James Sheppard’s Days as a Shark May be Numbered

Selling Makes Sense for Sharks

(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The San Jose Sharks currently sit 10th in the Western Conference with five days remaining until the March 2nd trade deadline. While management continues to send mixed messages on what they think their club is capable of, it seems at this point they are far more likely to be sellers. There is little to suggest that Doug Wilson is lying in the weeds to pull off a big deadline deal that helps the Sharks immediately. That said, Wilson’s big trades are rarely forecast at all beforehand. Still, it seems highly unlikely they would trade for a rental even if it makes logical sense. After all they are only a few points out of a playoff spot and feature a core group of skill guys as good as any in the league. While it is very possible for Wilson to say one thing and do another, the Sharks GM has been steadfast about not moving future for a short term fix.

Therefore, if the Sharks aren’t buyers, than they ought to be sellers. Standing pat and hoping the current manifestation of their club to turn things around would be incredibly folly. There really is no reason to expect a team that has been amongst the bottom in even strength scoring all season with a below average penalty kill to all of a sudden turn it around. The teams they are competing with for final playoff spots are white hot. Los Angeles has won eight straight while Minnesota is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. The Sharks meanwhile have lost eight of their past 11. They will certainly be better than they have been but hard to vision them being good enough to catch the teams that are absolutely on fire.

Sharks Shouldn’t Risk Losing UFAs

The Sharks, as currently constructed do not have the goods to win the Stanley Cup. You could make the case that they need help in all three areas, goaltending, defense and forwards. The only logical reason to stand pat and do nothing at the trade deadline would be if the GM feels he will lose his job if the team doesn’t make the playoffs. However, Wilson choosing not to sell just to get into the playoffs to save his job doesn’t seem likely. Even if mystery owner Hasso Plattner made making the playoffs a requirement to keep his job, Wilson won’t be out of work long if fired. After what he has built, he will have no trouble finding work. Therefore, the goal for Wilson should be to make the Sharks better for the future. Standing pat just for a small extra chance at job security would be an incredible glass half empty approach. And who knows, moving out pending unrestricted free agents like Antti Niemi and James Sheppard might even give the Sharks a better chance at making the playoffs. Backup netminder Alex Stalock has struggled in sporadic playing time lately but has shown flashes, and so has rookie center Chris Tierney who would be in line to pick up most of Sheppard’s vacated minutes.

Riding things out the way they are and risking Niemi and Sheppard walking at the end of the season as free agents for nothing would be a poor strategy. Even if the Sharks find a way to get into the postseason, they are a significantly worse team from the one that got bounced in the first round last year. They are not going very far, even if they get a matchup with Anaheim in the first round. Yes they have the Ducks’ number but that is just the lone team they have ownage over this regular season. Sheppard is a valuable piece and it makes too much sense to move him.

Sheppard Miscast in San Jose

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The 26-year-old veteran center is only making a little over a million and would be a terrific fit or any team looking for a complementary third liner or a terrific fourth liner. With the Sharks this year Sheppard has simply been asked to do to much. San Jose has played him frequently as their third line center mostly with similar level players. Unfortunately Sheppard simply doesn’t produce enough to lead a third line. He has however shown to be dynamite when playing with Andrew Desjardins on a fourth line and he’s been terrific as a third line winger next to Joe Pavelski. Sheppard’s finishing ability is rather underwhelming but he has above average speed and size (6’1″ 215) and is solid along the boards. For those who haven’t seen him play much, he’s sort of a younger version of Daniel Winnik. He is incredibly versatile, can play center or wing on either the third or fourth lines or a second line in an absolute pinch as the weaker player on a top-6 line.

Recently, Sheppard’s name has been tossed around in the rumor mill and considering he just hasn’t provided enough for the Sharks, it is highly probable he gets moved. Strong bottom six groups make a difference in the playoffs and any team looking for play- making and speed help on their lower lines should be interested. He won’t cost a whole lot, probably only a third round draft choice which is a very reasonable rental price for a third liner. After all, sometimes certain depth players fetch much more. Remember Nashville giving up a first round pick for Paul Guastad a few years back? Or Douglas Murray fetching two second round picks (WHAT?!?). Certainly the Sharks will try to push teams for a second rounder in return for Sheppard, but there are a number of lower tier forwards available. The negotiation power would lie within the teams looking to acquire Sheppard, not the Sharks.

With only five goals and 16 points on the season with a minus-4 rating, Sheppard clearly isn’t filling the role the Sharks envisioned for him. Not to mention his face-off percentage has fallen below 50% after reaching 54-55% around December. Again, it is highly questionable why the Sharks envisioned him taking on such a large role. In a lesser, more complementary role he has the skillset to be incredibly valuable. Given every playoff team could use a boost to their bottom six group, Sheppard is the most likely candidate on the Sharks to move out by Monday’s deadline.

