We’re just one day out from Sharks hockey making its return and the preseason has been spent with the hockey world at large reevaluating their preconceptions of the Sharks
For once, it feels like people are catching on that the Sharks are — and sorry to borrow this particular phrase — actually good. They’ve continued to defy expectations year after year and now they’ve added pieces that make them one of the strongest rosters in team history. Of course, those expectations often come from people who don’t otherwise seem to watch or care about the Sharks and their history.
We’ve been here, we know these players — well, most of them, anyway. Here are five bold Sharks predictions for the upcoming season.
The second line will have career years
Aren’t they overdue?
Logan Couture topped out at 67 points just four years ago. Last season, he hit 61. If he stays healthy — and with plenty of help from the blue line — seven more points seems possible. He also had a career-high 34 goals last year, good for 17th in the league, tied with players like Brad Marchand, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, Rickard Rakell and this guy you may have heard of named Auston Matthews.
Could Couture hit 40 goals? That’d put him in top ten territory. Jamie Benn notched 36 last year with the Dallas Stars, while Tyler Seguin put up 40, for comparison. It feels like a bit of a stretch, but even just three more goals would have had him tied for 12th overall last year with none other than John Tavares.
With Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl on his wings on the second line (only in name), there’s definitely a chance for some magic to happen. Meier’s underlying numbers have been good and he could have a major break out (as if 21 goals in a rookie season wasn’t enough of a break out on its own). Hertl notched 22 goals and 46 points last year, and both of these players are trending upward. This will be a high-scoring line, guaranteed to end at least one goaltender’s career by the time the season is over.
Martin Jones will have 40 wins
While the boys up front will be aided by the offensive output of the blue line, Martin Jones is still going to have a solid defense and a possession monster of a team in front of him.
In 2016, Jones had a career-high 37 wins and that team didn’t have nearly as much depth as this one does. Over the past three seasons, he’s had 65-65-60 starts — and last season, he was dealing with an injury, so the 65 starts can just about be expected once again.
It’s a bit of a team stat, really, but 40 wins out of 65 games with this team? It’s bold, but it feels doable.
Antti Suomela will make a quiet case for the Calder
That’s not to say he’ll be nominated, or even talked about for very long, but at some point this season, someone is going to say, “Could Suomela be a darkhorse for the Calder Trophy?”
It might never get brought up again after that and the biases against him (age, playing three seasons with Liiga, playing in the Pacific Division and not being named Connor McDavid) will certainly keep the 24-year-old from being more than a blip on the radar, but he’ll have a hot streak this season that will be fun as hell and entirely unsustainable.
The Sharks will lose one game against Ottawa
...and it will probably be in San Jose.
The Sharks head out to Ottawa on December 1, where they’ll have two days of recovery after the short drive from Toronto. The Senators will be in the middle of a four-games-in-six-nights stretch, coming off a four-game road trip before playing the New York Rangers at home and taking one day of rest. The Sharks should take this one.
But the script gets flipped when the Senators come to San Jose in January. The Sharks will be in the middle of a five-games-in-eight-nights stretch, having just traveled to Vegas two nights prior. Ottawa will have a back-to-back against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, but will have a day of rest and ultimately, a much lighter work week. The Sharks might drop this one against what may be the worst team in the league this season.
The Sharks will win the Presidents’ Trophy
Perhaps the boldest prediction in this list — the Sharks will have the most points in the National Hockey League.
But is it that bold? The Sharks have maintained a lot of regular season success, only missing the playoffs six times in their entire 27-season history and four of those were in their first six years as a franchise (because you’re supposed to suck for a while, okay, Vegas?). They’ve only won the Presidents’ once, in 2009 with 117 points.
Most analytics models have the Sharks somewhere around 100 points this season. And while these models are generally very effective, sometimes there are things they can’t measure: take, for example, the Vegas Golden Knights making it to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year, despite having a roster that was pretty far from the optimal roster they could’ve made in the expansion draft. Is the presence of Erik Karlsson and the weight of making that trade enough to push the Sharks past what the numbers tell us they’re capable of? Is it enough to earn them eight to ten more wins and push them above powerhouse teams in the East?
And if so, is it enough to push them past the Presidents’ Trophy curse?
Who’s to say? But I’ve got a good feeling.