What a wild offseason it has been for the San Jose Sharks. After being ousted in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights, critics of the Sharks were asking the same questions they ask every year. Was this the end of the Sharks’ cup window? Is it finally time for a rebuild? As the offseason progressed, Doug Wilson has made it clear that the answer is a resounding no.
It began at draft day, with one of the most bizarre trade sequences in recent memory. The Senators traded controversial winger Mike Hoffman to San Jose for Mikkel Boedker, prospect Julius Bergman and a 6th rounder. Doug Wilson then immediately shipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers for a 4th, 5th and a 2019 2nd round pick. Pierre Dorian and the Senators could not be happy with the development, since they did not want Hoffman playing in the east. Normally this would close the door to future trade negotiations.
Luckily for San Jose, Ottawa isn’t exactly normal. The Sharks would shock the hockey world in the preseason, acquiring Norris winning defenseman, Erik Karlsson in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, a first rounder pick and a second round pick. This trade turns the Sharks’ defensive core from alright to top tier. With this trade, Doug Wilson made it clear that he intends for the Sharks to make another push for the Stanley Cup.
In the last preseason game against Las Vegas, we got a preview of the lines that head coach Peter Deboer will be putting on the ice. The defensive pairings were Joakim Ryan and Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Erik Karlsson, and Brendan Dillon and Justin Braun. Of course, the most lethal pairing will probably be Vlasic and Karlsson. When you have arguably the best lockdown defender in Vlasic, and pair him with arguably the best overall defenseman in the league in Karlsson, that makes the best pair in the NHL. Chemistry will play a role, but if they click immediately, the rest of the league should be terrified.
The Sharks do have an issue on the other end; a lack of center depth. The Sharks’ four centers against the Knights were Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Antii Suomela, and Dylan Gambrell. Thornton and Couture are proven as top two centers, but Gambrell has minimal NHL experience and Suomela was just signed this offseason. With Jumbo Joe’s recent injury history, the Sharks’ lack of center depth should be at least a little concerning. The good news is that the Sharks have wingers who can switch over to center if the situation gets dire, namely Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl.
The Sharks have set themselves up to be one of the favorites to make a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. But if they make it, it won’t be an easy road. In the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights remain a threat after making it to the Finals in their inaugural season. The Oilers are also a threat if they play up to their potential, which they haven’t done since 2006. If the Sharks make it through that onslaught, they would probably meet either the Jets or Predators in the conference finals, and the Predators may have as good of a defense with better center depth as well. They’d be the biggest threat to a Sharks’ trip to the Finals.
The Sharks will open up tomorrow at home against the Anaheim Ducks, before heading to LA on Friday, then head to New York to face the Islanders on Monday.