The San Jose Sharks have had a historically bad start offensively.
San Jose has scored just eight goals through eight winless games, only the third team in the expansion era to score eight or fewer goals in eight games to start a season. The 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks had six goals in a 1-5-2 start, while the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres had eight goals in a 1-7-0 beginning.
A lot of their offensive struggles have come from their veteran wingers’ lack of production.
Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, and Alexander Barabanov, all counted on for top-six production, have combined for just one goal and one assist so far this season.
Barabanov, of course, just suffered a broken finger in Tuesday’s loss to the Florida Panthers.
But for Hoffman and Duclair, both consistent 20-goal scorers over their careers, San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn wants to see a greater hunger to score. Meanwhile, Hoffman and Duclair also have their own thoughts about their and their team’s struggles.
“I think at this level, you gotta have the competitive edge to create offense no matter what your skillset is,” Quinn said.
“We haven’t done that as a group, and those guys are part of the group. They want to be more productive offensively? It’s gotta be more consistency with the competitive standpoint, the grit standpoint.”
To make matters worse for the Sharks, along with Barabanov, potential top-six centers Logan Couture and Mikael Granlund are both out with injuries.
Granlund and Couture have played a combined one game this season.
“When you lose two centers like you do Granlund and Couture, in essence, six players are affected, you know, the two wingers that they play with,” Quinn said. “That’s been the tough part for us.”
Granlund is expected to return this Sunday against the Washington Capitals.
Regardless, Quinn wants to see more fortitude from all of his players, including Hoffman and Duclair.
“We’re humans and when you lose as much as we have in this short period of time and you’ve got the injuries — we have three of our top-six forwards out — it gets demoralizing,” Quinn said.
“You have to fight human nature. It’s easy to look for the path of least resistance, but — it may sound like coach talk — the best way out of situations like this is 20 guys night in and night out collectively being competitive.
“It’s amazing when you play with that mentality and 20 guys play like that, what can be accomplished. I’ve always said that no sport like ours can neglect talent the way ours can through hard work and competitiveness, because it’s playing in a such a small area, and it’s hard to do shift after shift.
“Success is hard, but that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Duclair and Hoffman have also had to navigate this while adjusting to life on a totally new team.
They are one of many new players on a San Jose Sharks squad that is still in transition
“It’s easier said than done,” Hoffman said. “I’d like to get a few more shots off. More offense, obviously. But there’s a lot of new faces in here and it takes time to build chemistry. All we can do is work hard as we can and try to get better and better every day.”
Duclair might have had a bigger adjustment coming from a Panthers team fresh off of a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
For the past three seasons, Duclair was often getting rush chances with his speed via plays from elite playmakers like Jonathan Huberdeau in 2021-22 and Aleksander Barkov in 2020-21 and their run to the 2023 Final.
He is still learning how to be the driver of his line and how to create chances for his linemates.
“I think I just need to shoot the puck more, one, and two, just create more for my linemates with my speed,” Duclair said.
Both Hoffman and Duclair aren’t shooting as much as they’re used to. Hoffman has just nine shots and Duclair has only 11 through eight games. This is in sharp contrast to recent years: From 2021 to 2023, Hoffman averaged 2.2 shots per game, while from 2018 to 2023, Duclair averaged 2.3.
Duclair admits to making one pass too many in spots, but mostly, he honed in on the team’s inability to forecheck and win the puck in the OZ, which would put its shooters in better position to shoot.
“We’re going on the forecheck and it’s just too easy for the [other] team to break out,” he said. Maybe some of that competitive edge that Quinn is looking for would help here.
Anyway, all this is connected with the Sharks’ struggles with cycling pucks and puck possession. You don’t forecheck successfully, it’s hard to possess the puck.
“We have to hold onto pucks in the offensive zone,” Duclair added. “That’s the biggest thing we’re talking about is our offensive zone time.”
This is expressed, in part, by the San Jose Sharks’ league-worst 4:33 OZ Possession Time per game, as tracked by SPORTLOGiQ.
Both long-time scorers also emphasized getting back to the basics.
“When you get the puck to the net, you’re going to get those second-chance opportunities,” Duclair said.
“It’s not easy just to score in this league. When things maybe aren’t going your way or maybe as easy as they were at some points, you got to find a way to, like I said, on the power play, get a dirty goal, get to the net,” Hoffman said. “Sometimes, that can be a little snowball effect to take you back to where you want to be.”
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