The 2023–24 season has started in the worst possible fashion for the San Jose Sharks. Through 11 games, they had just one point and a record of 0–10–1, the single point coming as an overtime loss in their second game. Only the 1943–44 New York Rangers had more winless games to start a season when they lost their first 15 games. That team went on to finish 6–39–5. The Sharks need help. Here is a look at what has gone wrong, along with a few players who could step in as reinforcements.
A Disastrous Start
Calling the first 11 games of this season a disaster is not an exaggeration. When teams have started poorly, they are often made worse by bad luck or close losses. That’s not the case for this Sharks team. To date, they are dead last in the league in goals scored, with 12, and last in goals against, with 55. They have lost just a single game by one goal. In the other 10, they have lost by an average of four goals. That number is skewed thanks to back-to-back cataclysmic losses on November 2 and 4, losing by a combined 17 goals. However, even the median loss is by three goals.
They are on pace to finish with the worst goal differential in the history of the National Hockey League. They are not favored in any hockey betting lines for the rest of the season. They became the first team since 1965 to surrender ten goals in back-to-back games and had the worst goal differential of any team in history through their first 11 games. Currently, the Sharks are quickly entering the conversation as the worst team in NHL history. The roster is very thin, with their leading scorer from last season (and Sharks legend) Erik Karlsson, playing in Pittsburgh this season and Logan Couture sidelined with an injury.
Where can they improve?
Here are three targets.
1 | NHL Draft Picks
Let’s not sugarcoat it. The Sharks are playing for the 2024 Draft. It would be naive to think they will be bringing veteran players in at the trade deadline this year and not doing what they did with Karlsson and shipping them to other teams.
Couture will surely be one of those potential trade targets, though they may have to retain salary. San Jose has only one retainment slot left; including this season, they’re retaining for two more years on Brent Burns and four more years on Karlsson.
In any trade, they’re likely to be looking for are draft picks.
The Sharks will be the likeliest team to win the NHL Draft lottery. However, it’s not just about that selection, the more picks they can get, the better. They already own the Penguins 2024 first-round draft pick and could likely get another excellent selection for Couture.
Image credit Matthew Fournier via Unsplash
2 | Vladimir Tarasenko, Right Winger, Ottawa Senators, 31 years old
While draft picks are the most valuable thing to the Sharks, their roster is in disarray, so they cannot rely on the draft alone. They need to overhaul their roster completely, and one potential starting point is a player they attempted to grab this past offseason but couldn’t: Vladimir Tarasenko.
The former Blue has been a 30-goal scorer on multiple occasions, and while he is over 30 years old, the Sharks desperately need skaters with goal-scoring experience. San Jose is in a complete rebuild, and that takes time. The process will not happen overnight, making the draft crucial for their future. However, in the meantime, the team has to fill the roster with stopgap players, and Tarasenko is a perfect candidate. They attempted to sign him this offseason, but he instead signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Ottawa. He will be a free agent again at the end of this season, making him a possible target for next season.
Image credit: Klim Musalimov via Unsplash
3 | Macklin Celebrini, Center, Boston University, 17 years old
At the top of the list for San Jose’s rebuild efforts is securing the first-overall pick in next year’s NHL Draft, where 17-year-old Macklin Celebrini sits at the top of the prospect rankings. One player only fixes some of the Sharks’ problems, but the team needs top-end talent to rebuild around.
Celebrini is a gifted center that is the #1 ranked prospect across the board for 2024. Not only that, but Celebrini played on the San Jose Jr. Sharks 14U back in 2019–20. He has been a dominant offensive force at every level, averaging almost a goal per game, including eight goals in eight games this season for Boston University. He is a well-rounded player with an excellent range. While his scoring capabilities likely will be less potent at the NHL level, he will still bring plenty of offense along with elite skating and playmaking skills. Further, he is a tremendous competitor and will embrace his role in San Jose.
Three Players for the Win
This season has not gone how San Jose fans wanted, but new life is on the horizon. The team is stocking up on draft picks and could have a revamped roster come 2024–25. For now, these three options are a few of their best bets for success.
Image credit: Klim Musalimov via Unsplash
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