The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Big Picture
Small and Big Picture
Welcome to Teal Town USA’s, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This will be a semi-regular piece that will look at the past week(s), in not only “Sharks Hockey” but potentially just hockey in general. I’m an adult and I do what I want. With all that being said let’s get started. As this is our maiden voyage of this article, I’m going to focus this piece on the Shark’s current road trip that concludes tonight in Boston and it’s big-picture implications.
With the Sharks current 4-7-1 record and the play on the ice reflecting that finding the good is difficult. There has been one consistent bright spot this season though and it has been the play of rookie defenceman Mario Ferraro. While his stat line isn’t going to light the world on fire (1 A, -4, 10 PIM), he has averaged roughly 14 minutes of ice time on the current road trip. No small feat under a coach who has a reputation for favoring his veterans. Ferraro’s game has been far from perfect and yet he continues to earn Peter DeBoer’s trust.
With Radim Simek’s return only a matter of time. Ferraro’s play so far should give Doug Wilson some flexibility this summer when deciding how to deal with the pending free agency of Brenden Dillon. It will be interesting to see if she Sharks explore trade options to keep Dillon in the fold or let him walk as a free agent. This is something the Sharks would not have the luxury of if not for the play of Ferraro.
While finding the good was difficult, trying to decide what was bad and downright ugly was harder. The Sharks have a lot of problems. Some of these are likely fixable through the improvement of play while others are foundational cracks with no quick solutions. The play of some individuals leaves something to be desired. Logan Couture currently has scored only one goal although he does have nine assists. Timo Meier has struggled to factor into the offense altogether with both only two goals, and two assists so far. To both their credit they will be the first to tell you that they need to be better.
When you look at the blue line especially where the money has been spent, the Sharks would probably like more bang for their buck. Fairly or not Erik Karlsson was the last piece added to the puzzle. He is facing a lot of heat from around the media and the fan base. (another example below) Karlsson is going to continue to be a divisive figure because of the depth that was sacrificed to keep him in teal. This was compounded by youth struggling to stand out in training camp. While I don’t think we have seen the best of Erik Karlsson yet I can understand the palpable frustration of the fan base. As may have noticed your best players not being your best players has been a trend so far. We have not seen the best of Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic either.
Also Bad: Goaltending
The Sharks goaltending woes from last year have also continued. The tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell sit 44th and 45th for save percentage respectively. Sure the play in front of them has not been great and we are only 12 games into the season. Still, this continues a trend from both goalies that we watched last season. The fact that the Sharks entered this season with the same guys is some questionable management at best. Again fairly or unfairly whenever a team need isn’t addressed the fan base is going to look at Karlsson’s contract like a bear attracted to honey. Is that fair? I leave that for you to decide.
While we have focused on a lot of individuals so far it is a team game. As a team is where the Sharks play should be the most concerning. The Sharks special teams probably should have been mentioned in the good. The Sharks have performed well on both the power play (11th, 23.8%) and penalty kill (1st. 93.2%). Their play 5 on 5, however, has been abysmal. The Sharks have, in some games, looked like a group of individuals all wearing the same sweater. The players themselves have talked about not having everyone pulling on the same rope during play. Some have gone as far as to accuse others of taking shortcuts.
Regardless of what you think about Peter DeBoer as a coach, his system has always revolved around a four-line attack. The Sharks so far have struggled to find consistency from its top lines, let alone its entire forward complement. DeBoer continues to mix up the lines frantically looking for a spark that he can’t seem to find. The question now is starting to become is there even a spark to be found? Is this simply a case of the Sharks not having the horses to consistently compete.
The Big Picture
The reality for the Sharks is that this was never intended to be a retool season for the team. The Sharks have far too little cap space, movable assets and draft picks to rebuild on the fly. This was an all-in season. While it’s only been 12 games, there are no signs of this getting better before it’s 24 games or 48 games. If this isn’t a playoff team, one has to ask the question what is it? If this play continues, how long will it be before Doug Wilson’s hand is forced to make a decision on Peter DeBoer? How long before the spotlight ends up on Wilson himself?
Sure, this all seems a bit hysterical for this point in the season. Time will continue to move forward though and if this team continues to play below the expectations set forth by the organization itself. A lost season will be a tough sell for this fanbase. It’s something few will want to discuss right now, but if something does not change drastically soon, it is going to be a conversation more and more people start having until the sound is deafening.