Doug Wilson made his intentions clear after last season of staying competitive after the San Jose Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Areas of improvement were highlighted after falling short against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a versatile defenseman and backup goaltender the likely targets, Wilson was confident that San Jose Barracuda prospects were ready to compete for roster spots.
To a surprise, the addition of Mikkel Boedker changed course in the available spots for the opening night. He did not seem to be a player the Sharks had on their radar even before free agency opened. Apparently, San Jose’s success played a role in Boedker wanting to play for the Sharks.
Boedker was already familiar with the style of Sharks coach Peter DeBoer when both were with the Kitchener Rangers. Perhaps familiarity played a factor in Boedker being able to utilize all his capabilities. Whatever the ultimate deciding factor was for Boedker, Sharks management was thrilled to have him in teal.
To be clear, Boedker left terms and money on the table from other teams interested in his services. Drafted eighth overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, Boedker quickly developed into a scoring threat. He had a career year during the 2013-14 season with 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points, and matched the mark in 2015-16.
Last season, the Coyotes sent Boedker to the Colorado Avalanche with signs indicating he would not re-sign with the team. The Avalanche hoped Boedker would provide enough offense during a playoff push, but to no avail.
Utilize Forward on Top Line
With an opportunity to play with an elite passer in Joe Thornton, Boedker saw an opportunity to exceed even beyond what he accomplished with the Coyotes. With current players Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Tomas Hertl already offensive threats, an additional threat would create more scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, the offensive production Sharks management hoped for with Boedker has not been fruitful. In 22 games this season, Boedker has only two goals with a minus-6 rating. He was benched in San Jose’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim Saturday night, failing to make an impact. The struggles of coming out of the gates flat have put the Danish native in an identity crisis.
The Sharks’ recent offensive struggles have certainly affected Boedker’s role in the lineup. DeBoer’s line juggling has not given him the opportunity to play with constant teammates on a line. He was seen on the third or fourth line last game which is not where a former first-round pick should be.
Despite the struggles, Boedker should not be underestimated. At the age of 26, he has yet to enter his prime. If the Sharks’ want full potential, he deserves to play on the first line with Thornton and Pavelski. With Hertl out for an extended time, DeBoer needs to be smarter with getting maximum effort from his top players. Boedker is absolutely one who is still adjusting to finding his role with the team. Give him time with Thornton and Pavelski and results will come.
Schlemko Proving His Value
While the jury may still be out on Boedker, San Jose’s other free agent signing, David Schlemko, has provided positive results. Schlemko has been effective with his puck-moving skills and solid defensive zone play. Like Brent Burns, he has been able to throw pucks on net in hopes for a rebound or deflection. He currently has five assists on the season but has provided consistent play each game.
On the powerplay, his puck-handling skills are where San Jose has benefited the most. His capabilities allow Burns to move freely in the offensive zone as he looks to find the back of the net. Then again, no matter which defensive partner is with Burns, that player is comfortable knowing Burns will get back defensively.
Dell Deserves More Playing Time
I feel more can be read into Aaron Dell’s performance against the New York Islanders. Marleau may have saved the day by scoring the winning goal with seconds remaining in the third period, but his heroics could have been averted. The tying goal Dell allowed with under a minute to play was a bit concerning. His positioning did not give him the best opportunity to stop Nick Leddy’s shot.
Dell should not be at fault for the tying goal, but I feel he deserves more time in net so he can fix mistakes. While the mistakes can be corrected in practice, not getting game action will hinder progress. Martin Jones may be feeling the pressure of being the undisputed starter, but he needs to know Dell can handle to pressure when called upon. If I’m DeBoer, I start Dell Tuesday against Arizona and start Jones Wednesday in Los Angeles.