Tag: Paul Martin

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks

Looking to make the leap: Mirco Mueller


Like most things in San Jose last year, Mirco Mueller’s progression didn’t go exactly to plan.

Mueller, the 20-year-old blueliner San Jose took 18th overall in 2013, started out the year in the NHL as part of GM Doug Wilson’s “tomorrow team” movement, only to see his ice time dwindle by early December.

From there, he was loaned to Team Switzerland for the World Juniors and, upon returning, was shuffled back and forth between San Jose and the club’s AHL affiliate in Worcester, before a thumb injury in late March ended his year.

All told, Mueller appeared in just 39 games for the Sharks, three for Worcester and six for Switzerland — not a ton of hockey for a youngster that needs all the reps he can get.

Which begs the question — where will he get them this year?

On paper, Mueller appears to be part of the club’s six-man defensive unit, along with Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and newly acquired Paul Martin. But the Swiss rearguard will have some pretty heady competition for that spot, particularly in the form of Matt Tennyson, who appeared in a career-high 27 games last year, and Dylan DeMelo,  a 22-year-old prospect who, according to AHL bench boss Roy Sommer, is ready to make the leap himself.

Speaking of the American League, it could end up being the place where Mueller starts this season.

There were worries San Jose rushed him to the NHL last year and it’s important to remember that, of all the d-men taken in the first round in ’13, only Seth Jones and Rasmus Ristolainen have emerged as regulars; some have argued that Nikita Zadorov, taken two spots ahead of Mueller, was also rushed to the NHL (and has since been traded to Colorado).

What’s more, the likes of Philly’s Samuel Morin (No. 11), Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey (No. 13) and the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock (No. 15) have yet to even make their big-league debuts.

Mueller knows that, based on his age and number of players looking to stick with the Sharks, this fall’s training camp will go a long way in deciding his fate.

And he knows the challenge will be difficult.

 “It’s always competitive,” he said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “A lot of jobs are on the line.”

Under Pressure: Martin Jones

Canada v Germany - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship

ESPN called him the Sharks’ most important player.

GM Doug Wilson said he was “at the top of our list of players that we had targeted.”

He was acquired at a steep price (first-rounder in ’16), signed to a big raise (three years, $9 million) and will enter this season as a (projected) No. 1 goalie for the first time in his career.

So needless to say, there’s a fair bit of pressure on Martin Jones — not that he’s fearful of the challenges ahead.

“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said earlier this summer, per CSN Bay Area. “It’s been a big couple years in my development I think, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”

Jones is high on promise and potential. He’s only 25, has good size (6-foot-4) and a ton of experience at the American League level, with nearly 150 games over the last five years.

There’s just one catch: He’s a bit of an unknown at the NHL level.

Stuck behind workhorse No. 1 Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles for the last two years, Jones made a grand total of 34 appearances for the Kings and while his numbers have been good — .923 save percentage, 1.99 GAA — it’s still a pretty small sample size.

Of course, the Sharks had an advantage of scouting Jones, thanks to playing in the Pacific Division. Jones has faced San Jose four times in his career, which included a 31-save effort in a 4-1 win at the start of the 2013-14 campaign — a game in which he was named first star.

“This is a guy we’ve seen,” Wilson said upon acquiring Jones, per CSN Bay Area. “We know a lot about him. It’s his style, his size – he’s a big goalie and highly competitive. You probably have more information on a player like this than you do a guy that you’d be drafting.”

There’s just one more wrinkle to all this.

Jones isn’t heading to any old team for the first starting gig of his career — he’s going to San Jose, a team coming off one of the most dysfunctional seasons in franchise history. The Sharks are determined to get back to the playoffs (Logan Couture all but guaranteed a return) and made two big veteran free agent splashes in Joel Ward and Paul Martin to help get back.

As such, Jones will carry additional weight in ’15-16.

Pressure’s on.

San Jose Sharks ’15-16 Outlook

Alex Stalock

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.