Evander Kane

Three fuzzy questions for the Sharks

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the San Jose Sharks.

Let’s bat around three questions for the Sharks in 2019-20.

1. What’s going on with Joe Thornton?

Every indication is that Thornton is coming back for next season, and that he’ll do so for the Sharks.

But … you know, it’s getting close to September, and he hasn’t signed yet. And Thornton is 40. So it’s fair to wonder until he actually signs on the dotted line for whatever total. Maybe that’s part of the holdup; Cap Friendly estimates the Sharks’ space at about $4.6M with 21 roster spots covered, while Thornton made $5M last season.

With the other Joe (Pavelski) now in Dallas, the Sharks have to hope that Thornton is indeed coming back.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Under Pressure | X-factor]

Thornton was impressive last season, managing 51 points in 73 games despite being limited (wisely) to an average ice time of 15:33 per game. His possession stats were outstanding for any age. It’s not only interesting to see if Thornton comes back (and for how much), but also how the Sharks use him. Do they need more from him, or do they keep him at a modified role to preserve the well-traveled veteran?

Actually, that transitions to our second question …

2. Will the veterans avoid the aging curve?

Thornton is the most extreme example of a veteran being asked to play at an advanced age, but with 30 being a point of no return for other players (see: Lucic, Milan), it’s worth wondering if other Sharks can maintain their high levels of play.

Erik Karlsson isn’t quite at that age, but close at 29, and carrying a lot of mileage and pressure. Brent Burns is 34, which is kind of staggering. Logan Couture is also older than some might expect at 30. Martin Jones is 29, Marc-Edouard Vlasic isn’t quite an Olympian any longer at 32, and even Evander Kane is 28.

The Sharks were wise enough to let Joe Pavelski go this summer, which was for the best with their cap constraints, and also he’s in the “somehow” group at 35. Even so, there are quite a few prominent Sharks who could start to decline (or, in some cases, see their abilities plummet … again, see: Milan Lucic). If enough do, this team may be scratching and clawing just to make the playoffs, or worse.

Unless …

3. Can the young guns step up?

Whether Thornton returns or not, Sharks will need more from younger players in a few positions. Pavelski’s gone, as are defensemen Justin Braun and Joakim Ryan.

In some cases, it’s actually easy to see the Sharks making seamless transitions. Timo Meier is a rising star, and he’s done most of his damage without power play time, so expect bigger things with more chances. Tomas Hertl took another step forward as a presence in his own right, while Kevin Labanc seems like a gem, and will have every bit of motivation to cash in after accepting a baffling one-year, $1M contract.

The Sharks will probably need more than just budding stars to confirm their star statuses. They may also need one or more of Dylan Gambrell, Alex True, and Antti Suomela to replace what’s been lost.

They’ll also need head coach Peter DeBoer to tie it all together. Can he integrate younger players, get veterans the right mix between reps and rest, and make it all work enough for the Sharks to remain at a high level, if not climb a bit more? On paper, this looks like a contending team once again, but things can change quickly in the NHL.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Gallant responds to ‘clown’ DeBoer for ‘chirping’ comment

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The war of words in the Vegas Golden Knights-San Jose Sharks series has now extended to the coaches, and friends, things are getting spicy.

On Monday Sharks coach Peter DeBoer was critical of his counterpart, Gerard Gallant, for “chirping” at Sharks players during the series, saying: “I don’t know if it works in our favor. I mean, there’s still chatter. Their coach is chattering. He’s probably doing the most chattering. He’s talking to our players constantly during the game, which I haven’t seen before.”

DeBoer went on to call the chatter, “ridiculous.”

On Tuesday, just hours before the decisive Game 7 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream), Gallant was asked about DeBoer’s comments and responded not only in great detail about the incidents, but by also calling DeBoer a clown.

“I really don’t want to talk about that, but I think I’m going to have to a little bit,” said Gallant. “For that clown to say that in the paper yesterday, it’s not right.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

From there, Gallant explained when and why he was chattering from the bench.

