San Jose Sharks: Opportunity is Now as Season Begins

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks in action during their preseason game against the Calgary Flames at SAP Center on September 27, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks in action during their preseason game against the Calgary Flames at SAP Center on September 27, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

After a blockbuster trade to begin training camp, new life was injected into the San Jose Sharks as the 2018-19 season is about to get underway.

As camp drew near, the San Jose Sharks were perhaps missing some bite to their roster. After missing out on the free agent John Tavares, the trades to open the cap space left a few voids to a team that was eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second-round last season.

Doug Wilson deserves credit for pulling out the impossible in his tenure as the Sharks’ general manager. The first big shockwave was acquiring Joe Thornton back in 2005 when the Sharks’ were suffering a 10-game losing streak. Thornton made an immediate impact which helped the Sharks reach the playoffs only to be knocked out by Edmonton.

Wilson is never afraid to take risks in getting difference-makers to keep San Jose competitive throughout his reign. With the additions to the roster, the team appears destined to make a deep run in the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks /

San Jose Sharks

But the common theme that has plagued the Sharks is decent regular seasons capped by underachieving in the playoffs. Two years removed from their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks have yet to clear the hurdle in making a legitimate case to be back.

Enter Erik Karlsson, the two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensemen, sparking excitement in the Sharks and the fanbase just before the start of the season. Wilson once again shocked the NHL-landscape and made a statement that the Sharks are in win-now mode.

Defense wins championships, and addition of Karlsson makes the Sharks’ the best defensive core currently in the NHL. Nashville boasts a strong defensive group, but having two of the highest scoring defensemen in Karlsson and Brent Burns, San Jose will be tough.

Karlsson will be paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, one of the best shut-down defensemen in the league playing big minutes to break up plays from the opponent’s top lines. Do not expect Vlasic just to play defense as his offensive numbers surged last season after being challenged by coach Peter DeBoer. After a career season in points, Vlasic hopes to be in on the scoring with the help of Karlsson.

Justin Braun has a new partner in Brenden Dillon after Karlsson’s trade. Dillon brings grit and physicality that will allow Braun to jump in on plays as his game developed throughout last season.

Burns and Joakim Ryan will be the second defensive unit. Ryan sparked immediate chemistry with Burns after his call-up when former Shark Paul Martin went down with an injury. For Burns, he struggled to find his game as teams focused on shutting down him from putting pucks on net. Expect Burns’ numbers to increase as he will have some friendly competition with Karlsson.

San Jose opted to go with eight defensemen and 13 forwards for the opening night roster. Radim Simek and Tim Heed are the final two players on defense. Waivers would have been required for the two in order to be sent down to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL. The Sharks’ organizational depth at the defensive position is strong, but losing the two on waivers would leave the franchise thin.

The two are not expected to get much playing time unless an injury occurs to the top-six pairings. Each brings a different element to their games. Heed can provide offense while Simek is physical and can shut down plays from developing.

A bit of surprise came from the forward department, as two unknowns will get an opportunity to stay on the Sharks after impressive training camps. Antti Suomela and Rourke Chartier took advantage with solid preseasons and hope to contribute this season.

Suomela played last season in the Finnish League and chose to sign with the Sharks after his campaign ended. He benefited from Joonas Donskoi and will be on the third line with him alongside Evander Kane.

Chartier is a feel-good story as he was an unknown coming into camp. Health is one area of concern for the young player, as concussions have forced him to miss significant time from the ice. When healthy, Chartier has been one of the more dominant players for the Barracuda, and made a strong showing during the preseason to earn the right to be the Sharks.

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If healthy, Chartier has the potential to be a mainstay with the Sharks.

Eyes will be on the productivity of Thornton after coming off another significant knee injury which required surgery. Thornton has claimed he is at full strength after having plenty of time to recover. Last season, he was not fully healthy to start the year and did not begin to show improvement until December before going down.

Along with Thornton, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl must produce right away. Meier saw his productivity increase after Thornton went out for the season. He must use his size to get to the net and generate scoring opportunities.

Hertl finally played a full season after injuries in his young career stalled him from reaching his potential. A mark of 30-plus goals is achievable for Hertl, and he should get plenty of chances to cash in.

Wilson made an inquiry on Karlsson before capturing Kane from Buffalo at the trade deadline. Kane signed an extension shortly after the season and should have a breakout year. Any notions from his past incidents should be of no concern as Kane is motivated to play for a contender and find the net consistently.

San Jose’s power play should get a boost in what could be deadly this season with Burns and Karlsson likely to be on the first unit. A teaser came in the final preseason game against Vegas with Karlsson finishing off the play with a goal. Hope is the Sharks do not get too cute with the puck and allow shorthanded goals.

Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are the goaltenders. Jones is the undisputed starter and will look to start this season off on a better foot. He dealt with an injury which kept him from performing and missed a few games. He expects to carry the load, but Dell will undoubtedly get time as he is one of the better backup NHL goaltenders the past few years.

With the addition of Karlsson, expectations are high for the Sharks. The Pacific Division is an open race with Vegas looking to have a repeat performance. San Jose has zero excuses to not make the playoffs this season, which could prove disastrous in efforts to lock up Karlsson long-term.

Next. Erik Karlsson Makes San Jose Sharks Contenders. dark

Hockey is back, and the Sharks are ready to embark on an 82-game slate with a potential to go the distance. The pieces look to be in the place, and just maybe the Sharks can capture the Stanley Cup.