The San Jose Sharks entered the 2018-19 season with high expectations after their off-season blockbuster acquisition of Erik Karlsson. One of the best teams in all of sports over the past decade or so never to win a title, the Sharks have been the epitome of consistency, but have been unable to land that elusive Stanley Cup title. With Karlsson in the mix on a roster that is deep and talented in all areas, many felt this could finally be the season than San Jose puts it all together. More than a quarter of the way through the season, those expectations have yet to be met. The Sharks have been a fine team – their 29 points places them second in the Pacific Division – but in no way are they running away with a conference championship. At least one player on the team is fed up with the poor effort: star forward Logan Couture. After a third straight loss last night, Couture told the Canadian Press that things need to change:
“My personal opinion, I don’t think we’re close. We show spurts and signs that we’re capable (of playing with the best in the league) but we haven’t put together an effort against a top-quality team. … We gotta figure it out soon. I’m a believer that it takes time. (But) I’m a believer that it doesn’t take 26 games.”
Couture, who signed a long-term deal this off-season, is the centerpiece of the Sharks’ offense for the foreseeable future. Couture has as much right as anyone on the team to criticize their efforts, seeing as he has done his part so far with 25 points in 26 games. While Couture did not name names, it is easy to point at Karlsson, last year’s big acquisition, Evander Kane, and a lackluster bottom-six as those that need to step up if the Sharks wish to play to their potential. Perhaps Couture being open and honest about the team’s disappointing results that will flip a switch and turn this team into the true contender they should be.
- It was Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs who took down the Sharks last night and the young superstar played very well in his return to the lineup. Even in the midst of the final days of the William Nylander drama, Toronto continues to win and remain focused on the present. But what if their struggles to sign Nylander are just the beginning? The Leafs face quite the cap crunch moving forward and there is concern that a Nylander signing could eventually push out either Matthews or Mitch Marner. Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland relays word from sources around the league that Matthews could be a prime target for an offer sheet this off-season. Although rare, due to their financial cost and draft pick cost, a maximum offer sheet isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a young player of Matthews’ caliber. Strickland asks what the Leafs could possibly do, with so many RFA’s and a defense in need of rebuilding this summer, if a team was to offer Matthews a contract worth $14MM per season? Such a situation seems far-fetched, but may be more grounded in reality than we know. It would be yet another difficult obstacle for the Maple Leafs who are truly having trouble with having so much talent on their roster.
- The Boston Bruins retired Rick Middleton’s number tonight, making him the eleventh member of an illustrious group of all-time greats. The question now turns to who could be next to join the Bruins’ stars in the rafters? Of their recently retired players, the one who truly sticks out is two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup hero Tim Thomas. Although Thomas’ career was not a long one, he was one of the top goaltenders in the NHL for several years and is arguably the most clutch postseason keeper in NHL history, with the league’s all-time best playoff save percentage. The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa asked one of the Bruins’ retired numbers, and the team’s current president, Cam Neely, for his thoughts on Thomas’ case, but he didn’t seem optimistic about the odds. Neely points to longevity as working against Thomas, but did not rule him out completely. “There’s no question, that team in ’11, what it meant to Bruins fans and New England. Timmy, what he did in that playoffs, not just in the finals but all of the series, was pretty impressive”, but Neely added “I don’t want to rule anything out, but you look at some of the guys up there, they have a bigger sample size of what they did throughout their career in Boston.” It seems that Thomas, who was a star in his own right but simply over a short period of time, faces an uphill battle to have his No. 30 retired. Instead, current long-time players Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara are likely next up to be immortalized by the Bruins.