10 thoughts on “James Sheppard’s Days as a Shark May be Numbered”

  1. I sent Lombardi an email after the Ozolinch for Nolan trade, criticizing him pretty severely. I got a letter from him in the mail about a week later in which he invited me to come the Shark Tank to ‘discuss’ the matter with him personally. It was a thinly veiled threat to go there and fight him, I swear to god. True story. Turns out that he was right and it was a great trade for the Sharks after all. I really wish I had kept that letter though.

  2. Sheppard has been up and down this year. For while, it looked like he was adding some good chemistry to his lines, but that has faded in the last month or two. He had a strong stretch ast season, haven’t seen it this year.

    He’ll be a 4th line asset if someone can slot him there. Or if a team is committed to having balance on its lines, he’d be OK on a 3rd line. Sharks won’t get rich trading him or Niemi, but if they aren’t committed to either and they aren’t committed to the playoffs, not sure why they’d just run out the year with either of them.

  3. “After what he has built, ….” —– Correct me if I’m wrong but 1996-2003 GM Dean Lombardi, right?

    Doug may have run out of things built for him by Deano. And I doubt very much that Deano would have given no-move clauses to anyone he managed. You sure that Wilson is the one that built the Sharks of yester years for you? Or was he just ridding the coattails of another man?

    • Only one marquee player remains from pre 2003. That is Marleau. Wilson has made a number of big time successful trades for Thornton, Boyle, Burns, and heck he faded away but the Shark went to 2 WCF in 2 years with Heatley drawing the attention of opposing defenders. Wilson has done a lot of good things

    • Lombardi ran the team until 2003. he left an unmitigated disaster for Wilson to come in and clean up. It took Wilson one season to undo the mess and had the team in the Conference Finals for the first time ever.

      Wilson ran out of things “Deano” built for him by the start of 2004 as Deano unloaded all of the veterans on the team during a fire sale like Nolan.

      You do not think Deano would give out no move clauses except he did to Dustin Brown when he extended him….

      You have to be devoid of hockey knowledge to not know that Wilson has built the Sharks, he inherited a trainwreck from Lombardi and fixed it within a year and has not looked back since. This includes having to survive some abysmal drafts under Lombardi that yielded zero NHL prospects.

      Try doing research before posting as Lombardi’s fluffer.

      • Dean Lombardi left Doug Wilson; Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov, Mikka Kippersoft. Jonathan Cheecho, Christian Erhroff, Brad Stuart, Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray, Marco Strum and many others. Without Marleau and Nabby Wilson’s teams would have been a disaster.
        Name the one (just one) goalie Doug Wilson has drafted since he became GM that has become a starter? Answer none! And since you win championships with goaltending Wilson has failed miserably on this. As for Andrew’s talk of him being a builder, tell me Andrew besides Couture, and Pavelski which top 6 forwards has Wilson drafted and developed.? Name me the Calder cup winners, the Veniza finalests, the Norris Finalists? his record as a builder is terrible.
        But the media and writers such as yourself and John Utah, will believe anything this Used Car Salesman sells you. Don’t get me wrong Wilson has talent, and that talent is slick talking. He can spin like no GM around. He can say one thing and do a complete 360 and then tell you he was doing that all along. You wonder why John Scott plays over your favorites, or why Hannan plays two words Doug Wilson. He could tell you that a rundown 1964 Chevy Impala runs like new and people would believe him. The guy is slick.
        As for James Shepard, he is not worth anything near what Danniel Winnik is. Winnik is an NHL player, Shepard isn’t bottom line.

        • Glad he left Wilson with something because he jettisoned everything else. So he left Wilson with a team that finished in last place in the divison and 14th in the Conference. So he basically left the cupboards bare except for a couple of pieces. Wilson miraculously transforms the last place team into a conference final team.

          Did you say Cheechoo? you mean a guy no one even knows exists until Joe Thornton is acquired and makes him an elite goal scorer.

          By the Way Wilson unloaded Kipprusoff for one Marc-Eduoard Vlasic. I would say that was a super trade for both teams.

          You do not win Cups with goalies, you win down the middle and with top blueliners. you can put just about anyone behind the pipes and if the team in front of them commits to a defensive mind set they will win. Really you’re saying you win with goaltending? You’re telling me Niemi and Crawford are top goaltenders? Fleury? Osgood? Come on man, you win with elite blue liners, depth that executes and being strong down the middle. Kings could have won a Cup if Scrivens Jones or Quick played.

          I can see why your assessment on the GM is so horrible you do not even know how to build a team. How bad does it look paying Ryan Miller 6 million per year for the Canucks and he is among the worst goalies in the league, the reason the Canucks are doing well is because the whole team has bought into the scheme and played defense.

          When you’re drafting near the bottom every year because you’re good it is a lot tougher to find good players who will make a difference. Sharks had two top ten picks in the last 10 years Couture and Setoguchi….

          Did you see the Kings were bad for years, had top 5 picks and only 2 of them panned out..top 5 and only 2 panned out….that’s not very good. One of them turned out to be Doughty and the other was used to upgrade assets.

