It will be a much different-looking San Jose Sharks squad this fall, mainly because Erik Karlsson won’t be around anymore.
Expectations are modest, to be kind, with many predicting that the Sharks will finish dead-last in the league. For example, according to this NHL betting guide, Bovada has San Jose with the worst Stanley Cup odds in the league, tied with the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes.
Of course, for some San Jose Sharks fans, that would be good news, as they’re more interested in the team’s 2024 Draft position than a futile chase for the playoffs.
But that’s not acceptable for a proud, older locker room, led by Sharks stalwarts Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and incoming veterans Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, Mike Hoffman, and Jan Rutta.
“I don’t think people are giving us a chance this year. There’s gonna be motivation in this dressing room,” Matt Benning said. “There’s a lot of guys that don’t like what people have to say about us.”
You can’t blame the defenseman for having a chip on his shoulder. The Athletic posed this question of the Sharks recently, “Is this the worst blue line in recent memory?”
It’s not a crazy question, especially sans Karlsson, but Benning wasn’t having it.
“I know you guys like talking about him,” Benning said, “but I think we can turn that page.”
The San Jose Sharks will try to turn the page with reclamation project after project.
That means they added a host of players coming off disappointing seasons: Trade Deadline acquisition Mikael Granlund had just five points in 21 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Filip Zadina had just three goals in an injury-plagued campaign, Anthony Duclair had just two goals coming off an Achilles injury, Mike Hoffman netted just 14 goals, and Mackenzie Blackwood posted his second-straight sub-.900 Save %.
On the other hand, that means they also added a host of players with a track record of success: Granlund posted 64 points just two years ago, Zadina was the sixth-overall pick of the 2018 Draft, Duclair notched 31 goals just two years ago, Hoffman scored at a 30-goal pace from 2014 to 2021, and Blackwood was sixth in the 2019 Calder Trophy voting.
“If you look at our roster, there’s a lot of individuals who are motivated, with a lot to prove,” Couture said.
That could be a recipe for success.
“I know what the outside hockey world thinks of where we’re gonna finish this year. I would caution everybody, because I really feel good about our group,” head coach David Quinn said. “I feel really good about our forward group. I think our D corps can be effective when they play to their strengths, and I think our goaltending will be better.”
The Sharks do have a deeper forward group and Blackwood is a wild card.
“We can put up a really good four lines and I’m really excited about that,” Granlund said. “I have a feeling we might surprise a lot of people.”
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