Paul Martin

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Boughner reportedly joins Florida’s coaching candidate list

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Add another name to the growing list of interviewees for the Panthers’ bench boss gig — per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Florida has been granted permission to interview Sharks assistant Bob Boughner.

Over the weekend, GM Dale Tallon said he’s spoken with a half dozen candidates for the job, adding he plans on interviewing another half dozen. All the names have not been made available, but two — former Montreal head coach Michel Therrien and Denver University’s Jim Montgomery — have already been identified.

Whatever the case, it appears Tallon is casting a pretty wide net.

Boughner, 46, has a fairly impressive resume. After a lengthy pro career, he immediately transitioned to the coaching side with OHL Windsor, capturing a pair of Memorial Cups. From there, he spent a year as Scott Arniel’s assistant in Columbus before returning to junior, then moved back to the NHL as Peter DeBoer’s assistant in San Jose in 2015.

Appearing in over 600 NHL games as a rugged defenseman, Boughner has worked primarily with the Sharks’ blueline and penalty kill. He’s been praised by a number of the club’s rearguards, including Brent Burns, while veteran Paul Martin said Boughner “definitely has the pedigree” to become a head coach.

Boughner was reportedly a leading candidate for the Colorado job last summer following Patrick Roy’s departure, though the gig eventually went to Jared Bednar.

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Sharks complete the comeback with OT win over Oilers

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Talk about the perfect start for the home team.

But it didn’t end the way the Oilers and their fans wanted in the highly anticipated return of Stanley Cup playoff hockey to Edmonton.

Playing in the franchise’s first playoff game since 2006, the Oilers came flying out of the gate in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, opening up a two-goal lead on goals from Oscar Klefbom and Milan Lucic against the defending Western Conference champs.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

The Oilers played fast. They played physical. They looked in complete control. Well, for 20 minutes, anyway.

But the game swung in the Sharks favor in the second period, before they eventually completed the comeback and won 3-2 in overtime.

The Sharks, without Joe Thornton for this one, completely took over, holding the Oilers to just nine shots through the second and third periods, and in a brief overtime session. Joel Ward started the comeback early in the second period and Paul Martin scored the equalizer early in the third.

The Sharks were all over the Oilers in the final period of regulation. They peppered Talbot with 18 shots, while the Oilers managed only three on Martin Jones.

After dominating the majority of this game, the Sharks won it on a goal from Melker Karlsson, as he beat Talbot on San Jose’s 44 shot of the night.

 

Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

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Two of San Jose’s most important and longest-tenured players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Given the Sharks are in the midst of their Stanley Cup window — with Thornton and Marleau playing significant roles — it seems odd neither has put pen to paper on an extension yet.

But the Mercury News has a theory on why:

Here’s where it gets interesting. Next season, the NHL is adding a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights. That franchise will participate in an expansion draft. It will happen in June, a few days before the annual entry draft.  Each existing NHL team can protect either seven or eight forwards from being selected by the Golden Knights. However, pending unrestricted free agents will not be eligible for the expansion draft.

In other words, it behooves Wilson and the Sharks not to sign Marleau and Thornton until after the expansion draft. That way, the two players would not count toward the seven or eight forwards on the Sharks’ protected list (the exact number depends on choices the Sharks make at other positions.)

San Jose’s in a fairly unique position for the expansion draft. It is one of four teams not required to protect anybody — Calgary, St. Louis and Washington are the others — and, with the addition of the aforementioned Thornton-Marleau scenario, GM Doug Wilson would have serious flexibility when it comes to exposing players.

Not that he’s willing to divulge any information.

“My position is that I have no comment on that,” Wilson told the Mercury News. “People can anticipate and speculate about what our approach might be.”

ESPN touched on this potential scenario last month, noting that Wilson has some big decisions to make regardless if he chooses the seven forwards-three-defensemen-one goalie protected list, or the eight-skaters-and-a-goalie setup:

If you go 7-3-1, it means you protect just three defensemen — Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and probably Justin Braun — which then leaves Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Mirco Mueller and David Schlemko among those exposed.

What if the Sharks decide to go the 8-1 protection format route in order to protect four defensemen? That means only four forwards could be protected: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and then take your pick from either Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, Melker Karlsson or Chris Tierney. (Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are exempt.)

The risk in letting Thornton and Marleau get to free agency, of course, is that someone makes an offer neither can refuse. But it could be a risk worth taking. It’s fair to assume any potential offer would have to be massive in scope, given Thorton’s and Marleau’s ties to the Bay Area — the latter has spent his entire 20-year career with the Sharks, while the former has been there for over a decade.

Right now, there’s not much information about what type of extensions San Jose is offering. ESPN reported Thornton is eyeing another three-year deal — his last was a three-year, $20.25 million contract — and things are almost entirely silent on the Marleau front.

Hasn’t exactly been roses for San Jose’s key free agent signings

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In the aftermath of their Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh, the Sharks knew where they needed upgrades — on defense, and in the speed department.

So in free agency, GM Doug Wilson went to work.

His splashiest move was signing Danish winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year, $16 million deal. On paper, it was an ideal fit. Boedker was coming off a solid 17-goal, 51-point campaign split between Arizona and Colorado, played under head coach Peter DeBoer in junior and was lauded by Wilson, who praised Boedker’s “tremendous speed.”

Next, Wilson signed former Devils blueliner David Schlemko, who was coming off career highs in virtually every statistical category. This, too, looked like a great fit — San Jose needed a more mobile, skilled and offensive defenseman to replace the outgoing Roman Polak — and, like he did with Boedker, Wilson sung Schlemko’s praises.

“David is a solid puck-moving defenseman with good speed who can play the game at both ends,” Wilson said, shortly after giving Schlemko a four-year deal of his own. “He is coming off of a very productive season in New Jersey and we think he will fit well with our group.”

That was then.

Today, some of the luster has worn off both signings. Boedker has been a huge disappointment, with just two goals through 33 games, and was benched earlier this month in a game against Anaheim.

“I would hope he was pissed off,” DeBoer said in explaining the move. “It’s always a last resort as a coach.”

The Schlemko situation is a little more puzzling. He was made a healthy scratch earlier this week, for reasons that remain unknown. Classified simply as a “coach’s decision,” Schlemko’s stint in the press box came after he appeared in 28 of 32 games, while averaging over 17 minutes per night.

He’s been a decent contributor offensively — sitting third behind Brent Burns and Paul Martin in d-man scoring, with eight points — and has solid possession metrics. In speaking with the Mercury News, he seemed just as befuddled about the scratch as everybody else.

“Just trying to turn the page — it’s out of my hands — and move on from there,” he explained. “I’m confident in what I can do and what I can bring. But at the end of the day, it’s a coach’s decision.”

Despite all this, the Sharks have still enjoyed a pretty good start to the year. They head into tonight’s action first in the Pacific Division, with a 20-12-1 record, and have won eight of their last 11.

Part of that is because the club has embraced youth in a major way, and the youth has responded in kind. Kevin Labanc, the 21-year-old AHL sniper, was recalled in early November and has become a lineup fixture. Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick in ’15, is up with the big club as well. And in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Calgary, 23-year-old d-man Dylan DeMelo — who drew into the lineup over Schlemko — played a season-high 20:02.

As such, Schlemko and Boedker will be worth watching as the season continues to unfold.