Evander Kane was the story, but Tomas Hertl is who matters.
And after the San Jose Sharks’ listless 3-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, it’s hard to imagine the impending UFA signing up for eight more years of this.
I understand that there’s been some whiplash if you’ve been on Hertl Watch.
Last Thursday, acting GM Joe Will painted a sunny picture of contract negotiations with Hertl’s camp: “The one thing we have in common is that Tomas loves being a Shark, and we love having Tomas here.”
A couple days later though, Hertl struck a more cautious tone, when asked if he was committed to staying in San Jose: “I’m not like saying anything 100 percent because nothing is ever 100 percent.
“We’ll see what happens in four weeks or the rest of the year. I want to just focus on playing.”
My read? I think Hertl, not that much differently than Joe Thornton two off-seasons ago, really wants to believe in the Sharks organization’s ability to bounce back quickly after missing the playoffs. But does he have enough faith to come back?
Thornton didn’t, ultimately leaving for Toronto and now Florida.
I thought I saw a man in Hertl, not to be overdramatic, but somewhat torn in that media availability. I do believe that he loves San Jose and wants to be “with the Sharks forever,” as he put it. But I also believe that he wants to get paid what he’s worth and compete for a Stanley Cup every year.
Assuming the San Jose Sharks can achieve the former, can they achieve the latter? It won’t be this season, but much sooner than later?
It’s hard to see that after last night’s whitewashing: Their older skaters looked too old and their younger skaters looked too young.
Down 2-0 after 20, the Sharks’ offensive push consisted of getting outshot 14-2 in the second period. They were doubled up for the game 41-20.
“I don’t think us as players did a good enough job creating energy in the building,” Sharks captain Logan Couture admitted, “tough for the fans to get into it when we’re not playing well.”
Couture was referring to a small SAP Center crowd of 11,153 that booed Kane lustily every time the winger touched the puck, but were given no other reason to make noise.
“The game was fairly quiet in that matter,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said about any heightened emotions from his team with Kane’s return.
Frankly, maybe San Jose needed to get more keyed up about their first match-up against their not-so-popular ex-teammate, instead of downplaying the moment.
This Nicolas Meloche hit on Kane was more or less the extent of the “interaction” between the Sharks and Kane.
Meloche rocked Evander Kane's world😬 pic.twitter.com/ewQ0IQQnNk
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) February 15, 2022
Kane finished the night with four shots and one hit, but most importantly, his Oilers came out victorious and moved five points ahead of the Sharks in the race for the last wild card spot.
But that’s neither Hertl nor there: San Jose was probably rusty after a 12-day layoff. Edmonton, on the other hand, has been playing since last Tuesday.
“As the game went on, I think that you could see there wasn’t a lot of sharpness to our game. That’s the worry after being on a break that long,” Boughner offered.
So not to put too much on one game — limp as it was — but I do think this current San Jose Sharks squad has 15 games until the Mar. 21 Trade Deadline to show Hertl that they’re closer to contending than their current 22-21-4 record might indicate.
Let’s call it a 15-round fight to keep Tommy in teal.
If tonight was a preview?
“I think every guy in that room,” Couture said, “knows that it wasn’t good enough.”
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