Do the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks Team Have a New Face?
Lately, the San Jose Sharks have finally been stringing together more than just three or four wins. In fact, with last night’s win against the Edmonton Oilers they have now won 7 out of 8 games, a highly positive sign compared to their early stretch of the season including their mediocre eight-game road trip in the East Coast. 6 of their 7 wins have come at Home,
So now the question, I suppose, could be… how are they doing it? How did they get from a highly inconsistent start that saw them burst out of the gate with three consecutive wins in a row, featuring back-to-back shutouts by both goalies Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock?
Well, let’s break it down (as best we can) first to try to understand how the Sharks coaching staff and front office are working things.
Fact #1. The San Jose Sharks came into this season trying to redeem themselves from, perhaps, the worst playoff collapse in franchise history against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the L.A. Kings.
Was it an overreaction by General Manager Doug Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan to decide to strip the C off of Joe Thornton? That’s for you all to decide. We clearly know that they were trying to send a message to the entire team. The leadership and mentality has to change. Someone has to step up to their plate, and it’s up to the group and each individual player to decide who that’s going to be. Maybe that’s why there was no Captain assigned this season, as Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, and Vlasic are all wearing A’s.
Fact #2. This is no longer Joe Thornton’s and/or Patrick Marleau’s team.
I mean, really, when you think about it it’s so true. It was evident even before Jumbo Joe was stripped of his Captaincy. Players are looking throughout the line-up for team mates to inspire them to step their game up, notably veteran rookies who’re about to entire their prime like Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
Fact #3. The young guns are stepping up.
Facts 2 and 3 could be tied together. Apart from Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, you’ve also got the newer youth either just recently called up from the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worchester like Chris Tierney (who technically had already made it to NHL level this year), Melker Karlsson, and Matt Tennyson (who scored his first career NHL goal against the Oilers last night). Adding to the rookies pile are Tomas Hertl, Mirco Mueller, Barclay Goodrow, and Matt Nieto. Of course, you could argue that they’ve got to step up their game because of currently injured players like Nieto and veteran Tyler Kennedy but, well, you get the point. They all are stepping their game up.
Since this is a relatively young Sharks team we’re dealing with now, it could have been the reason it took them a while to get the consistency they wanted. No one’s going to use anything as an excuse, but with the tough schedule they started out with along with the confidence level of the rookies it might have taken a while for everyone to start meshing together with the system and the style that the coaches want them to play, especially with the veterans mentoring the rookies. Over time, however, it does seem like this Sharks team has finally found its identity again as a fast, hard working team that plays North/South hockey. The confidence level is starting to pick up and everyone knows they’ve all got a part to play. They’ve all got to lead the way, especially the core players.
Eventually, Thornton and Marleau will no longer be Sharks. Either Pavelski or Couture, or even Vlasic could get the nod for the Captaincy next. For now, C or not, everyone has a part to play and, for the most part, they’re playing it pretty well. The transition from the old core to the new, though, has long been set.
The Sharks’ll be playing the St. Louis Blues this Saturday night to cap off their five-game Home stand, so let’s hope they can add to a pretty impressive run so far.