This season has not exactly gone as planned for the San Jose Sharks. Currently sitting 27th in the league and 13 points behind the wild card spot, it is safe to say that nobody would have predicted the season going this way back in October. Currently dealing with season-long injuries to key players and the recent firing of head coach Peter DeBoer, it begs the question, what is next for the Sharks?
Is Bob Boughner a Viable Option?
Bob Boughner, former head coach of the Florida Panthers, became the head coach of the Sharks after DeBoer got fired on Dec. 11, 2019. Since taking over, he has added Roy Sommer, Mike Ricci, and Evgeni Nabokov to his staff in hopes of bringing new faces to the bench. But should this change in coaching staff be permanent? Or will general manager Doug Wilson look for an outside coach to take on the position?
Boughner has had his success behind the bench both in the minor league and in the NHL. He has been awarded the OHL and CHL Coach of the Year, been to back-to-back Memorial Cup and OHL Championships, won a gold medal with the Canadian U-18 team in 2009 and was an assistant coach for the Sharks during their Stanley Cup run in 2016. Since the change in coaching, it has been difficult to see whether or not Boughner has improved the team overall. The Sharks’ have been plagued with injuries to top players and have been on the road for a majority of their games, making it hard for the new coaching staff to truly change things dynamically.
Statistically speaking, the Sharks have been on a similar win-loss pattern and have not been able to go on any big winning streak. However, Boughner has made changes that I feel should allow him to be considered as the permanent head coach — specifically his outlook on the goalies. He has been able to change the goaltending dynamic of Martin Jones being the starter and Aaron Dell being the back-up, creating more of a competition for who should get the number one spot. Since this change, Dell has received more starts to games than Jones and has looked more comfortable as games go by.
While Dell continues to be coached by former Shark Evgeni Nabokov, he will look to further improve and receive more help defensively moving forward. Whether or not Boughner’s decision to strip Jones of the starting role has improved the Sharks is questionable, but it has definitely created a more competitive atmosphere for both goalies to play better.
Key Defensive Players Missing
Over the past few weeks, the Sharks have battled after trading Brenden Dillon and losing Erik Karlsson to a season-ending injury, along with trading Justin Braun in June 2019. Wilson and Boughner are now struggling to try and fill the enormous roles that all three players brought to the team, and are looking towards younger defensemen to step up. This has led to a weaker defensive group that struggles to get the puck out of the zone and get shots on goal. It has also put more pressure on the goalies as they are facing more shots from better scoring opportunities.
Moving forward, the Sharks need to address this issue if they want to become a top contending team again. I imagine Doug Wilson will try to utilize his draft picks that he attained from recent trades and search for talented players who can help alleviate the current defensive status.
Lack of Offensive Goals
Another problem that the Sharks need to address is their offense. To put it bluntly, their top-six forwards have lacked the ability to put the puck in the net and win tight games. Evander Kane has scored 3 goals in his last 14 games, Tomas Hertl has scored 2 in his last 16 games, Logan Couture has scored 5 goals in his last 12 games, and Kevin Labanc has scored 4 in his last 15 games.
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Losing Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist was a big hit to the Sharks offense. However, they need their top forwards to step up and score despite losing important players. Wilson has mentioned before that he does not want to make key changes to the teams’ core, but something has to be done to get the offense scoring again. In light of all this, I do like the way some of the new younger forwards have played and believe that they could be part of the solution moving forward.
Let me know in the comment section what you think should be done in order for the Sharks to become a playoff team again.