San Jose Sharks: Players and general manager to blame for firing

San Jose Sharks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

A team in complete disarray, the San Jose Sharks chose to relieve head coach Peter DeBoer of his duties in hopes of salvaging a disappointing start to the 2019-20 season.

Plenty of blame to go around as the San Jose Sharks now sit at a crossroads after Doug Wilson chose to depart with Peter DeBoer. A dismal display on the last road trip saw the Sharks earn a measly one point out of a possible eight.

A trip to the sunshine state of Florida hit a boiling point after lackluster performances against average teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. The Sharks got outscored by a combined score of 12-2, with generating any offense appearing to be a tremendous challenge.

In Nashville, the Sharks put together a decent outing against a stingy Predators defense until the wheels came off at the end of the second period.

The referees slapped Sharks’ forward Evander Kane with 19 total penalty minutes in an already bad officiating job by the four on the ice. Before Kane’s penalties, both teams got heated after stoppages in play with some pushing and shoving.

For Kane, his physical style of play is a high strength of his, but being the current goal-scoring leader on the Sharks, missing extended time does not benefit his teammates. His dilemma causes DeBoer to juggle lines to find forward pairings to generate offense.

At 15-16-2 on the year, San Jose sits currently sixth in the Pacific Division and five points out of a playoff spot. October got off to a rocky start as the Sharks went 4-10-1, immediately raising questions on the offseason moves made by Wilson.

The prized acquisition last season, Erik Karlsson, re-signed with the Sharks, making him the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL. His salary-cap hit meant individual players (Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist) would not be returning to San Jose.

Wilson felt prospects were ready to seize the open roster spots and provide depth. So far, the move has been a complete bust as the third and fourth lines have changed continuously.

The so-called hype on specific prospects have yet to round into form and show they belong in the league. Most players on the San Jose Barracuda are sixth and seventh-round selections who have gotten off to underwhelming beginnings.

Pavelski (Dallas), Donskoi (Colorado), and Nyquist (Columbus) are benefitting from the change of scenery, deciding to keep Karlsson worth the price.

Wilson is content; the signing is worth the price tag of Karlsson despite his recent injuries. Karlsson is beginning to round into form but should already be playing at an elite level.

With the hope of providing a veteran spark to the roster, the Sharks signed Mr. San Jose Shark, Patrick Marleau, who made an immediate impact with two goals upon his return against Chicago. Marleau spent the past two years in Toronto, providing mentorship to the young players on the Maple Leafs (Auston Matthews).

The move did add an experienced forward capable of playing any role, but with two 40-year-olds in Marleau and Joe Thornton, leaning on them on a nightly basis is not the solution.

At times, the two are perhaps the best skaters in games, which questions the desire of the other players on the Sharks in wanting to win games.

November changed the outlook for Team Teal, winning 11 of 13 as the majority of games were at home. Radim Simek made his return to the lineup as the glue to the Sharks’ defensive core allowed Karlsson and Brent Burns to take the defensive brunt off their backs and not make indecisive decisions to cost the team.

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Fortunes did carry into December as another bad stretch (0-4-1) of ugly hockey by the Sharks saw Simek get sidelined after an injury resulted in a procedure to be done on his knee and will miss the next few weeks.

The knee is the same one he injured last season against Winnipeg, which caused him to miss the rest of the campaign.

To lose Simek again is tough for a team trying to remain in the mix for the playoffs, but the recent performances to cost DeBoer his job shows the team is struggling to find the right direction.

DeBoer’s firing primarily falls on the current players in the locker room. The Sharks’ appear to be in shell-shock with Pavelski no longer in teal. Given the talented forwards in Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, and Kane, the top lines are not getting the job done or find the back of the net.

San Jose perhaps boasts the best defensive core with Burns, Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but the three appear to be doing too much on the ice resulting in costly turnovers.

Amongst the three, Vlasic seems to be having the better season in effectively shutting down the top lines of opponents.

Overall, the Sharks let DeBoer down with their selfish play and not stepping up for one another. Instead of playing as a team, the players are doing too much individual play causing too many cute passes with the puck and passing up scoring opportunities as if they are feeling guilty of scoring.

Offensively, the Sharks’ numbers are atrocious, getting outscored at even strength coupled with an uninspiring power play.

Special teams have never been strong under DeBoer as this year’s power play is near the bottom of the league. Players are stagnant is trying to create traffic in front of the net or just getting open to put a shot on net.

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After recently being named the NHL’s third star, Martin Jones is returning to leaky outings between the pipes along with his backup Aaron Dell. The Sharks have played from behind too much this season. As a result, DeBoer is unable to implement the game plan strategy on a nightly basis.

Jones and Dell cannot accept all the blame given the offensive struggles seen by the Sharks. At times, both can make critical stops, but the soft goals given up turn out to be backbreakers for an already inconsistent team.

Finally, full accountability lies on Wilson, providing false hope for the current players in the farm system who are not living up to potential.

Perhaps Karlsson was not needed and emphasizing scoring depth in the offseason was more important. Instead, a fanbase continues to grow restless with the belief a Stanley Cup will never come into fruition.

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DeBoer will likely find another coaching job next season with the pedigree of getting the maximum effort out of any lineup. He is perhaps the most successful coach in Sharks’ history after the team reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 2016.

Along with DeBoer, assistants Steve Spott (forwards/power play), Dave Barr (forwards), and Johan Hedberg (goaltending) were relieved of their duties.

Assistant coach, Bob Boughner, takes over as head coach who previously coached the Florida Panthers the past two seasons. Before coaching the Panthers, Boughner served as an assistant under DeBoer.

Former Sharks’ Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov will join Boughner’s staff as assistants. The two were already working within the organization as development coaches. Roy Sommer also joins as an associate coach who has been the longtime AHL coach for the Sharks’ development team.

The time to wakeup is now for the Sharks as the message did not get across. As a consequence, DeBoer got terminated. A decision must be made by the players to either rally together as one or throw in the towel.

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Hopefully, the choice for change lights a fire, and the San Jose Sharks start playing full throttle.