Only four teams scored fewer goals than the San Jose Sharks in the 2019-20 season. Two of them, the Dallas Stars and the Columbus Blue Jackets (both with 180 goals) made the postseason, but the other two struggled mightily. The Sharks scored 182 times in 70 games, but unlike the Stars and Blue Jackets, conceded 226 goals. The Los Angeles Kings finished just above the Sharks thanks to a fantastic 8-1-1 run at the conclusion of the season, but only managed 178 goals in 70 games.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings scored only 145 in 71 games. Not great company for the Sharks to be keeping and something they will have to change going forward. This improvement would also help relieve some pressure from starting goaltender Martin Jones, should he start the season in the number one position. Defense may indeed win championships, but goals win you games and games get you points.
Leading the Way
Forward Evander Kane led the Sharks in goals with 26 during the shortened 2019-20 season; had things continued he could have easily met his previous season’s haul of 30. The problem was, in that 2018-19 season Kane barely crack the top three scorers on the team. Joe Pavelski, who was allowed to leave for the Stars, led the way with 38 goals. Tomas Hertl was not far behind with 35 goals while Timo Meier joined Kane at 30 goals. Both of those players had a drop off this season with Meier scoring 22 goals in 70 games and Hertl managing just 16 goals in his 48 appearances.
While this is a concern, especially with Logan Couture and Hertl missing games, what is more worrying for the Sharks will be their lack of depth scoring. Only seven players scored into double digits during the 2019-20 season and one of those, Patrick Marleau, is no longer with the club after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline. During the 2018-19 season, the Sharks had 11 players reach double digits in goals.
While the top end of the Sharks offense with Kane, Couture, Hertl, and Meier can easily give 20 goals each a season, having scoring depth forwards is vital to winning in the NHL. In the 2019 Playoffs, the Sharks went to the Western Conference Final before losing to the St. Louis Blues. One of the reasons behind that was depth scoring. Marcus Sorensen chipped in with 17 goals during that 2018-19 regular season. In 2019-20 he scored only seven times.
Melker Karlsson also chipped in with 12 goals during that 2018-19 regular season, and scored just 6 times in 2019-20. Joe Thornton, who could be on his way out of San Jose, also saw his production drop from 16 goals in the 2018-19 season to just 7 in 2019-20. The team also lost Joonas Donskoi as a free agent to the Colorado Avalanche after he contributed 14 goals during 2018-19.
How Do the Sharks Fix This?
With their current salary cap problems, it is likely the Sharks look inside the organization. Joachim Blichfeld played a handful of games for the team during the regular season after his strong performance for the AHL affiliate San Jose Barracuda. Blichfeld scored 16 goals in 44 games for the Barracuda and finished just behind Jayden Halbgewachs despite playing 11 fewer games.
There is also hope that forwards Dylan Gambrell (5 goals in 50 NHL games) and Noah Gregor (3 goals in 28 NHL games) can contribute more next season, while a decision will have to be made on center Maxim Letunov who scored one goal in three NHL games with the Sharks this season. Letunov was also active with the Barracuda, finishing with 40 points on the season and averaging 0.80 points per game.
There are also some external options available with the first one being a familiar face. Patrick Marleau. Before leaving San Jose for the Pittsburgh Penguins to chase a Stanley Cup, he had registered 20 points in 48 games. He is well known in the Bay Area and much loved by Sharks fans, which would make the move a no-brainer. He could also add a veteran presence to a young bottom six with the likes of Gambrell, Gregor, and Letunov should they stick around.
The only stumbling block may be similar to the Thornton dilemma. As an unrestricted free agent, is Marleau looking to go somewhere he can win before hanging them up? If so, is San Jose in a winning position?
Another option might be Jesper Fast who could become a target for a lot of teams this offseason, especially since the New York Rangers won the number one pick for the 2020 NHL Draft. With that pick, the Rangers should select winger Alexis Lafreniere, which will make Fast expendable. With that likely to happen he may decide his future lies away from the Rangers and as an unrestricted free agent could be ideal for San Jose.
The winger spent most of his career as a bottom-six forward, which would be a welcome addition to the Sharks, but in the 2019-20 season played a majority of the time on a second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome who both had career years. This would give the Sharks options. While his output of 12 goals and 17 assists might not seem second-line worthy, if he could get Meier or Hertl going again it might just be worth it. The injury he suffered in Game 1 of the Rangers’ qualifying series against the Carolina Hurricanes might be the only stumbling block depending on the severity.
Related: Sharks With 100-Point Seasons
I’m sure the Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will be a busy man during this offseason as he looks to rebuild. I’m also sure depth scoring is top of his shopping list. As it should be.