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The Buzzer: Charles Hudon opens NHL account; Coyotes win

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Player of the Night: Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens

The Habs rookie scored his first two NHL goals an added an assist during an 8-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice and Shea Weber chipped in three helpers. Montreal has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Highlight of the Night:

While Auston Matthews gets the goal, let’s send William Nylander some love for helping make this play happen.

MISC:

Steven Stamkos had a three-point night vs. Florida and leads the NHL in scoring with 24 points.

The Coyotes win!

John Tavares potted two more goals on Monday and now has nine in his last five games.

Another game, another Vegas goaltender getting hurt.

—Montreal’s eight goals on the road at Ottawa were their most away from Bell Centre since an 8-1 thrashing of Minnesota in 2011.

Alex Radulov was the overtime hero for the Dallas Stars. He now has 10 points in 12 games:

—St. Louis beat the LA Kings 4-2 to improve to 10-2-1, matching their franchise record start set in 1997.

—The San Jose Sharks paid tribute to Patrick Marleau as he returned to SAP Center as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Joe Thornton’s assist moved him passed Jari Kurri for 20th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,399 points.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
NY Islanders 6, Vegas 3
Arizona 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)
Columbus 4, Boston 3 (SO)
Montreal 8, Ottawa 3
Tampa Bay 8, Florida 5
St. Louis 4, Los Angeles 2
Dallas 2, Vancouver 1 (OT)
San Jose 3, Toronto 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sharks’ biggest question: Does DeBoer make a difference?

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To be fair, it was time for Todd McLellan to go.

Despite over 300 wins, two Western Conference Finals appearances and a reputation as one of the NHL’s better coaches, the writing was on the wall last year — San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time in the McLellan era, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson all but admitted the dismissal, which was classified as a mutual parting of ways, had to be made.

“Sometimes a change is best for all parties involved,” Wilson said.

So, enter veteran bench boss Peter DeBoer, set to coach his third NHL club after being let go in Florida and New Jersey.

Known for his demanding style and strong tactical acumen — “He’s technically as sound as anyone,” said former boss Lou Lamoriello — DeBoer was brought aboard in late May and wasted no time outlining his goals and plans for the upcoming campaign.

Chief among them?

First, Getting back into the playoffs. DeBoer seemed to downplay Wilson’s previous notion that San Jose was a “tomorrow team,” saying he expects a “big bounce-back” after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

“The expectation is to win right now,” DeBoer said. “Regardless of the ages or the birth certificates of the players, there’s a tradition here of winning and of challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation.

“I think that’s [GM Doug Wilson’s] expectation, and I don’t think anyone’s looking for anything less than that here.”

Second, the team is going to have a captain.

This was a point of contention throughout McLellan’s final year in San Jose. The decision to strip Joe Thornton of the “C,” then re-implement him as one of the club’s four alternates — the Sharks played without a captain all last year — basically blew up in McLellan and Wilson’s faces; the issue ate away at the team all year long, to the point where one of the club’s leaders, Logan Couture, classified the club’s culture as “not great” by year’s end.

“It’s not something we are going to drag around as a distraction this year,” DeBoer explained, per NHL.com. “We’re going to move past that.

“I think the players are ready for that too; they just want to play some hockey and get this thing back on track.”

But big questions still remain. Specifically, will DeBoer’s playoff proclamation and anointing of a captain really make any difference?

The Sharks are, at their core, still the same team built around the same group of veteran players. Sweater letters or no, Thornton and Patrick Marleau carry major influence in the room, as will Joe Pavelski (who enjoyed his greatest success under McLellan) and Couture (a favorite of McLellan’s).

To his credit, DeBoer knows he’s inheriting a veteran-laden team that, as he put it, has “hit a little bit of a rut here.” His objective is to try and steer the group back on track by reinvigorating the leadership group that was already in place.

A good plan, sure. But not the easiest to execute.

Poll: Who will be San Jose’s next captain?

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After a year in which playing without a captain proved to be a massive distraction, the San Jose Sharks are reversing course for 2015-16 — in fact, one of the first things new head coach Peter DeBoer confirmed upon getting hired is that someone would wear the “C” this year.

Probably a good idea.

Last year’s saga, you’ll recall, began with the club stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy, then implementing a four-man alternate captain/leadership group comprised of Patrick Marleau (who had his “A” stripped, then given back), Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic… and Joe Thornton.

Yeah, I know. Crazy it didn’t work out!

