We here at Fear the Fin understand that the next few months are going to be tough for Sharks fans. We feel the pain too. But like all things, there has to be a silver lining, right? So here’s a look at some of the things we can look forward to for the remainder of the season.
Let’s see what the kids can do
This is a lost season, but like most teams in this situation, it’s also the perfect time to see what the young kids can do in NHL situations. We’ve sent a good portion of our NHL-caliber players to greener pastures and a handful of others are out for the season, so here’s their shot.
This season, we’ve seen forwards Jonny Brodzinski, Danil Yurtaykin, Lean Bergmann, Noah Gregor, Joachim Blichfeld, Lukas Radil, Joel Kellman, Dylan Gambrell, Alexander True, and Maxim Letunov. The Sharks also acquired Anthony Greco in the Barclay Goodrow trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
True and Kellman seem to have found spots on the roster and it will be interesting to see what they do with more minutes. If they can take another step in development before training camp next season, that’s a good sign for the Sharks. We may also get the chance to see Jayden Halbgewachs or Jeffrey Viel or Anthony Greco in the coming weeks.
Whether any of the other young forwards, such as Yurtaykin, Bergmann, Blichfeld or Letunov have learned enough in the AHL and can transition that to the NHL is yet to be seen. But at the very least, these next few weeks will give the Sharks’ staff an idea of what we have in terms of player development and what we need to look for in the offseason.
Defensively, it’s less likely that we’ll see some of the younger players. I think we’ve seen all that Jacob Middleton can do and I’m not sure he has a future with the Sharks. Doug Wilson and company do not seem to have much faith in the rest of the young defense prospects because they traded for defenseman Brandon Davidson at the deadline.
At 28-years-old, Davidson appears to be a career seventh defenseman with 169 NHL games under his belt. Dalton Prout may also be an option, though his health is questionable.
Either way, with NHL-tested defensemen signed to the Sharks, it’s not likely we’ll see some of the younger players this season.
The on-ice product
Since the Sharks’ front office decided to let the young players have the run of the place, I’ve enjoyed the on-ice product so much more. I watch True, Gambrell and Gregor out there and I like the passion, energy and aggression that they bring to the game.
At the start of the season, it was difficult to watch players on multi-million dollar contracts simply not show up for a game. It was tough to watch Erik Karlsson miss an easy outlet pass and then lackadaisically skate to the bench. I had a tough time watching Evander Kane miss a tap-in goal in the waning minutes of a third period. At the start of the 2019-2020 season, we were a team built with high-caliber players who didn’t play like it and didn’t seem to care.
These kids care. Watching guys fight for their NHL lives is fun. If a hit needs to be made, they make it. If they make a mistake, they come out on the next shift like a wrecking ball. If they think they can drive to the net, they drive to the net. These kids lack the skill, but they wear their hearts on their sleeves and that’s making for fun hockey.
Guessing what Doug Wilson does next
One of my favorite games to play as a Sharks fan is armchair GM. It’s a world where I imagine I know better than Doug Wilson and I can make all the moves necessary to make the Sharks great. This lost season gives me the chance to start my game a little early.
After all the deadline trades, Wilson spoke to the media about what’s next for the Sharks. There was one part of his press conference that I thought was very telling.
"We made some tough decisions to add some pieces that we think can be great assets for us to make decisions going forward and getting back on track next September." #SJSharks GM Doug Wilson addresses the media after the trade deadline. pic.twitter.com/0aXX1vDDf2— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 24, 2020
At the 3:56 mark of the clip, Wilson says:
In other words, Wilson isn’t ruling out flipping that first-round pick into a top-six forward that can make our team good now. Oh, the opportunities to speculate now! Feel free to take that information and play you’re own game of armchair GM, I’ll wait.
Cherishing a few more months of Joe Thornton hockey
As a Sharks fan who has watched Joe Thornton play for more than a decade, it’s easy to take for granted that we are watching a man make hockey history almost every game. Jumbo is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who still has the ability to make amazing plays.
As of Mar. 1, Thornton has played in 1,631 career games. That’s good enough for 10th on the all-time games played list. If he plays all of the remaining 17 games in the season, he will pass Scott Stevens (9th on the list with 1,635 games played) and Dave Andreychuk (8th on the list with 1,639 games played). If Thornton returns next season, he will start things off by trailing 7th-ranked Chris Chelios by three games and 6th-ranked Mark Recchi by four games. It’s amazing company.
Thornton is currently 14th on the career points list with 1,505. While he likely won’t move up that list this season, each point he scores from here on out will be another small step toward hockey history. Next up on the points list, Paul Coffey who has 1,531 career points.
Same goes for the career assists list. Thornton is 7th all-time with 1,088. Just above him is Coffey with 1,135.
Friends, cherish every play you watch Joe Thornton make because time is running out.
Watching a former Shark raise the Cup
It will be very difficult for me to cheer on the Pittsburgh Penguins in April, May and possibly June, but that’s what I’ll likely be doing. As much as I dislike Sidney Crosby, I love Patrick Marleau. I love him so much that if it means I have to watch Crosby hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, kiss it and then hand it to Marleau, I will tune in.
That’s really my dream scenario for Patty since the Sharks don’t appear to be Stanley Cup bound before he retires. He’s a Shark. He knows he’s a Shark and he will retire a Shark. It’s because of that loyalty that I cannot begrudge him his shot now. Instead, I will celebrate with him.
I’ll also be cheering on Brenden Dillon, Barclay Goodrow and Joe Pavelski as they help their teams battle in the postseason. These were character guys who showed plenty of heart during their time with the Sharks and gave it everything they had night in and night out.
While I’ll miss seeing the Sharks in the playoffs, there’s still something there to cheer for even if it is a little bittersweet.