San Jose’s 2014-15 season ended early as they missed the wild card playoff spots by 11 points. This destroyed a ten-season playoff streak.
During the Sharks’ long offseason, they changed their head coach, traded away their first choice keeper and acquired three great skaters. All of which are proving to be great moves for the franchise.
An inspirational new head coach
The Sharks decided to part ways with long term head coach Todd McLellan following a disastrous season: along with the embarrassing playoff exit in the season before.
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San Jose then turned to Peter DeBoer, who is best known for his remarkable run to the Stanley Cup final, during his first season as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, in 2011-12.
DeBoer isn’t expected to replicate that great feat with the Sharks, but he has got a superior roster to that of the 2011-12 Devils, and his team have started the season very well. By just watching this year’s San Jose games, you can see that the skaters play a lot harder than they did in McLellan’s final season.
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Bye, bye Nemo!
The San Jose Sharks relied upon Antti Niemi - or "Nemo" as he was known - as their first choice goaltender for the past five seasons and he just wasn't good enough. The Finnish keeper couldn’t put in enough consistently good performances to warrant being considered any better then a back-up goalie.
General manager Doug Wilson decided to change that this season. He traded Niemi away to Dallas for mere peanuts, in the form of the 193rd pick in the 2015 draft. Wilson then traded in top prospect goalie Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins, who has been sensational.
Despite being just 25-years-old – with only 34 NHL appearances at the time of the trade – Jones came onto the Sharks scene with a bang. He already has three shutouts and has looked like a solid keeper in the majority of his games. Best of all, he’ll continue to improve as he gets more starts.
Two veterans and Finland’s finest
Defenseman Paul Martin and right winger Joel Ward were picked up from the free agency and both have made a huge impact on the Sharks team.
34-year-old Paul Martin has averaged the Sharks’ third highest time on the ice per game – with 21:38 minutes. Left Wing Lock records that Martin has played on the most featured defensive line alongside all-star Brent Burns.
Joel Ward has been a strong skater on the second line and has earned his place alongside club legend Patrick Marleau. The former Capitals star has scored 21 points during his first 26 games in the teal jersey, and his production will most likely rise now that Logan Couture has returned to the second line – after recovering from a fractured fibula.
In May, the San Jose Sharks' official website reported that they had announced the signing of Joonas Donskoi from Karpat of the Finnish Liiga. The Jari Kurri award-winning forward has floated through the San Jose lines, sometimes starting alongside “Jumbo” Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski on the top line. His speedy skating and keen awareness have helped him to score seven points in his 21 appearances.
Sharks for the playoffs?
The Pacific division has been blown wide open with the early failings of the Anaheim Ducks. After 26 games, the Sharks stand in second and have three games in hand on third place Vancouver.
Below them are the Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The Coyotes started the season well but have cooled down since. As for the Oilers and Flames, they’d have to pull off a near miracle to suddenly become playoff contenders.
The big additions over the offseason have greatly boosted San Jose’s chances of making the offseason. The new found confidence in the team will not only get them to the playoffs but could also take them close to the Stanley Cup – DeBoer has got a nice history of upsetting the odds.