The San Jose Sharks have played three preseason games thus far in 2019-20, heading into tonight’s game visiting the Anaheim Ducks, and have lost all three, by a combined score of 13-8. If we’ve learned anything from the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche (and who hasn’t?), it’s that preseason results are definitely indicative of regular season performance. The 2016-17 Avs showed us that it didn’t matter that the unsustainable heyday of 2013-14 was a distant memory, and that the team had missed the playoffs in both seasons since, barely managing to swing a .500 record in just one of them. It didn’t matter that their head coach resigned in a fit of pique, forcing them to conscript Jared Bednar mere days before the start of training camp. No, these peerless mountain men rampaged through their preseason, recording a 6-0 record and allowing just five total goals.
The Avalanche carried that record rhythmically into the regular season, opening at home with a rollicking 11-goal win over the Dallas Stars, and carried that momentum right through to the young franchise’s third Stanley Cup in 2017. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. It says here that the preseason-undefeated-destined-for-greatness-Avalanche recorded 48 points in 2016-17, setting a record that still stands as the lowest point total in an 82-game season in the salary cap era. Something has clearly gone awry.
There are two lessons here. First, and most obvious, is that the results of preseason games are not relevant. The process matters: which prospects perform well in limited time according to coaches’ carefully rehearsed quotes (Jonny Brodzinski, Joachim Blichfeld, Lean Bergmann), how injured players are progressing (Erik Karlsson should be ready for opening night, Radim Simek does not seem likely), and generating chemistry and rhythm (Brodzinski seems to click with Joe Thornton, Mario Ferraro may sneak into the opening lineup with continued strong play).
In a way, these games are more fun that some regular season contests simply because the stakes are so low. So kick back, fire up the stream, and watch children fight each other for jobs. It’s like the Hunger Games, but with lower stakes and better prose.
Here’s the lineup for tonight in Anaheim. My impression is that the guys that were sent down to the Barracuda yesterday will probably return there tomorrow…unless maybe one of them has a monster game? pic.twitter.com/D4EvsGc8QU— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) September 24, 2019
The Sharks are playing some musical chairs, sending batches of players down to their AHL affiliate, the Barracuda, one day, and calling them back up the next. Maybe it’s for salary machinations, maybe is just to show them the other locker room. Notable is the absence of every CHL coach’s favorite defenseman, Ryan Merkley, who underwent concussion protocol earlier this ... week? We’re all very hazy on the details, but hopeful that he recovers and is ready to play for, what, we don’t know that either? Who is this man of mystery?!
Possible Ducks lineup vs. Sharks:— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) September 24, 2019
At this point in the Ducks’ development, it’s hard to tell whether they’re icing a lot of prospects and AHL players, or if this is just what the roster looks like now. There are notable names missing here, though: Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, and Ondrej Kase are all absent, so it seems that Anaheim is still settling in on an opening night lineup. Stephens also notes that he expects John Gibson to man the Ducks’ net for the full game tonight.
Last week, the Ducks obliterated poor Josef Korenar. Tonight, they’ll likely face Aaron Dell for the full 60, a keeper who has fared much better than his Czech counterpart in his limited preseason outings.
Where to watch
Tonight’s game will be televised on the NHL Network nationally, and on PRIME in sunny Southern California. As usual, you’ll be able to stream the audio of the game through the Sharks’ website, or through the Sharks + SAP Center app.