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The Daily Chum: How to assess a quiet off-season

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Last night was a glimpse into the future of Sharks hockey, but is it sustainable?

 May 29, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer (left) and general manager Doug Wilson (right) answer questions during media day a day prior to game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at the CONSOL Energy Center. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Is the Sharks’ window closing?

That’s been the question since they made it to the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Final. The team’s core was old then. They’re older now. With last season’s squad failing to make a playoff run when they ultimately didn’t look too different from the SCF roster, these are the questions that come up.

Can the Sharks still compete? Can players bounce back from injuries? Has this core aged out of their chance to be contenders?

What is the future of this Sharks team going to look like?

Doug Wilson doesn’t see this as the end of a window. Not yet. He sees a team that’s still ready to compete, that has the pieces to continue to compete for some time. So he didn’t make a splash in the off-season.

Here’s what he did do:

Re-signings and Extensions

  • Melker Karlsson, 3 years
  • Joonas Donskoi, 2 years
  • Chris Tierney, 1 year
  • Martin Jones, 6 years
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic, 8 years
  • Joe Thornton, 1 year
  • Troy Grosenick, 2 years
  • Barclay Goodrow, 2 years
  • Marcus Sorensen, 2 years

The biggest takeaway from re-signings and extensions this off-season is that the forward group could look very different as soon as 2019. The defense, on the other hand, seems to be a priority in retaining, as Brent Burns also inked an eight-year deal last season.

Facing the prospect of Joe Thornton leaving again may be difficult, but after a major injury last year, compounded with his age, a one-year deal was an ideal move for the Sharks.

Departures

Trading Mueller to New Jersey was easily the smartest move Doug Wilson made this off season. Instead of possibly losing him to Vegas for nothing in the expansion draft, Wilson turned a prospect who was unlikely to ever crack the Sharks’ defensive lineup full time into two draft picks. It’s a win-win, as Mueller may get a chance to play with the big club in New Jersey.

Schlemko and Haley open up roster spots for the many Barracuda guys looking to make the leap this year. As does Patrick Marleau, but it’s more difficult to see replacing a steady 30-goal scorer as an opportunity.

The Marleau departure felt inevitable. For Wilson, he sees it as a best case scenario for everyone involved.

Signings

The Sharks didn’t sign anyone who is explicitly expected to spend all year in the show. The closest might be Brandon Bollig, who signed a one-year deal and could take Micheal Haley’s roster spot.

This wasn’t a major year for free agency, especially since two of the big names in free agency were already Sharks. The 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr didn’t seem to be a good fit for the Sharks, who need to be looking toward the future. They missed out on both Alex Kerfoot and Cody Franson, but neither were remarkable enough to dwell on the missed opportunity.

They stocked up on signings for the Barracuda, though, in the expectation that several Barracuda players from last season will be with the Sharks this year.

Entry Draft

This year’s entry draft was a mixed bag. With this being a bit of a weak draft class and the Sharks drafting 19th, it was unlikely that this draft would make a significant impact.

Josh Norris was a controversial first round pick, in that there were higher rated players available. Kailer Yamamoto - a player that may be a higher risk but offer a higher reward - was still available at the point and Wilson opted for the safer pick in Norris. While Norris’ ceiling might look similar to Logan Couture, it’s not exactly reassuring for a team that will be in dire need of an all star top line center to continue to compete.

True to Wilson fashion, the later rounds seem promising, with Jacob McGrew a puzzling exception. It’s too early to tell, but the number of prospects in the Sharks system with a middle six ceiling could quickly become a logjam situation.

Can problems be addressed internally?

Last night’s preseason game against Anaheim seems promising on this front. Granted, the Ducks put out a very inexperienced squad, but the Sharks dominated play and showed impressive defensive prowess. There are a lot of guys on the Barracuda who have outgrown the ice there.

The trick will be managing expectations. These players have to be allowed NHL ice time and they have to be allowed to slump, should that happens. The worrisome part comes in having so many high-end prospects that they become replaceable. Expecting any of them to step in and immediately replace Marleau’s production is unrealistic, at best. At worst, it becomes harmful to their development to swap them out when they don’t meet that expectation.

Following a quiet summer, should we be worried?

There are too many questions to answer this definitively. Injuries were a major factor last season. If Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, and Tomas Hertl can bounce back this year, that alleviates the pressure on the younger talent to produce. It’s too soon to tell, but it’s also too soon to really be worried.

The off-season was quiet, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t productive. Ultimately, the core of the team is still there, albeit a little older than before.

Bulking up the Barracuda shows that Wilson has faith in players like Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Ryan Carpenter, Marcus Sorensen, Daniel O’Regan, Tim Heed, and Joakim Ryan to make the leap this year. Following their Western Conference Final Calder Cup run, it’s no surprise that the Sharks’ staff thinks these players can handle more responsibility. Moving the Barracuda to San Jose made it easier to maintain a single system across the two teams and this is the best Barracuda crew they’ve had in awhile. Having so many of them come up at once is understandably nerve-wracking, but it will give them more consistency in linemates and ice time than they saw last year - all positive things for their development.

So let’s kick it to you: Are you worried following a quiet off-season?

Poll

Are you worried about the lack of off-season movement?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Yes, they didn’t fill organizational needs
    (135 votes)
  • 55%
    No, the team is still in a position to compete
    (167 votes)
302 votes total Vote Now