2019-2020 San Jose Sharks Season Preview

Team Teal gears up


Times Photo/Jason Lin

A nighttime view of the Sharks’ practice facility at Solar4America Ice in San Jose, Calif.

Jason Lin, Times Staff

Following a strong run during the 2018-2019 NHL season that saw them reach Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final, the San Jose Sharks are gearing for the start of the 2019-2020 season, with hope of winning the Cup for the first time in the team’s 29-year history.

The off-season saw the departure of Pavelski, who had played the last 13 season with the Sharks, serving as Captain from 2015 to 2019, as well as a few other players. Other player moves include Joonas Donskoi, who went to the Colorado Avalanche, Gustav Nyquist, who went to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Joakim Ryan, who went to the Los Angeles Kings.

While goaltender Martin Jones struggled throughout the season, his save percentage a streaky .896, but was able to perform at crucial moments to keep the Sharks in the fight, such as 58 saves in Game 6 for a 2-1 win in the Vegas series. Aaron Dell is also retained for this season, despite a league low .886 save percentage.

“Martin Jones is an excellent goalie, I don’t think he is elite yet, but next season I think he has a chance to be. The Sharks have a lot of confidence in Martin Jones and they know how good he can be,” Sharks TV play-by-play commentator Randy Hahn said.

A solid defensive presence is key to alleviating some of that pressure on the goalies, and with a healthy Erik Karlsson lining up alongside the like of Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and a possibly healthy Radim Simek as well, then some of the gaps that plagued them last year may yet be patched.

“With a guy like Marc-Edouard Vlasic, I think the goal of the Sharks is to pair him with Karlsson next season,” Hahn said to Blades of Teal. “[Vlasic] being a tremendous defensive defenseman in the NHL and Karlsson being a tremendous offensive defender, and the second wave of offense coming from Brent Burns.”

The vacancy for captaincy was filled by Logan Couture, a decision that was announced on Thursday, Sept. 12.

The 30-year old from Guelph, Ontario, Canada, has been with the Sharks since 2009, and scored a total of 70 points in 81 games last season, with 27 goals and 43 assists. He also scored 20 points in 20 playoff games, with 14 goals and 6 assists, which put him on top of the leaderboard in goals scored, and 3rd on the points scorers leaderboard for the postseason, despite the Sharks not making the Stanley Cup Finals.

Alternate captains for the 2019-2020 season are Joe Thornton, Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, and Burns. This is the first year wearing the “A” in teal for Karlsson and Hertl, Thornton and Burns continuing their leadership roles they held last year.

“We have a great blend of talent and experience amongst these four players who will support Logan alternate captains,” head coach Peter DeBoer said in a team press conference on the day of Couture’s captaincy announcement.

“Two of these players are previous captains themselves and we feel this group is a reflection of our team’s identity and their leadership will be counted on both on the ice in the community,” DeBoer said.

Pavelski’s departure also shoulders other players with added responsibility, with left winger Timo Meier taking a more prominent role on the penalty kill during the preseason, and right winger Kevin Labanc possibly filling a spot on one of the top two forward lines.

A veteran defenseman and two-time Norris Trophy recipient, Karlsson was re-signed for eight years on June 17, 2019. The 29-year old Swede, who despite suffering a groin injury in early 2019, scored 16 points in 19 games during the Sharks’ post-season run.

Another notable contract renewal was that of Thornton, who has been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs 13 times in his 14 years as a Shark, and is one of only 13 players in the league’s history with over 1,000 assists.

The 40-year old Canadian, nicknamed “Jumbo Joe” or simply “Jumbo” for not only his size, as he stands at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, but also for Jumbo the elephant, who was killed in 1885 in his hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario. Thornton put up 51 points in 73 games during the regular season, and another 10 points in 19 games during the post-season.

The Sharks also re-signed several other key players, including restricted free agent Meier to a four-year contract on July 1 and Labanc to a one-year contract on July 8. Meier put up 66 points last season (30 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games, and Labanc had 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) in 82 games.

Meier, a native of Herisau, Switzerland, scored 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games last year. Labanc, who hails from Staten Island, N.Y., scored 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) in 82 games. Like Meier, Labanc has been on an upward trend each year in performance and points scored since their first years as Sharks, and neither show signs of slowing down.

Other contenders for roster spots include several new faces, some to the league, some just to the team. They include Dylan Gambrell (No. 60 pick, 2016 NHL Draft), Ryan Merkley (No. 21 pick, 2019 NHL Draft), and Mario Ferraro (No. 49 pick, 2017 NHL Draft).

Despite Pavelski’s departure, the majority of the Sharks’ core players have stayed on, which bodes well for the team as they get set for another 82-game season.

The season starts on Oct. 2, 2019, with the Sharks facing off against the Vegas Golden Knights at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada.