NHL Preview 2015-16: Three questions facing the San Jose Sharks
As part of the SB Nation NHL preview we're unveiling across the network today, here are three questions facing the Sharks heading into the 2015-16 season.
This offseason was undoubtedly better than the one we suffered through a season ago, but there are still some question marks revolving around the Sharks as they try to leap back into the playoffs. We do our best at answering a few of the big questions facing the Sharks as they try to reclaim a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
1. How will Martin Jones adjust to being a starting goaltender
One of the most important additions to the Sharks roster this offseason was goaltender Martin Jones. He'll be coming in mostly untested as a starter, having started in only 34 games for the Kings over the last two seasons. The good news, of course, is that he was very good in his limited NHL experience, with a career save percentage of .926.
The promising news doesn't stop there: in 158 AHL games Jones has a save percentage of .921. The last Kings' backup goaltender to be traded, Jonathan Bernier, has been successful in his role as a starter for the Toronto Maple Leafs (sv% of .918 with Toronto), despite the poor quality of the defense in front of him.
Jones and Bernier were both around age 25 when they were traded, both have very good AHL save percentages (Bernier's is slightly better at .927) and both had no chance of being handed Jonathan Quick's reigns. With Alex Stalock unlikely to be anything more than a quality backup, how Jones handles his new role will be vital for the Sharks' push for the playoffs.
2. How will DeBoer's coaching strategies affect the way the Sharks play
The Sharks will be hitting the ice under a new head coach for the first time in seven years, so changes are certain to be seen. That being said, Peter DeBoer said "not everything here is broken," suggesting the changes may not be wholesale.
The Sharks power play was strong last year with the penalty kill standing as one of their biggest weaknesses. Still, early returns (based on training camp play) suggests the power play style has changed slightly. It appears the impetus is on shot volume rather than intricate passing to set up a golden opportunity.
DeBoer's fingerprints will likely be most evident in the way he handles play at even strength, with more special attention being paid to the forecheck and to defensive zone coverage.
A comparison to his time with the Devils may be flawed, as it's difficult to parse out what was a DeBoer trait and what belonged to (former) general manager Lou Lamoriello.
3. How much will Thornton and Marleau decline and can the Sharks make the playoffs in spite of it
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been two of the best (if not the best) players on the Sharks for as long as they have been on the roster. That's not changing this year, or at least we hope it isn't. With both players turning 36 this year, the inevitability of decline is inching ever closer, and the Sharks may not be prepared if it hits them hard this season.
Thornton and Marleau had 65 and 57 points last season, respectively, in what was a down year for Marleau. If he can rebound and Thornton can keep racking up the assists while playing with Joe Pavelski, the Sharks should be just fine.
San Jose can weather slight declines from the franchise pair, and realistically they'll probably have to. But a serious decline could spell doom for the Sharks playoff hopes, despite the fresh talent Doug Wilson has brought to San Jose.