Sharks’ Erik Karlsson Begins a Bounce-Back Season

When the San Jose Sharks made a trade for Erik Karlsson, they paid a hefty price. In exchange for the former Ottawa Senators captain, they sent a package including Rudolfs Balcers, Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, a 2020 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2021 second-round pick. However, at the time, the Sharks were acquiring a two-time, Norris-winning defenseman. So, if they wanted Karlsson, they would have to pay the price, and pay the price they did.

Related: Sharks Biggest Question is the Defensive Corps

While the majority of the trade pieces sent to the Senators provided nothing more than games played or have yet to pan out, that is not the case for two players. Josh Norris has become one of the Senators’ most explosive players, and the first-round pick in 2020 became Tim Stutzle. This trade almost singlehandedly built their future. With that in mind, the Sharks better have gotten everything advertised and more. However, it seems that Karlsson fell short of his projected impact with his new team.

Karlsson’s Rocky History With the Sharks

The first season Karlsson was a member of the Sharks, he had a decent year. In 53 games, he put up 45 points. However, more importantly, he helped lead the team to a Western Conference Final appearance. It seemed like he was going to be a big piece of the defensive core going forward, but that ended up not being the case. Since then, the Sharks have not made the playoffs. In fact, they have not even come close.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Karlsson’s scoring touch began to take a hit perhaps as early as his final season with the Senators. However, by his second season with the Sharks, his point totals largely followed the production level of the rest of the team. If they couldn’t find the back of the net, neither could Karlsson. His worst year with the Sharks was in 2020-21 when he scored 22 points in 52 games.

Related: Sharks’ 3 Keys to Success this Season

Unfortunately, it seems that Karlsson’s injury history has caught up with him as he gets older. He has yet to play over 56 games in a season with the Sharks, and his declining offensive abilities could largely be chalked up to his injuries. However, Karlsson seemed to turn a corner in the 2021-22 season, and as this year gets underway, it appears that he might have found his game again.

Karlsson Beginning to Find His Game Again

So far, Karlsson has six points in nine games throughout the 2022-23 season. What stands out about his point totals is that of his six points, three of them are goals. Throughout the entire 2018-19 season, his best season with the Sharks, he only had three goals as well. Not only has he managed to match this goal total already, but his offensive abilities as a whole seem to be better than they were at the time he was acquired.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While the Sharks have been having a particularly down season, Karlsson currently leads the team in points. He has been one of, if not the only, veteran players contributing to the team. He has not only been an offensive presence but a leader as well. If this season has been any indication so far, he will be a large part of the limited success the Sharks will be able to find.

If Karlsson continues down this track, he may finally begin unraveling the harsh narrative surrounding his time in San Jose. Most likely, the Sharks will never be able to live down the trade that brought him in, but any amount of pressure that can be taken off the organization’s shoulders in regard to this trade will help the future. For now, though, all Sharks fans can do is hope that Karlsson continues down his path to a new future.

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