NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the San Jose Sharks.
1. How will the goaltending fare with the addition of Devan Dubnyk?
Dubnyk, who was acquired by the San Jose Sharks in a trade from the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 5, won 12 games last season after winning at least 31 in each of the four seasons prior. He also had his worst goals-against average (3.35) since 2013-14 and his worst save percentage (.890) since his rookie season of 2009-10. The Sharks were 27th in the NHL in goals allowed per game (3.21) and were last in 5-on-5 save percentage (.901). Martin Jones was 17-21-2 and had the worst GAA (3.00) and tied the worst save percentage (.896) of his seven-season NHL career.
“I think it’s extremely important to have the support of your partner and I think that this is a great opportunity for both of us to kind of latch on to each other and get better together, both of us,” Dubnyk said after the trade. “I don’t want to speak for [Martin], but I’m sure he’s excited to get into this year as well and push me and battle for starts, but I think the most important thing is to support one another.”
2. Where will the offense come from?
The Sharks were 27th in the NHL in goals per game last season (2.57) and had two players who scored at least 20 goals (Evander Kane, 26; Timo Meier, 22). Forwards Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, two of their top scorers, each missed significant time because of injury; Couture was out 17 games from Jan. 9-Feb. 23 because of a fractured ankle, and Hertl missed the final 18 after having surgery to repair a torn ACL.
“We need guys to step up,” coach Bob Boughner said. “We had a lot of guys with off years. You’re going to put Hertl and Couture if they stay healthy, you’re going to put them in that category, 20-plus goals. Kane, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc [are] very capable of scoring 20-plus, [Ryan] Donato I think is going to have a big season. … There’s guys that can score, and it’s going to have to be by committee. We don’t have a 50-goal man, we don’t have an [Alex] Ovechkin, we don’t have a [Sidney] Crosby or any of these guys, so it’s going to have to be done by committee.”
3. Will Brent Burns bounce back?
Burns scored 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) last season, his fewest in a full season since 2011-12, when he scored 37 in his first season with San Jose. His minus-22 rating was his worst in 16 NHL seasons. In 2018-19, Burns scored an NHL career-high 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) and was plus-13, and he was the runner-up in voting for the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL to Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames. Burns was a finalist for the Norris Trophy three times in the four seasons prior to 2019-20.
“I think ‘Burnzie’ is one of those guys who’s going to come back,” Boughner said. “I still believe he’s [among the] top three, four defensemen in the League. There’s no one that can play like him and affect the outcome of a game like him. You talk about offense, there’s a guy that can score 30 goals on a good year, so we’re counting on that.”