“There might have been two incidents that happened, and I’ll tell you both incidents,” Gallant began.

Logan Couture, I thought it was an embellishment, so I’m yelling at the referee. Not Logan Couture. The other one, in Game 2, Evander Kane, he is yelling at Ryan Reaves between the bench. Evander yells at me, he says, ‘hey coach, when are you going to send your big guy out on the ice and play him more than four minutes?’ I said, ‘he’s played 10 minutes every game and he’s going to play a lot more.’ Those are the two times. If I’m going to be a chirper and a loudmouth, I think people know me as a coach and respect me as a coach. If he’s going to yap about that, that’s a little unclassy for me.”

The trash talking in the series began with Reaves and Kane having a very public back-and-forth, complete with Kane referring to Reaves as “the muffin man” after their Game 3 fight and Reaves cracking jokes about Joe Thornton‘s age and vision.

This is only the Golden Knights’ second year in the NHL, but having already played the Sharks in the playoffs each year, and having some wild regular season matchups in between, it is very clear they have their first true rival.

The handshake line on Tuesday night, no matter who wins, should be an interesting one.

Related: Trash talk between Reaves, Kane almost as good as their fight

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Evander Kane loses cool as Sharks’ meltdown continues

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The San Jose Sharks are unraveling.

Not only has their biggest and most obvious flaw — goaltending — once again been exposed in their in Round 1 series against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the team has started to melt down in all phases and now has been pushed to the brink of elimination following an ugly 5-0 loss on Tuesday night.

The Golden Knights are now in complete control of the series with a 3-1 lead and seem to be just toying with the Sharks.

If the results weren’t bad enough, the Sharks completely lost their composure in the third period of Game 4, a development that was highlighted by an Evander Kane tantrum that resulted in him earning 14 penalty minutes and an early exit to the locker room.

After aggressively cross-checking Paul Stastny in the neutral zone, Kane delivered a sucker-punch to the face Colin Miller in the scrum that ensued.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Kane has made headlines in this series for his Game 3 fight with Golden Knights enforcer Ryan Reaves and then some trash talk through the media on Tuesday where he said, among other things, that he thought he was “fighting the muffin man” when he dropped the gloves with Reaves.

As Kane was being escorted to the locker room on Tuesday, the Vegas in-game entertainment crew played “The Muffin Man.”

Here is the entire sequence involving Kane on Tuesday.

Whether or not that punch is enough to earn a suspension remains to be seen, but it will almost certainly be looked at by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

The Sharks were already playing Tuesday without Joe Thornton after he was suspended for a hit to the head late in the Sharks’ Game 3 loss.

But the meltdown did not stop there.

With the Sharks already shorthanded late in the third period, Timo Meier earned a two-minute minor unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling at the officials from the bench.

As for the actual hockey, things were not much better.

Starting goalie Martin Jones gave up two early goals — including another in the first two minutes — on only seven shots and was benched after the first period. Backup Aaron Dell did not play any better, while the Sharks’ defense that is led by Norris Trophy winners Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns just looked bad at times. The former still does not look to be anywhere near 100 percent healthy.

Max Pacioretty had four points, including two goals, in the win for Vegas while Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault also found the back of the net for a Golden Knights team that is having no problems feasting on the Sharks’ horrendous goaltending.

The series shifts back to San Jose on Thursday for Game 5 at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN where the Golden Knights will have a chance to move on.

More Sharks-Golden Knights:
Sharks lose Thornton for Game 4
Trash talk between Kane, Reaves almost as good as their fight

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trash talk between Reaves, Kane almost as good as their fight

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Evander Kane was named after Evander Holyfield, but there’s a touch of Muhammad Ali to his trash talk with Ryan Reaves.

