Todd McLellan may be gone if he does not get more out of some San Jose Sharks players
At 9:00 p.m. PST Saturday, Dec. 15, the lockout will reach exactly three months or 13 weeks, whichever you prefer. In all likelihood, you prefer neither.
The two sides were close enough for player (NHLPA) rep. Donald Fehr to declare they were near a deal. They were also far enough away for that statement to anger owners who subsequently pulled all offers from the table.
But let us assume for a moment that they come to an agreement before Christmas. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said for the season to have integrity, he cannot imagine fewer than the 48 games played following the first of three lockouts in his only collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.
If you wanted integrity, Mr. Bettman, your lockout (see why he deserves the blame at that link) would have been a last rather than first resort. Money would come not from the players fans come to see and contracts already signed, but from three teams Forbes reported made five of every six NHL dollars last season.
Still, if the season starts in early January, it could be extended to the end of April to get as much as 17 weeks to work with. This would prevent the NHL from anything more than a minimally compacted schedule that could be much more detrimental in the physical game of hockey than it was in the NBA.
In a shortened season, the kind of slow starts the San Jose Sharks are known for would be deadly. There are 10 returning players San Jose will need to see more from right away if they are going to have a chance to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup...
Martin Havlat played just 39 games in the 2011-12 regular season. They obviously need to have him on the ice more than that.
Many followers of the San Jose Sharks like to point out that the team's record was just .500 without him (18-18-7) but .679 (25-11-3) with him. But the suggestion that this means his play was essential is inaccurate.
There was a similar disparity with and without Douglas Murray. The reality is that San Jose's play was dictated by three 15-game streaks that collectively brought them 73 of their 96 points. They both finished and started one streak without Havlat.
The Sharks need him to be more consistent when he does play.
He failed to score a point in half of his 44 games (including the playoffs) despite being on a line with Logan Couture, the Sharks only All Star. He was terrible defensively, with six hits, 14 blocked shots and 19 takeaways to 25 giveaways.
The reason Jeremy Roenick hates Patrick Marleau so much is nothing but jealousy. He has said that if he had Patty's talent, he would have been unstoppable.
If only JR would attack him before every game, the Sharks might have their first conference title. The last three times he leveled these accusations, Patty responded with a big game. But the face of the franchise and former captain of the team should not need to be called out to play well.
The rational truth behind JR's rants is that Marleau needs to be willing to go to the tough areas other than the net, and must play more consistently: Patty not only had no points in 38 of his 82 games, but had four slumps of four to seven games that amounted to more than a quarter of the season.
Antti Niemi has had mixed results with the San Jose Sharks. These were detailed in depth for an earlier piece, but here is a different way of looking at it...
At best he is Chris Osgood, who you cannot count on until the conference finals but who may be your best player whenever he is on. At worst, he is Ten Years After, as in both the one-hit wonder band and the duration of time passing since his only career title when NHL teams stop giving him a chance to be more.
Douglas Murray had an off-year for the 2011-12 San Jose Sharks. There are two possible reasons why.
Beginning on the top pair with longtime partner Dan Boyle, injuries took their toll. He missed 22 games and played through those injuries in other games.
Or his slow skating and lack of even minimal offensive skill led to a drop in minutes. He was exposed for being an aging body almost as likely to get in the way of his teammates as opponents.
For someone who will turn 33 this season, Crankshaft actually has low mileage at 479 games including the playoffs. As a physical player, he should benefit from fewer games. If not, he is going to find himself in the press box while one of the Sharks youngsters skates.
Jason Demers had a worse year than Douglas Murray.
At least Crankshaft still did what he was out there to do—hit and block shots. Demers showed little of the skill that made him so vital in the deepest playoff run for everyone but Patrick Marleau on this San Jose Sharks team.
He had 13 points and a minus-eight rating. Of the seven top players on last season's blue line, he was above average in hits per game but dead last in both total blocks and blocks per game.
He will struggle to get on ice because the Sharks need Murray's physicality and because Justin Braun is the best player of the bottom three. If he plays well enough, coach Todd McLellan may dress seven defencemen frequently. If JD can play on the fourth line wing, he could get on the ice every night.
Michal Handzus is a big man who is known as an above average skater that is very good in the faceoff circle. He was signed in the summer of 2011 to bolster the third line and penalty kill for the San Jose Sharks.
He did neither. The Sharks PK was literally one goal away from being worst in the NHL. By the end of the season, Handzus was frequently out of the lineup—he was a healthy scratch in two of the five playoff games—and rarely on the third line when he was dressed.
The statistics tell you why: "Zus" was seventh among San Jose forwards taking more than 167 draws at 50.7 percent, had just 17 points in 67 games and finished minus-6. (It should be noted that he was third in blocked shots and did reasonably well in both hits and giveaway-takeaway ratio)
After the season, it came out he was playing hurt. He performed well in world play and the expectation is he should perform better in 2013.
Last season, T.J. Galiardi had just 15 points in 55 games and only one in 14 with the San Jose Sharks. He was traded to San Jose because he had found his way into Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco's doghouse.
Galiardi has one more year to prove himself. He is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Teams generally will not consider marginal players for bigger roles, leaving him to a career as a journeymen veteran or flash in the pan lucky to sign a one-way contract or ever earn $1 million in a season.
However, if he can recapture the point per two games pace he had in the first 116 games of his career, he could find himself on a scoring line. As the only player left from a trade that sent one of the hottest players in March of 2012 to Denver, without a resurgence from T.J. the trade is one of the worst in Sharks history.
Ryane Clowe is also in the last year of contract. If he plays well, he could face a big payday. If not, the team will look elsewhere rather than count on a forward on the wrong side of 30 who has injury and penalty issues.
By all accounts, last year was just a bad season—only 45 points in 76 games with just 36 blocks and 42 takeaways to 55 giveaways with just 28 assists. That gives him among the worst takeaway-giveaway and giveaway-assist ratios among San Jose Sharks forwards.
He needs to improve his consistency because he was scoreless in 42 games, but he showed great bounce-back with only two scoreless streaks longer than three games. He provides a physical presence and hustle the team needs. But while he can correct the puck-handling problems of last year, his lack of speed is a liability that will linger.
Brent Burns had a slow start to his first campaign with the San Jose Sharks. By the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, he was the best player on the blue line.
San Jose needs him to start faster when hockey gets underway in 2013 for several reasons.
First and foremost, Dan Boyle is 36 years old. It is unlikely he can continue to rank among the league leaders in ice time. Burns may even have to make up for a drop-off in points, though outside of the first nine (scoreless) games he played on his broken foot, Boyle's points per game were better than 2010-11.
Even is Boyle remains elite, Burns also is the future of the Sharks blue line.
Already an All Star in 2010-11, he has a chance to be a dynamic, two-way threat worth every penny of the nearly $6 million he makes annually. Soon, he will have to claim that top spot on the unit to justify the loss of a top-six forward and future star Charlie Coyle.
Tommy Wingels played great last year. He had just nine points in 33 games, but spent most of that time on checking lines after a late start to the season.
His speed and physicality (third most hits by all San Jose Sharks last season) make him a good defender. While pictures may not be fully representative of one's play, the first eight photos available on Getty Images of Wingels showed him in front of his or the other team's net.
San Jose lacks a net-front presence. It has been their undoing in all their playoff losses under general manager Doug Wilson. A young, fast and physical player taking the next step can fill the void if a scoring line forward goes down to injury or is in a slump.