Sharks need to fill Mar­leau void to make an­other run

Ripon Bulletin - - Sports/dollars & Sense -

SAN JOSE (AP) — It’s been more than eight years since the San Jose Sharks last played a sin­gle game with­out Pa­trick Mar­leau on the ice, much less an en­tire sea­son.

Mar­leau’s de­par­ture from the Sharks to Toronto this off­sea­son is the end of a two-decade era in San Jose. But with most of the same play­ers back that helped San Jose make it to the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal two sea­sons ago, the Sharks be­lieve they still have the pieces in place to make an­other run at a ti­tle.

“Guys have got to step up,” for­ward Lo­gan Cou­ture said. “Whether it’s some­one who had a down year last year who’s a vet­eran or some­one that has come up (from the mi­nors) that’s go­ing to step into the NHL lineup and pro­duce. We need some­one to do that. We have to do it from within. Hope­fully, guys will step up.”

The Sharks took a step back last sea­son after mak­ing it all the way to the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal the pre­vi­ous year be­fore los­ing to Pitts­burgh in six games. A late­sea­son slump fol­lowed by key in­juries to Cou­ture and Joe Thorn­ton helped lead to a six-game loss in the first round to Ed­mon­ton.

Mar­leau, the team’s all­time lead­ing scorer, then took his 27 goals to sign with the Maple Leafs. In­stead of look­ing out­side for a re­place­ment, the Sharks are count­ing on fill­ing that role with a mix of young play­ers from the AHL and vet­er­ans who had down years last sea­son.

“Our foun­da­tion is be­ing able and be­ing very com­fort­able in 2-1, 1-0 games. But you have to score in this league,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don’t think we’re try­ing to get blood from a stone. I think we have scor­ing in here. We got to get it out.”

Here are some things to watch this sea­son: JUMBO’S HEALTH:

While Mar­leau left, Thorn­ton re­turned at age 38 after sign­ing an $8 mil­lion deal. Thorn­ton had seven goals and 43 as­sists last sea­son for his fewest points in an 82-game sea­son since 199899. Thorn­ton missed the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son and the first two play­off games with a left knee in­jury

be­fore re­turn­ing for the fi­nal four games of a first-round loss to Ed­mon­ton. He then un­der­went surgery to re­pair his MCL and ACL after the sea­son but be­lieves he is even stronger this sea­son. POW­ER­LESS PLAY:

For years, San Jose’s suc­cess de­pended heav­ily on a po­tent power play. With the play-mak­ing of Thorn­ton and fin­ish­ing skills of play­ers like Joe Pavel­ski and Mar­leau, op­pos­ing teams of­ten feared tak­ing penal­ties. That changed last year when San Jose ranked 25th in the league at 16.7 per­cent, too of­ten re­ly­ing on Nor­ris Tro­phy win­ner Brent Burns’ big shot from the blue line. The Sharks will need to make some changes with Mar­leau gone and there could be some other tin­ker­ing as well.

“That’s a big part of our of­fense,” DeBoer said. “It’s al­ways been a weapon here. Two years ago it was a weapon. It was top in the league. We didn’t do a lot dif­fer­ently last year from the year be­fore. It didn’t work.” BOUNCE BACK SEA­SONS: The Sharks are count­ing on re­bound years from sev­eral play­ers who strug­gled last sea­son. Tomas Hertl, Joonas Don­skoi and Chris Tier­ney all played ma­jor roles in the 2016 Stan­ley Cup run but didn’t back that up last year. Mikkel Boed­ker was sup­posed to add speed and an­other

scor­ing threat to San Jose’s at­tack but was limited to 10 goals and of­ten had his ice time limited be­cause of in­ef­fec­tive­ness.

TIMO TIME: San Jose is also count­ing on big con­tri­bu­tions from sev­eral un­proven young play­ers, most no­tably for­ward Timo Meier, who had three goals in 34 games as a rookie. Kevin La­banc and Danny O’Re­gan also could pro­vide the kind of of­fense from young play­ers that helped carry Pitts­burgh to the past two cham­pi­onships.

“It’s up to them to re­ally push through and break through,” Pavel­ski said. “It’s not one night or two nights here or there, it’s a con­sis­tency thing. When that starts hap­pen­ing then you’ll see guys take over on our team.”

DOM­I­NANT D: While the Sharks made no ma­jor ad­di­tions this off­sea­son, they did lock up two key pieces by sign­ing goalie Martin Jones to a six-year, $34.5 mil­lion ex­ten­sion and shut-down de­fense­man Marc-Edouard Vla­sic to an eight-year, $56 mil­lion deal. Burns is also un­der con­tract through 2024-25, mean­ing the Sharks are in good shape on the back end for years. The one hole is on the third pair where David Sch­lemko left in the ex­pan­sion draft. Dy­lan DeMelo will likely fill that role although Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed also could push for time.

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