If the San Jose Sharks felt the loss of veteran Patrick Marleau in their first three preseason games, they sure didn’t show it. They absolutely dominated the Anaheim Ducks in a 5-0 win and their upwards trajectory continued with a 5-2 win over the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Five seems to be a lucky number for the Sharks, as they then won 5-4 in a shootout in their following game against the Arizona Coyotes. Kevin Leblanc and Mikkel Boedker have led the team in scoring during the three preseason games played so far, with a respective 2 and 3 goals scored overall.
Although the team’s preseason success is pretty impressive, it would be shortsighted not to acknowledge the obstacles the Sharks face coming into the 2017-2018 regular season. One of which has been creeping up on them for years, and there is no way to put it gently: the San Jose Sharks are, on average, the oldest team in the NHL. No, not oldest historically. They literally have the oldest players.
Of the players on their current 18-man roster, eight are 30-year-olds or over. While these players have shown no signs of slowing down, the reality is that the Sharks cannot keep the likes of Joe Thornton around for the long-term. If San Jose wants to remain a major contender in both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference as a whole, they have to start looking ahead. If the Sharks play their cards right, we’ll see some younger talent emerge in their own right during this upcoming season. The youngsters on the team need to carve out places for themselves, and they need to do it before the veterans hang their skates up for the final time.
In terms of their second obstacle, one of the most nerve-wracking events of the offseason for Sharks fans was the aforementioned trade of Patrick Marleau to join the likes of 2016-2017 Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Between scoring 27 goals during the regular season and leading the team in goals during their brief playoff run, all signs point to Marleau’s trade having a significant impact on the team’s ability to amass points during the upcoming season.
Despite the trade of Marleau, this season will not see the Sharks completely bereft of offensive power. Earlier this year, San Jose cut a deal with the Vancouver Canucks and acquired Jannick Hansen. While he hasn’t had ample opportunity to showcase his talents on the team yet, he has promise. The right winger scored 22 goals in 67 games in the 2015-2016 season and is expected to play first line alongside Boedker. In his time with the Canucks, Hansen became a three-time winner of the Fred J. Hume Award for the season’s “unsung hero,” which is voted by the fans. Hopefully, he’ll continue to bring his heroics to San Jose this season.
Whether or not the Sharks can overcome their internal obstacles is yet to be seen. However, there is one guarantee: moving forward into the regular season, the Sharks will be facing some stiff competition within the Pacific Division. The reliably dominant Anaheim Ducks have secured themselves a spot in the playoffs for five years running, and based on their past record, the Sharks will most definitely have to fight tougher battles against them in the season. The Edmonton Oilers, on the other hand, have swiftly risen from the ashes of mediocrity in an attempt to reclaim the glory of the Gretzky Era. If the Ducks and Oilers weren’t enough, the expansion draft has hand-crafted a completely new Western Conference competitor in the Vegas Golden Knights. While the Sharks’ win over VGK is promising, we’ll have to wait and see where this blank slate team settles in the division.
It’s too early to gauge whether or not the Sharks and their fans will be able to relive the glory of their 2015-2016 Stanley Cup run again, but — if their preseason record so far is anything to go by — a strong and exciting season lies ahead of them.
Keep an eye on the San Jose Sharks throughout the preseason, and make sure to tune into their home opener at the SAP Center against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, Oct. 4.