The situation festered throughout the season, reaching a boiling point in late February and early March. After McLellan went on radio and said the Sharks were “better led” without a captain — which some saw as a shot at Thornton — GM Doug Wilson told a group of ticketholders that Thornton was stripped because the “pressure and stress” of serving as team captain caused him to lash out at people.

Thornton responded, quite appropriately, by lashing out at Wilson.

“I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth. I think that’s the bottom line,” he said. “All I’ve got to say is I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical.

“He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”

This Tet-a-tet forced owner Hasso Plattner to intervene and tell all parties to quit airing the team’s dirty laundry. After missing the playoffs, the Sharks and McLellan “mutually agreed to part ways,” but not before Thornton took a parting shot at his (now former) head coach.

Soooo… does this pretty much rule Thornton out as the next captain?

One would have to think so. Jumbo turned 36 in July and will be a free agent after next season, so the Sharks will likely look to the future, continuing that “tomorrow team” notion that Wilson seems to have stopped talking about entirely.

The team also has candidates ready to make the leap to captain. Pavelski and Vlasic top the list, and McLellan previously talked up Logan Couture as a leader-in-the-making.

With that said, let’s get to the vote. Feel free to add additional candidates in the comments section.

San Jose Sharks ’15-16 Outlook

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The last time the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs in back-to-back years was in 1996 and 1997, but they’re in danger of it happening again.

Whether or not they’ll be able to prevent that will depend largely on their goaltending. With Antti Niemi gone, San Jose is going with a combination of Alex Stalock and Martin Jones between the pipes. There’s certainly potential there, but the duo only has 83 games worth of NHL experience between them.

Stalock wasn’t that great last season either and while Jones had an impressive 2.25 GAA in Los Angeles last season, his .906 save percentage left something to be desired. Besides which, Los Angeles only called on him 15 times last season and just 11 of those were starts. So it’s entirely possible that neither will be ready to take the reigns in 2015-16 and that alone could sink the Sharks.

If their goaltending proves to be adequate though, then they still might run into issues offensively. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will both be 36 years old by the time the season starts and they declined somewhat last season. The Sharks no longer need them to be the team’s offensive leaders, but they do have to be significant contributors and if their age is catching up with them then that could be a big problem.

At the same time though, the Sharks do have reasons to be hopeful. They have some promising young players, including Tomas Hertl, who has shown flashes of brilliance but struggled in his sophomore season. Still, he’s just 21 years old and could be major part of this team going forward. On the defensive side of things, Brent Burns is coming off of a great campaign and newcomer Paul Martin should help solidify their top-four.

San Jose has the potential to be competitive this season, but it all comes back to Stalock and Jones as it’s hard to see this group doing much if neither of those two step up.

It’s San Jose Sharks Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The San Jose Sharks.

After suffering a reverse sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, Sharks GM Doug Wilson declared San Jose a “tomorrow team” in a summer that drew confusion and criticism from some, but went “exactly the right way,” according to the general manager. When all was said and done though, the result that San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

At the age of 35, Patrick Marleau took a significant step back offensively as he scored just 19 goals after reaching the 30-goal milestone for five straight campaigns, not including the lockout shortened season. Joe Thornton, who turned 36 in July, also saw a longstanding streak end as he recorded less than 70 points (65) in a season where he played in at least 70 games for the first time since 1999-2000.

San Jose still wasn’t bad offensively. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture recorded 70 and 67 points respectively while Brent Burns tied for second among defensemen with 60 points. The Sharks just weren’t great in that regard though and their goaltending proved to be uninspired as well. Antti Niemi was a mixed bag and Alex Stalock, who had been a superb understudy in 2013-14, declined substantially last season.

With mediocrity being the Sharks’ calling card at both ends of the ice, they finished with a 40-33-9 record and were eight points behind Calgary for the third Pacific Division spot.

Off-season recap

Head coach Todd McLellan and the San Jose Sharks mutually agreed to part ways after failing to make the playoffs, which led to Peter DeBoer being named as the team’s new bench boss.

With that done, Sharks GM Doug Wilson moved on to the team’s biggest question mark going into the summer: the goaltending. Niemi was slated to become an unrestricted free agent and Wilson made his intentions clear by trading the netminder’s negotiating rights to Dallas. He later acquired Martin Jones, who enjoyed two strong season as the Kings’ backup goalie, to battle with Stalock for the top job.

San Jose also signed defenseman 34-year-old Paul Martin to a four-year, $19.4 million contract and forward Joel Ward to a three-year deal worth just under $10 million.

Once again the core of the Sharks hasn’t fundamentally changed, but at the same time the 2015-16 version of the team will certainly feature noteworthy differences from its predecessor.