Same Team, New Look
- Updated: October 12, 2015
The San Jose Sharks have started their new season off with two convincing wins over two of their division and interstate rivals, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. After missing the playoffs in the previous season and their veterans aging ever closer to retirement, not many expected the Sharks to be doing as well as they are. So what happened this past summer during the offseason to create such a drastic change?
To start off, the Sharks have changed their coaching staff. Todd McLellan is a very good NHL coach. He came into San Jose back in 2008, but after the Sharks depressing loss to the LA Kings in 2014, the team was never the same. McLellan and the Sharks amicably moved on from one another this past summer (Todd is now in Edmonton) and the Sharks eventually hired Peter DeBoer. With Peter and his whole new coaching staff, the Sharks adopted his system. DoBoer preaches speed and backchecking as well as high pressure to get the puck back. This benefits the Sharks as they have quite a bit of speed with the majority of their players. They also have a plethora of highly skilled forwards who don’t always want to dump and chase the puck when entering the zone. When McLellan was coaching, the Sharks were adamant about sticking to their gameplan which consisted of dumping the puck in to cycle down low, high volume of shots from the point and from off-angles for rebounds. This got old and very stale, leading to the collapse of a very good hockey club. The new system has already paid its dividends with two decisive wins over LA and Anaheim to start off the year. The Sharks played a full 60 minute game where they never took their foot off the gas pedal (a problem in the past, especially last season) and made both SoCal teams look old, slow, and tired. If that Sharks versus LA game were last season, I would have expected the Sharks to blow their 4-1 lead and collapse in the third period. Instead, they consistently held possession, created new scoring chances, and completely frustrated the Kings into taking dumb penalties (hello, Lucic). One enjoyment of this new system for me is to see the individual players creatively making plays. I feel like McLellan’s system stymied creativity in favor of sticking to the dumbed down version of a gameplan. It was too conservative and I think the players were bored with it. This new DeBoer system is sexy and exciting, especially after two great resent results.
The San Jose Sharks also boast some very good depth up and down their entire lineup. I was hesitant having them play Tierney on the fourth line since I believe he is a great third line center. He has very good hockey smarts, knows where he needs to be on the ice with or without the puck. Tierney will be heavily utilized on the penalty kill this season for good reason. However, I originally thought he would be better served playing with the Barracuda as their captain with 20+ minutes of ice time per game instead of the 10-12 minutes of fourth line duty he is getting now. But after these past two games, I think the decision is better for Chris to man that fourth line. His playmaking ability along with his hockey smarts will make that line less of a waste as it has been in the past. And with the immergence of Tomas Hertl being healthy again to take over third line center duties, we may finally see the Sharks have great scoring depth, something only great teams are able to achieve.
As for the defensemen, the Sharks are equally as deep. The new addition, Paul Martin, has been wonderful paired up with Brent Burns thus far. I’m also glad DeBoer is keeping them together along with Vlasic and Braun so they can at least get used to their playing partners. All too often did we see McLellan tinker with the lineup and there not have any stability in the back. Now the Sharks have a great new goalie (Martin Jones), a new coach (Peter DeBeor) with a new system, forward and defense depth, and young rookies (Donskoi) that will make some impacts. What else did they do this summer to improve?
The Sharks organization moved its minor league affiliate from Worcester, Massachusetts to San Jose, California changing their name from the Worcester Sharks to the San Jose Barracuda. This was a tremendous undertaking but one that ultimately benefits the parent club. Instead of hesitating whether or not to send a guy down to the minors, they can do so knowing that it is within the same city and not a cross country flight away. The players themselves now don’t have to drive all of their belongings across the country after being cut during training camp and worry about where they will live. The Sharks upper management can also keep close tabs on players by actually watching them play. The advantages that east coast teams have always enjoyed are now finally being used out in the West.
The 2015/2016 San Jose Sharks team is enjoyable to watch again. So when you get tired of watching the dumpster fire of a football season in Santa Clara, switch on the Sharks and get out to some games; they’re going places this season.