Evgeni Nabokov

Sharks on fixing issues under Boughner: ‘It’s on all of us in this room’

As with many coaches, after some time, the effect your voice has on your players wears off and new blood is needed. That’s been Peter DeBoer’s experience since becoming an NHL head coach in 2008.

Three seasons with the Panthers was followed by three-and-a-half yeah with the Devils, which brings us to his four-and-a-half season tenure with the Sharks, which ended Wednesday night with his firing. Each stop of his coaching journey has seen improvement, with his most successful job done in San Jose where the team made the Stanley Cup Final in his first season and reached the playoffs in his four full seasons in the Bay Area.

This 15-16-2 Sharks team should have been in the “Cup Contender” category nearly halfway through this season, but has turned out to be nothing but a disappointment. A five-game losing streak was the last straw for general manager Doug Wilson and it was time for a change.

“Probably, yeah,” said Joe Thornton when asked if a new voice was needed. “I love Pete. Pete’s a fantastic coach. He took this team to where it’s never been before. Nothing but heavy respect for Pete. But it might have been time for a new voice.”

The Sharks’ goaltending has been a huge issue since last season with a league-worst .892 even strength save percentage since the start of the 2018-19, per Natural Stat Trick. There’s also an issue of team defense. San Jose is tied with the Maple Leafs with 46 high-danger goals allowed, most in the NHL. It’s a baffling statistic given they also own the league’s best penalty kill at 88.3%. Systemically, there’s something wrong.

“We’ve talked about this since the beginning of the season,” Wilson said Thursday, “whether it’s focus, whether it’s attitude. Bob [Boughner] talked about when you’re killing penalties, it’s to prevent the other team from scoring, so you come back with urgency, even though you’re a man less. It’s positioning, sticks in the right lanes. I don’t like to use the word cheating, but you’re not hoping to go the other way. If you can apply that approach 5-on-5, you’d think you’d be very strong at it.

“If you can take the idea that it’s not just to prevent the other team from scoring, but now we want to get the puck back so we can attack offensively, that’s really the mindset you have to have. When we do that well, we’re a really good hockey team.”

Making a move to shake up this roster seems like a long-shot given the Sharks’ salary cap situation. The only notable move so far came in the way of bringing back Patrick Marleau, who has six goals and 11 points in 29 games.

The only change coming will be Bob Boughner moving from assistant to head coach and a new staff featuring San Jose’s AHL head coach Roy Sommer, and former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov.

“The players trust and believe in [Boughner],” Wilson said. “And I think he’ll bring that energy, juice and joy to the game I think our team is missing right now.”

We’ll see if Boughner learned from his two playoff-less seasons with the Panthers. Whatever new system and style he wants to institute will have to be executed by the players who have played their way into this situation.

“It’s on all of us in this room,” said Sharks captain Logan Couture. “When something like that happens, pro sports is such a what have you done for me lately business. As a player, when a coach loses their job, you feel you’re part of the reason why.”

“You put hockey aside. As a human being, you’re upset you’re not going to be able to work with that group anymore and see them every day,” Couture said. “I talked to most of them and just them that I had so much fun coming to the rink and playing for you guys.”

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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.

Video: The San Jose Sharks honored Evgeni Nabokov prior to puck drop tonight

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Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who announced his retirement from the game on Wednesday, dropped the puck in a ceremonial face-off prior to the Caps-Sharks game tonight at the SAP Center.

The 39-year-old is San Jose’s all-time leader in games played by a goaltender (430) and wins (293).

Agent: Nabokov needs a few days to consider future

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Evgeni Nabokov, 39, went into this season accepting of the fact that his days as a starter were likely over. He signed a one-year, $1.55 million contract with Tampa Bay in hopes of providing Ben Bishop with the solid understudy he lacked in 2013-14. That didn’t work out and today he went unclaimed on waivers.

With 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy expected to serve as the Lightning’s backup for the rest of the season, the question now is if Nabokov will accept an assignment to AHL Syracuse or retire. The answer won’t come for a few days, Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan said, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.

If Nabokov decides to close the books on his playing career, he’ll be finalizing a tenure that included 697 NHL contests with the San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, and Lightning. He won 353 games and has a career 2.44 GAA and .911 save percentage.

Originally taken in the ninth round of the 1994 NHL Entry, he won the Calder Trophy in 2000-01 and finished second in Vezina Trophy voting in 2007-08.

He had a 3.15 GAA and .882 save percentage in 11 games this season.

‘Somber’ feeling in Tampa Bay as Nabokov clears waivers

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With no teams taking a flier on Evgeni Nabokov — the veteran netminder cleared waivers this morning — the Lightning spoke Monday about the difficult situation at hand.

“You dread things like that ever having to happen,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Tribune. “Sometimes the reality that this is a business comes out. It’s an extremely tough situation.”

Nabokov, 39, has an uncertain future. It’s unclear if he’d accept an assignment to AHL Syracuse and the No. 2 goaltending spot behind Ben Bishop is now Andrei Vasilevskiy’s, who earned the gig with a strong showing earlier in the season.

As you’d expect, there is talk of retirement. Nabokov has looked shaky throughout the year. He was signed this summer to provide veteran experience and stability in the backup spot, something that was problematic in Tampa Bay last season, but couldn’t be relied upon consistently and may now be forced to call it quits just three games shy of the 700 plateau (a fairly noteworthy accomplishment, as only 24 goalies in league history have played that many.)

Bishop said it’s tough watching Nabokov go through this.

“It’s a somber feeling right now,” he explained.

End nearing? Lightning waive Nabokov

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In an ideal scenario, the Tampa Bay Lightning likely envisioned Evgeni Nabokov providing veteran experience behind Ben Bishop, at least until Andrei Vasilevskiy was ready for the jump.

That just hasn’t been the case in reality, however, and the Lightning responded as such by placing him on waivers Sunday (according to a wide variety of reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman).

The team hasn’t officially backed that up yet, so we can’t be sure that Vasilevskiy, 20, will get the call to back up Bishop. That would certainly seem to be the logical case, especially since the promising prospect has three wins in four starts this season.

Hey, at least Bishop is playing extremely well:

Looking further, it’s difficult to shake the impression that Nabokov, 39, is approaching the end of the line.

The veteran netminder’s overall numbers are lousy (3-6-2 with a .882 save percentage). He hasn’t won since Dec. 11 and only saw the ice for two abbreviated appearances in January.

Nabokov floundered a bit in his third season with the New York Islanders in 2013-14, managing just a 15-14-8 record with a mediocre .905 save percentage. That disappointing output limited his offseason options to backup gigs, and now we’ll need to wait and see how many opportunities he gets going forward.

Of course, there’s always the chance a team scoops him up at full price and he shows that he still has something left in the tank …