Matt Nieto’s time with the San Jose Sharks is over. The former second-round pick in 2011 was placed on waivers during the week. His departure was long overdue as he quickly fell out of favor when Peter DeBoer took over as head coach. With the replenishment of the Sharks’ farm system, prospects have been knocking at the door to crack the Sharks’ lineup. Nieto just simply could not stay consistent with his play.
In my debut article for The Hockey Writers, time was ticking for Nieto’s career with San Jose. While he may have been impressive with his speed, which got him on the team, he has consistently failed to deliver. Occasionally, he shows up to make an impact, but for the most part, tends to be irrelevant for long lengths. Doug Wilson should have never given Nieto a qualifying offer during the offseason.
Nieto may perhaps be a bust for the Sharks but he is no longer their problem — Colorado picked him up on waivers before the Thursday deadline. The Avalanche could certainly use some offense sitting 30th overall with 2.0 goals per game. He is expected to make his debut soon with the Avalanche. San Jose will play Colorado later this month in a home-and-home series with the first game at SAP Center.
The decision should come as no surprise with the impact seen by current young players on the Sharks’ roster. Kevin Labanc has made the biggest impression and is on his way to earning Sharks’ rookie of the year when the regular season comes to an end. Time was on Labanc’s side after an impressive training camp. Despite being assigned to the Barracuda, Labanc carried his performance from preseason and ultimately found himself playing NHL games.
Along with Labanc, Timo Meier made his anticipated debut back in December and hopes to be a mainstay in the Sharks’ lineup. Despite not finding the scoresheet, Meier has been playing consistent and putting pucks on the net. He will likely find himself getting more chances when he gets more time on the powerplay.
With talent abundant in San Jose, hardworking prospects replaced Nieto’s disappearing act. Overall, Nieto did not have the work ethic the Sharks’ currently want in efforts to return to the Stanley Cup Final. However, he has the skills necessary to play in the NHL and deserves to play in games. With Colorado, he gets a new start to re-establish his game and perhaps find a long-term solution in the offseason.
Hertl’s Return Will Signal Next Transaction
Tomas Hertl returned to the ice after a minor procedure on his knee. However, his skating is under the eye of the Sharks’ training staff as he has not gotten clearance for practice. Reports have suggested Hertl will not return to the lineup until February. The goal right now is for him to start skating again with his teammates.
With the current standings in the Pacific Division, the top spots are all up for grabs. San Jose could hold off Hertl’s return until closer to the postseason — he was a big factor in the playoffs last season before injuring his knee against Pittsburgh in the final. Perhaps he will find his form when the playoffs begin after a few regular season games back from injury.
Chances are the next roster move by the Sharks’ will come when Hertl is near a return to the lineup. The next likely candidate would be Tommy Wingels, as the forward has also fallen out of favor with DeBoer. Like Nieto, Wingels could benefit from a change of scenery. Despite being a tough forward, his physicality is not leading to scoring chances seen in the past. Wingels may likely go on waivers should no trade partner want his services.
Keep an Eye on Boedker
After stringing together quality performances, Mikkel Boedker found himself benched again in San Jose’s overtime loss to Los Angeles and then was a healthy scratch in the Sharks’ 5-4 loss to the Wild Thursday night. Should he continue to struggle, other general managers may inquire about the former first-round pick.
Boedker is clearly in an identity crisis, still be searching for his role on the team. Offense was in his blood during his time with Phoenix/Arizona and Colorado. For a player who chose San Jose and left money on the table, he has been disappointing despite showing flashes of his potential with little to show.
Teams may contact Wilson near the trade deadline, but Boedker will indeed remain in San Jose. The only possibility of trade would have to result in a reliable backup goalie and a draft pick coming back San Jose’s way. DeBoer and the coaching staff can only hope Boedker watching the game from the press box will be beneficial when he returns to the lineup. Maybe when the playoffs come around will Boedker unleash his offensive prowess.