San Jose Sharks: Erik Karlsson finally living up to the hype

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

As the San Jose Sharks hit the midway point of the 2018-19 NHL season, production is finally coming consistently from Erik Karlsson.

To the relief of the San Jose Sharks, the adjustment period for Erik Karlsson appears to be over. After settling into new surroundings and teammates, Karlsson is helping everyone remember why Doug Wilson acquired the defenseman in the offseason.

Not often do players such as Karlsson become available through trade or free agency. The Sharks made an effort to land John Tavares over the summer, but he opted to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs after beginning his career with the New York Islanders.

The Ottawa Senators began the process of rebuilding last year with uncertainties surrounding the organization. A decision was made in which Karlsson did not fit into the Senators’ long-term plans, prompting Wilson to reach out and work out a deal.

San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks /

San Jose Sharks

Expectations went sky high after the Sharks made the blockbuster deal to land the offensive-minded defenseman. With Brent Burns already on the roster, along with Karlsson, the Sharks boasted one of the top defensive cores in the NHL.

But the plan never got moving in a positive direction as Karlsson often looked lost on the ice. The adjustment period was evident in how Karlsson played, never looking comfortable with his passing or confident in handling the puck.

His worst outing came on the road against the Nashville Predators as a few miscues put the Sharks in a hole entering the final frame. Karlsson finished with plus/minus -3 for the contest but set up Burns on a power play goal to lift the Sharks over the Predators.

Perhaps the hype got overblown as the Sharks, overall, are far from showing the full potential of being Stanley Cup contenders. With the adversity of moving to the Bay Area and finding chemistry among his new team, Karlsson did not appear to be making the much-anticipated impact as initially expected upon his arrival.

In his defense, his teammates did no favors to help him settle in quickly. A majority of up-ice passes by Karlsson would go off the sticks of Sharks’ players, stalling any offensive momentum to attack. No matter who is on the ice, the forwards must be aware of Karlsson looking to pass into the offensive zone, an area San Jose is still trying to figure out.

As of now, Karlsson is rounding into form, posting 33 points (three goals, 30 assists) through 40 games. He is on a current 11-game point streak, and his production is coming at a crucial time with the Calgary Flames and Las Vegas Golden Knights also jockeying for the top three spots in the Pacific Division.

With his current pace, he has now jumped into the discussion of being a sleeper pick for the Norris Trophy as NHL’s best defenseman. Both Karlsson and Burns have won the honor in season’s past.

Also, he earned a place in the upcoming NHL All-Star game being held in San Jose later this month. He will be joined by Burns and Joe Pavelski to represent the Sharks, the only club sending three players for the festivities.

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Free agency is a possible option after the season for Karlsson. With that said, the Sharks are the only team who can offer him an eight-year deal. As Karlsson begins to look more comfortable in teal, expect an extension to come after the trade deadline.

For now, Karlsson must continue getting on the scoresheet as the blue line got banged up in recent games. Radim Simek suffered a concussion after a questionable hit by a Calgary player late in the game.

Of course, the NHL Player Safety department chose to look the other way on the matter. After handing Karlsson a two-game suspension for his hit on the Los Angeles Kings’ Austin Wagner, one has to wonder if such a department is doing their job. The explanation given on Karlsson’s suspension is still a head-scratcher.

Simek is sidelined for an extended period, and the statuses of Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are also up in the air. Both players left the game against the Colorado Rockies, leaving the Sharks with only four defensemen on the bench. The Sharks barely squeaked by, winning 5-4 after leading by four goals.

A critical stretch awaits the Sharks with a homestand, beginning with the league-best Tampa Bay Lightening. Los Angeles and the Edmonton Oilers follow before traveling to Vegas. The Sharks will hope for a better outcome against the Golden Knights after an embarrassing 6-0 defeat in Sin City the first time.

Next. San Jose Sharks still flashing contender potential. dark

Karlsson is coming into form at a crucial time for the Sharks. San Jose does not necessarily need to win the division; the importance is to keep winning and remain in the three guaranteed spots for the postseason.