          I think we all know Hertl was a candidate for the Calder until he was violently kneed by Dustin brown…..hertl 17th pick in the draft. Niemi 2 seasons ago was a Vezina finalist. Burns will probably be a Norris finalist this season, a move dictated by Wilson which is actually looking very good for the future.

          Are you insane? his record as a builder is one of the best in the league, 1 season to take a trainwreck team and turn it into a perennial playoff team and Cup contender/ You cannot be serious? Every season the Sharks have a team that can compete except 2011 and this season. And the next season after the Sharks were strong again.

          You do not see things as they are, you see them filled with biases. I do not know Doug Wilson so I do not know what he is saying other than he laid out a plan in may and he followed it. The guy has truly earned the opportunity to rebuild this team he did it once.

          You’re not even a fan so what are you complaining about?

          • You keep believing that Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick had nothing to do with the Kings winning. Why don’t you take a look at some goalie stats. As for Miller, well Miller was never a great goalie, but Buffalo did make the playoffs because of him. And you win the cup down the middle, just ask Douggie Wilson then. Because he has won 0 as both a player, and a GM. He seems to agree with your down the middle stategy because other wise why would he draft all those defenseman he has in the first round. After Vlasic name me the top blue liners he’s drafted. Lombardi drafted a bunch, Wilson’s drafted one.
            And I love your last line you’re not even a fan so why am I complaining? LOL! So in order to be a fan I have to like and agree with everything my team does. Take off those blinders Johnny my friend. You are exacty the type of fan the team markets too. Yeah Lombardi left two stiffs like Marleau and Nabby for Wilson, yeah those two had zero to do with the Sharks winning in 2004. Yeah okay we got it.

            I don’t see things as they are I see them as biases? Really and you see things without bias right, because you agree with Doug Wilson and I don’t therefore I am biased and not a fan. But you are I got it.

            • I never said Doughty had nothing to with the Kings winning or Quick. They had a lot to do with it. I stated Quick, Jones or Scrivens would have been able to play goalie and had similar results. Doughty is the Kings best player. he obviously had something to do with it.

              You’ve got some hard on for Wilson, I get it. People do not understand how hard it is to run a sports organization and keep them competitive for as long as he has. You’re not giving any credit for doing an incredible job for as long as he has.

              Buffalo never made the playoffs because of him. Maybe Buffalo made the playoffs because of Hasek because he was on a completely different level than most. But Buffalo had good teams and those Sabres fans who watched him play, and the Blues fans can tell you he is not the reason the teams made the playoffs.

              You need to look at why the Kings got good and why the Sharks refreshed their team with veterans, it was the same philosophy used for the Sharks after their infancy. Kings over the last 9 years since 2006 when Lombardi took over have had 11 more picks than the Sharks. Kings have taken 23 defensemen, every a blind squirrel finds a nut. Kings have had 4 picks in the top 15 where they drafted defensemen and only one of them panned out: Drew Doughty. See when your team his horrible for years you can stockpile picks. Sharks were in win now mode, so they traded picks to get pieces. Each philosophy was the right one given the state the teams were in.

              You act like Lobmardi is some draft genius, he’s not he just could not fail with as many high first round draft picks as he had. Wilson had much tougher time getting quality players to draft. He decided to acquire top blueliners rather than draft them.

              Let’s be clear, Lombardi drafted one top blueliner. Wilson has also done that. Lomardi found some good players in late rounds who panned out but none of which are top pairing quality. Of the 23 defensemen drafted, 3 have played more than 100 NHL games …martinez, Voynov and Doughty.

              if you’re not a Sharks fan then go follow your own team, your posting to be heard because you have no clue about the sharks. You barely know the history of your own team.

              Yes I am the kind of fan the Sharks want, knowledgeable, understanding and critical. You are just here to promote your Kings propaganda and laud Lombardi…yet you notice he has done the same thing Wilson has done, acquire veteran pieces to push the team over the edge, he just got the right pieces, which is sometimes luck but I will give him credit he has pulled nothing but aces for the last few years.

    • This is actually correct, Deano left the Sharks stacked at hockeys most important position goaltending? Kiper, Nabby, Toskala. Since then Wilson has failed miserably in the draft trying to find even one goalie. This same GM thought the answer was Antero Nittymaki, and then Antti Niemi. The perception that Lombardi left the organization a mess is just outragous. Yeah he left us Patrick Marleau and a bunch of great goalies. Almost every good prospect who played during the early Wilson years was drafted by Deano, not by Wilson. Here’s a partial list of players in the organization that Deano drafted that benefited Wilson (besides those already listed).
      1. Marcel Goc
      2. Christian Ehrhoff
      3. Ryane Clowe
      4. Niko Dimitrakos
      5. Douglass Murray
      6. Brad Stuart
      7. Rob Davison
      8. Marco Strum
      9. Mark Smith

      There are others but this is a partial list. Yeah Deano really left the cupboard bare. LOL!

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