DougWilson

Wilson: Sharks don’t believe in rebuilding, want to ‘reset on the fly’

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With a number of key players ready to hit free agency at the end of next season — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture — San Jose GM Doug Wilson could go a number of directions with his club’s future.

One direction he won’t go, though, is the way of a rebuild.

“We’re not a team that’s going to miss the playoffs for five or seven years and go into a rebuild,” Wilson told CSN Bay Area. “We don’t believe in that.

“We want to reset on the fly, and it only works when you have players that understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and participate in it.”

To that end, Wilson has already begun contract extension talks with Couture, a pending RFA likely to get a hefty raise on his two-year, $5.75 million deal that expires next July.

The decision to lock up Couture now is a no-brainer.

The 24-year-old emerged as arguably the club’s top player in 2013, a guy head coach Todd McLellan said was “driving the bus” down the stretch and through the playoffs.

(According to reports from CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz and CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, sounds as though San Jose could extend Pavelski this summer as well.)

This does beg a question, though: What becomes of the guys that used to drive the bus?

Thornton and Marleau will be 35 and 34, respectively, when their deals expire at the end of 2013-14 (both have full no-movement clauses, according to Capgeek.)

Boyle will be 38, with a modified NTC where he can select eight teams he won’t accept a trade to.

If Wilson’s goal is to ‘reset on the fly,’ dealing any of these three could be in play.

Center depth is hard to come by in the NHL, and the Sharks have it in spades with Couture, Thornton, Marleau and 2012 first-rounder Tomas Hertl, who’s expected to challenge for a roster spot next season.

Boyle’s no stranger to trade rumors, as his name made the rounds at this year’s deadline.

Finally, there’s Wilson’s history.

He’s remade the Sharks on several occasions already by making “hockey trades” — Michalek/Cheechoo-for-Heatley, Setoguchi/Coyle-for-Burns, Heatley-for-Havlat — rather than trying to stockpile picks.

This year he did more of the same, moving out Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray at the deadline while bringing in Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres.

In the end, though, Wilson says his decisions moving forward are tied to two things — financial flexibility, and players who “get” what the Sharks are doing.

“We have a lot of flexibility going forward. We have lots of flexibility in two years, which ties into some of the players [Pavelski, Couture] that you’re asking about us signing this summer,” he explained.

“We’ve been fortunate to have players that understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

One team climbing, the other stumbling

With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

* – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

From the Blues’ side:

Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

Martinook was not penalized.

CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.