Vancouver Canucks Division Preview: San Jose Sharks

Jun 12, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks players shake hands after game six of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks players shake hands after game six of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks had a better start into the 2015-16 season than the San Jose Sharks. That was before the Sharks went on to play in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The San Jose Sharks did what the Vancouver Canucks are hoping to do: when they were about to fall into mediocrity, they caught themselves and became a top team in the NHL. They did all that without any major moves or a full-on rebuild. It just kind of happened.

San Jose missed the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, when the Canucks surprisingly made it but lost to the Calgary Flames in round one. That trend seemed to continue in 2015, until the Canucks suddenly collapsed while the Sharks not only snuck into the playoffs, but went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, but it was an impressive run.

With that, the Sharks suddenly became a contender again, and their Stanley Cup window is wide open. But can they repeat last season’s success?

Projected Lineup


Tomas Hertl — Joe Thornton — Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau — Logan Couture — Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi — Chris Tierney — Joel Ward
Melker Karlsson — Tommy Wingels — Matt Nieto
Nikolay Goldobin, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier

Following the 2015-16 season, Joe Thornton was stripped of the captaincy. His production had dropped from 76 points to 65 — and at age 36, Sharks brass didn’t expect him to improve anymore. There were trade rumors about Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but the Sharks went for a rather small change instead, keeping their core intact. To everyone’s surprise, Thornton ranked second in the league in assists, at 63, and recorded 82 points in 82 games.

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So, with a 37-year-old Thornton, who still plays like an elite first-line center, as well as Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, the Sharks still have a very strong offensive core. Over the past few seasons, they also added promising youngsters in Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney, Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson. Plus, of course, prospects like Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier hoping to make the jump soon.

After being scared of missing the playoffs last season, the Sharks are now back to having one of the best rosters in the league. They did not lose many high-profile players but added Mikkel Boedker in free agency and might have gotten even better.


Paul Martin — Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon — David Schlemko
Mirco Mueller, Dylan DeMelo

Brent Burns led all NHL defensemen with 27 goals and ranked 11th in league scoring with 75 points. Along with defensive counterpart Paul Martin, he builds the top pairing of an extremely strong D-core. Many NHL clubs struggle to find a right-handed D-man for their top pairing and many more struggle to get offense from the blue line at all. Burns gives the Sharks both, and he’s one of the best in the world.

On the second pairing, San Jose has another Canadian world cup participant, who also deserves to be labelled elite, and a partner he has perfect chemistry with. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun could easily be the top pairing on a team like the Vancouver Canucks or the Edmonton Oilers.

Behind the top four, the Sharks have four players fighting for bottom-pairing time. Brenden Dillon probably has a spot reserved, but Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo are hoping to steal time from free-agent addition David Schlemko. The latter adds speed to the lineup, but that is something the rookies can provide as well.


Martin Jones
Aaron Dell
Troy Grosenick

San Jose’s offense and defense are without a doubt elite. The goaltending group, however, might need some improvement.

The Sharks took a gamble when they traded a first-round pick and a prospect to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Martin Jones. Up to that point, Jones had appeared in just 36 NHL games over two seasons, but seemed destined for a bigger role. In his first season with the Sharks, he posted a .918 save percentage over 65 regular-season games and improved to .923 in the playoffs.

For the backup role, it seems like the Sharks are relying on AHL starter Aaron Dell, with Troy Grosenick moving up to the starting role for the San Jose Barracuda. If Dell isn’t ready, the Sharks could run into problems.

Key Players

1. Joe Thornton

Where is he headed? Thornton was on the decline when he suddenly recovered his elite playmaker shape. Can he repeat that in 2016-17 or will his age finally get to him?

2. Brent Burns

A Norris Trophy finalist, Burns is most certainly a key player for the Sharks. He is the kind of defenseman every NHL team wants and needs, but almost no one has.

3. The Backup

As mentioned above, the backup position carries the only question mark in San Jose’s roster. Dell is completely unproven and might not be up for the task. If he is, all is well. But if he isn’t the Sharks can only hope Jones stays healthy for the majority of the 82 games. A free-agent addition makes sense, but there are little options left.


The San Jose Sharks have a roster that is absolutely elite. They not only have several elite players, but their group as a whole is outstanding. A second line of Marleau, Couture and Boedker on offense and Vlasic and Brown on D could easily be the top line for some teams. That’s the kind of scoring depth a top team needs.

Next: Pacific Division Preview - Los Angeles Kings

After their outstanding showing in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks are the favourites to win the Pacific Division title. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will do their best to beat them, but it will be extremely tough this season. San Jose could be the best team in the Western Conference.

As always, surprises can happen. The Sharks could fail to make the playoffs and the Canucks could finish in the top three of the division. But I wouldn’t bet on it.