Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five

And then there were 8: Sharks eliminated


What can be said about the San Jose Sharks’ first round exit that hasn’t already been uttered – and harshly – already? Fair or not, losing in seven games after building a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings seems like something that only happens to the Sharks (even if three other teams in modern NHL history have suffered that fate).

For many, wrapping this up is a matter of throwing down a typically harsh comparison – money’s on Tony Romo coming up – but let’s take a step back and look at the Sharks’ 2013-14 season and ahead to 2014-15.

  • The immediate and obvious question is if Todd McLellan will be handed his walking papers. Despite all the Sharks head coach’s successes with the team – including consecutive trips to the Western Conference finals – San Jose still hasn’t been able to “get over the hump.”
  • One obvious reason why McLellan might go is that two players who often get the blame in San Jose (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) were already locked up to contract extensions during the regular season. Sure, there’s always the chance that one or more of those veteran forwards will want out of the Bay Area, but this is a situation in which the saying “It’s easier to fire the coach than fire the team” is especially true.
  • Much of the team’s core is locked up to (in many cases very cap-friendly) deals beyond Thornton and Marleau.
  • It’s easy to ignore how strong a season San Jose enjoyed in a time like this. The Sharks had their best season since they generated 113 points in 2009-10, as they managed 51 points in 111 standings points in finishing second in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks.
  • Even with a raise from $4 to $6 million per year, Joe Pavelski’s deal looks pretty sweet after his breakout 41-goal season. Logan Couture costs the same amount and seems capable of being a regular All-Star player.
  • It all plays into the future seeming pretty bright for the Sharks, if they can get over the present. Tomas Hertl is another fine example, as he seemed primed to be a serious Calder Trophy candidate before his serious injury after colliding with Kings forward Dustin Brown.

When you lose like this, people often call for heads. There are likely to be some changes in San Jose, yet when you look at what this team has built, it’s reasonable to see some light at the end of the tunnel, too.

Even if it’s pretty difficult for Sharks fans to think about positive things right now.

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

1 Comment

There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.