The two engaged in a positively terrifying fight during the Golden Knights’ 6-3 win against the Sharks in Game 3, after heated exchanges that Pierre McGuire described as minutes-long bits of almost certainly NSFW banter. While the material there is too “blue” for our innocent eyes and ears, the two weren’t shy about making their disdain public. From the sound of things, Game 3 might not be the last time they drop the gloves during this Round 1 series, whether the next bout happens in Game 4 (Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; Live stream) or later.

On Monday, Reaves was asked if he gained respect for Evander Kane after that fight, and the answer seemed to be “not a ton.”

“Yeah I guess a little bit but not really a lot to be honest,” Reaves said, via Sin Bin Vegas. “I’m not really ever going to respect that guy.”

[2019 NBC STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS HUB]

Reaves went on to take a shot at Joe Thornton regarding Thornton’s suspension following a hit on Tomas Nosek, referring to Jumbo Joe as “grandpa” and joking that Thornton will have trouble seeing from the press box. Kane apparently heard about those comments, and they became a part of a multi-part takedown of Reaves. Shen Peng of Fear the Fin captured the trash talking glory of it all:

As you can see from that smorgasboard of smack talk, Kane made the following remarks:

  • That Kane was unharmed from the fight, and that he “expected more of a battle,” comparing fighting Reaves to fighting “The Muffin Man.” (Not totally sure what Kane is referencing, so here’s hoping it was this. Either way, that song has traveled back from my childhood and is now firmly planted in my head.)
  • Kane says that Reaves speaks as if he’s in WWE, and uses that as a way to throw a barb at Reaves as a player, wondering if Reaves might become a professional wrestler soon. Request: if Reaves does, can his gimmick be “The Muffin Experience?”
  • Most succinctly, Kane said “Nobody thinks of Ryan Reaves as a hockey player.”

Harsh.

As we saw with the Alex Ovechkin – Andrei Svechnikov fight, it’s easy to forget about what are often scary consequences to these fights. While both Reaves and Kane are more seasoned in that regard, there’s also even greater size and fighting experience involved, only making potential bouts more dangerous.

From the Sharks’ perspective, you also have to wonder if Reaves is accomplishing a lot by getting Kane off of his game. This feud isn’t just a distraction; Kane (and the Sharks) must be aware that any fight would mean taking Kane – who had 30 goals and 56 points during the regular season – off the ice for five minutes or more. Even those who believe that Reaves brings more than fisticuffs to the table would probably agree that such a tradeoff would be a huge win for the Golden Knights. The same could be said if both players were injured in a fight.

For fans of “old time hockey,” this is a rare treat, and there’s no denying the spectacle. The Sharks risk giving the Golden Knights an edge if Kane gets swept up in all of it at the wrong time, though. Kane fighting Reaves in a blowout was one thing, but tensions boiling over at the wrong time could end up hurting San Jose.

Then again, maybe an angry Kane might produce some big points with all of that extra motivation? We’ll see.

Golden Knights – Sharks Game 4 from T-Mobile Arena will be Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. (Live stream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fight: Evander Kane ragdolls Zdeno Chara after hit, everything happens

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Anyone with eyes – nay, a single sense, really – knows that you’d be wise not to mess with Zdeno Chara. Tuesday provided evidence that you’d be wise not to mix it up with Evander Kane, either.

The threat of bodily harm wasn’t limited to Erik Karlsson re-injuring his groin during the Tuesday’s Boston Bruins – San Jose Sharks game, as things had been getting pretty nasty.

The most eyebrow-raising exchange happened between the Sharks power forward and Bruins blueliner, however. The two seemed to be mixing it up for a while, and Chara delivered a questionable hit. Kane took Chara by surprise and basically ragdolled him (!) into a fight, which mostly amounted to Kane covering up and protecting himself from an enraged Chara (which, yes, was smart).

NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil points to two of those moments, to be specific. Here’s a GIF specifically of Chara’s hit on Kane:

And the aforementioned ragdolling.

Wow. You don’t see that everyday, which is likely for the best — just think of the property damage, as this was essentially hockey’s answer to a clash of the titans.

*Hides, shivering, under covers.*

UPDATE: