There are a lot of questions surrounding the San Jose Sharks this young season, which means we here at Fear the Fin have a lot to talk about.
The Sharks have lost five games in a row and are now in the basement of the Pacific Division. While no one thought they would best the Vegas Golden Knights, I’d love to hear from the pundit that thought San Jose would be battling it out for last place in the league.
Which leads us to the first question in our round table ...
Yes or no, have the Sharks hit rock bottom?
delfava57: I’m not sure. This team reminds me of the 2014-15 team — that’s the one “bad” Sharks team I actively remember — but I’ve never seen a Sharks team perform as poorly as they have so far this season. It feels like some of them have already given up. So is this rock bottom? I am starting to believe it is.
efowle15: Yes. The only way things could get worse is if they play poorly and/or lose to Chicago tonight. Losing 5-2 to Ottawa was officially rock bottom. Boston and Vancouver are better teams on paper, but Ottawa is one of the few squads that have played as poorly or worse than the Sharks.
Kyle Demetrius: No. You can always sink deeper. It’s the Marianas Trench.
Erika Towne: Yes, but I feel like the team might be coasting along at rock bottom for a while. I haven’t seen anything externally or changes internally that would indicate to me that there is even a shift in the right direction. Without dramatic change, be that a trade, firing Pete DeBoer or something else major, I can’t see how the team trends upward.
Erik Johnsgard: No. When the Senators pick Alexis Lafreniere with San Jose’s pick at the draft, that still won’t be rock bottom. When Lafreniere wins his fourth consecutive Art Ross, Rocket, Hart, Conn Smythe and Lady Byng trophies after leading Ottawa to their third consecutive Cup at the age of 23, and Martin Jones’ contract hasn’t expired yet, that will be rock bottom.
What is the BIGGEST problem for the Sharks right now? (You can only pick one.)
delfava57: I do not believe Peter DeBoer should be the man behind the bench after this season, and that’s an opinion I’ve shared since last year. However, I do not believe he is the biggest problem.
Doug Wilson and company bet on their goaltenders having bounce back years and that’s blown up in their faces. As of right now, Martin Jones and Aaron Dell both have save percentages under .900, again. This could have easily been fixed at last year’s trade deadline, in the off-season, or even this season. Tampa Bay just got rid of Louis Domingue, who had been very efficient backing up Andrei Vasilevskiy in the previous two seasons, for virtually nothing. It’s really frustrating to see two goaltenders who were dreadful last season continue to have poor form and there be no solution in sight.
efowle15: They’re not generating any 5-on-5 offense. They are sporting one of, if not the, lowest rate of 5-on-5 shots on goal, unblocked shots, and expected goals (quality shots) for right now. Hard to win games if you aren’t getting taking any high-quality shots. (Data from Evolving Hockey.)
Kyle Demetrius: Coaching. The system isn’t working. The players look disinterested and look like they have checked out. It just seems that the “fight” is gone and whenever these things pop up around the league, it always goes to the coach losing the room. San Jose isn’t any different than any other team in this scenario, so it’s no different with the Sharks that the coach has finally lost them.
Erika Towne: Team defense. The Sharks win games when they stick to defense and let that bring the offense. Somewhere along the line, the team forgot about defense and got too busy trying to score goals to care. Kyle’s probably right, there needs to be a coaching change, if only to bring team defense back to the forefront of the Sharks’ game.
Erik Johnsgard: All roads lead to coaching. Goaltending is a problem, shooting is a problem, discipline is a problem, defensive responsibility is a problem, and the main thing that affects all of those things is coaching.
At this point, is it a mental problem or do the Sharks simply lack the skill?
delfava57: I personally believe it’s a mix of both. I feel like DeBoer hasn’t done a good job of properly motivating the team for games that should be wins, like the absolute debacle against Ottawa. It seems like Logan Couture has to be the one to hold people accountable and not DeBoer.
At the same time, I do not think this year’s Sharks roster has what it takes to make a run in the playoffs. Many of the roster mainstays, such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Melker Karlsson and Lukas Radil have all had disappointing starts to the season, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. Doug Wilson panicked and brought back Patrick Marleau four games into the season when the rookies he gave shots to like Lean Bergmann and Danil Yurtaykin were not performing, and that hasn’t been going well either. He scored twice in his first game back, but that’s been about it for him offensively. He is just too old and too inept in this stage of his career to be regularly getting top-six minutes, let alone first-line ice time.
efowle15: I don’t like to speculate on people’s mental states. I don’t doubt that everyone is giving what they can to win games. Unfortunately, the Sharks are trying to replace the top-six impacts of last season’s Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist, with unheralded rookies, 40-year-old Patrick Marleau, and depth players like Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Labanc. On the blue line, Marc-Edouard Vlasic has completely fallen off a cliff, and Brent Burns isn’t driving play like he used to, either. Neither the rookies nor the younger vets have stepped in to fill those voids, with a few exceptions. The coaching staff also isn’t allocating the team’s talent optimally, which compounds the fact they don’t have a lot of high-end talent to work with in the first place.
Kyle Demetrius: Mental. They are plenty skilled, I mean just look at the players on this team. Hertl, Karlsson, Burns, Couture, Meier, Kane and so on. It’s quite odd really that a team this talented isn’t winning more or at least competitive.
Erika Towne: Emotional, which I guess is closer to mental than skill. Something isn’t connecting for the Sharks and it’s happening up and down the lineup, not just with one or two guys.
Erik Johnsgard: We have to assume the former. This isn’t a team full of game breakers, by any means, but there is more skill in the top half of this lineup than in any of the nine teams ahead of San Jose in the standings. It has to be a matter of morale, systems and luck, in no particular order.
What is the one positive for the Sharks right now?
delfava57: Special teams have been good, and the power play especially! I’ll admit that I thought Steve Spott should have been relieved of his power play running duties as of last May, but it’s been back to being that shot-producing force of nature that it used to be.
efowle15: The power play has been one of the league’s best units. At 5-on-4, the Sharks are taking the second-highest rate of shots on goal, the third-highest rate of unblocked shots, and are generating higher quality shots (expected goals) than any other team. The power play’s rate of goals scored per hour is low relative to those marks, which means we should see even more 5-on-4 goals in the future. (Data from Evolving Hockey.)
Kyle Demetrius: The SAP Center serves Dole Whip now.
Erika Towne: Mario Ferraro and Barclay Goodrow. At the end of last season, I was a little concerned about this youth movement that Doug Wilson was relying on. I still am, but the emergence of Ferraro and Goodrow as NHL caliber players is promising. At this point it’s nice to know that there are at least a few players in the pipeline.
Erik Johnsgard: Definitely this cat: