cap space gobbled up by these big contracts given to aging veterans, I think it’s going to be a while before the Sharks are competitive again.

Unless they’re selling now. Shake things up. Stockpile enough draft picks to make a dent as soon as possible. The only problem is that the Sharks don’t have many attractive assets.

Except Tomas Hertl center. He could get a solid comeback for San Jose, almost certainly a first-round pick and more. But the Sharks are reportedly trying to agree a contract extension for the former 35-goal scorer.

Why? Hertl is 28, and despite the struggles of recent times, he is expected to get a significant boost from the $5.625 million the Czech striker currently earns. I would be shocked if he didn’t seek a contract with a maximum term of eight years.

I understand why the Sharks would want to keep him. He’s a dynamic offensive threat with miles left on the tires. But the next contract would presumably take him to the age of 36. Don’t the Sharks have enough aging talent already?

I think San Jose needs to read the play. There is no silver bullet for the Sharks. They cannot negotiate out of their current situation. Improvement will only come through the project. And Hertl’s trade can only help speed up the process.

The Florida Panthers were smart in sending guard Spencer Knight to the minors.

Being a goaltender in the NHL isn’t easy. Believe me. Look at my stat line. And my NHL career began when I had already acquired several years of experience in professional hockey.

Spencer Knight didn’t have that luxury. After a highly successful two-year run at Boston College, the 13th overall pick in the 2019 draft has decided to turn pro. He joined the Florida Panthers late in the 2020-21 regular season and went 4-0-0 to start his NHL career.

The Panthers believed in their young prospect enough to pitch him in two Stanley Cup Playoff games. It went 1-1 in the playoffs. But the dice were cast. Knight was expected to play a big role for the Panthers this season.

And he did. The Knight is 10-6-2. But the talented American goalie from Darien, Connecticut struggled at times. His save percentage fell below .900. When the NHL All-Star Break came in early February, the Panthers sent Knight to their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.

He spent a month in the minors. Knight went 7-2 and posted two shutouts.

I think it was the best thing for him. I have seen it many times in my own career. A young goalie struggles in the NHL and is sent to the minors to get back into shape. But from there, it’s up to the player to improve. And he must have the right frame of mind to do so.

Knight looked exceptional Monday night against the Sabers, stopping 30 of 31 shots and helping his team to a 6-1 victory. Yes, it’s just one game. But it was exactly the return to form the Panthers were hoping for in his first game back from the minors.

People have asked me before if sending a goaltender to the AHL will hurt their confidence. And my answer is always the same: not if the player accepts the situation. This usually means they will have more ice time and can find a rhythm. You actually have to see it as a positive point.

I think the demotion was exactly what Spencer Knight needed. A chance to carry the mail. Play consecutive games. Gain confidence. I can’t predict how the rest of this season will go for Knight. But his move to the minors was the right choice of the Panthers.


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