Writer’s note: While the rest of Pucknology gears up for the World Cup of Hockey, I take a quick look at the San Jose Sharks’ upcoming 2016-17 season as they once again look to go deep into the postseason, this time with hopefully the result they’d been looking for.
The San Jose Sharks almost did it last season. They beat the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues and ultimately — for the first time ever — made it the Stanley Cup Final. However, while that was all terrific, they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, just short of the ultimate prize.
The previous acquisitions of Joel Ward, Paul Martin, Nick Spaling, Roman Polak (in a way), Dainius Zubrus, James Reimer, and Martin Jones paid off, but Doug Wilson knew his team needed to be faster after facing a red-hot, speedy Penguins team that was also deep on all four lines. Four out of those seven were let go to free agency, while Wilson went out to sign Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko, both solid moves.
Boedker, who was originally drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2008 Entry Draft, spent 8 seasons with the ‘Yotes before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche at the trade deadline last season. He’s scored a career total of 84 goals and 225 points in 463 games. He tied a career-high with 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) last season. He should be an excellent fit in a top-six role, especially with his speed.
Schlemko spent last season with the New Jersey Devils, with 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 67 games. Assuming he’s going to be paired with Brendan Dillon on that third pairing, he’s definitely an upgrade over Roman Polak as a good mobile puck mover.
I think this is definitely a confident group. They want to be back in the postseason. They want to be back in the Stanley Cup Final before both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are gone from playing hockey. This is an experienced group that just got faster and deeper up front.
Now, winning at home is something that I’m sure they’ll address with emphasis. As overplayed as the whole “home ice advantage” theme is, if you can’t win at home, then you need fix whatever issues are plaguing your play on home ice. Otherwise, we saw what Pittsburgh did to San Jose in Final. I mean, obviously, they were the better team in just about every aspect of the game, but more importantly they took those games at SAP Center that the Sharks needed to win, except Game 4, as San Jose won on Joonas Donskoi‘s OT game winner. But this team needs to get back to being dominant in their own barn, and with the confidence that they have coming out of the Final, there’s no reason they should slip in that department. They’ve got all the offense they need to be a deep four-line team, especially with new up-and-comers like Timo Meier who are expected to make the line-up on Opening Night. They’ve got a good enough defense and a new franchise goalie in Martin Jones.
This team to me looks set. As I’ve always said before, it’s about the execution. Can they follow through on the game plan with W’s across the calendar? It’s hard to be consistent in this League, but if they can pick up steam particularly at the beginning and especially at the end of the season, who knows what could happen? Hopefully positive things in the postseason. So it’s critical that they execute and win at home, and I think they definitely have it in them to do it.