The Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The team and head coach Todd McLellan agreed to mutually part ways after the season and San Jose hired former New Jersey bench boss Peter DeBoer to take his place.
DeBoer will be responsible for getting San Jose's defensive game back on track. The team allowed 2.73 goals against per game to land 24th in the NHL. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi has to share part of that blame. His 2.59 goals-against average is the worst total he has posted since he made just three appearances in his first taste of NHL action in 2008-09. Niemi faced 1,811 shots (ninth-most in the NHL) and he allowed 155 goals (seventh-most in the league). The team's penalty kill didn't do him any favors either by ranking 25th in the NHL and he posted a lackluster .863 save percentage while shorthanded. Niemi is expected to test unrestricted free agency, so San Jose will have to address their goaltending at some point during the off-season.
San Jose surprisingly struggled at home in 2014-15 with a 19-17-5 record. The Sharks had a mark of 27-17-6 going into February, but the season took a turn for the worse after that and San Jose won just 13 of their next 32 matches to fall out of the playoff picture.
GM Doug Wilson sought to change the culture of the team by stripping Joe Thornton of the captaincy going into the year. The two of them had a public spat late in the season when the topic was brought up again, but Wilson insisted that everything was fine between the two of them. Thornton had a solid season on the ice, with 65 points in 78 games, despite what appeared to be a fractured relationship with the Sharks' GM. If Wilson can co-exist with his players then the Sharks still have a core in place that can return to the playoffs, especially if they clean up the defensive zone.
The Sharks will be looking for better performances from these players in 2015-16:
Patrick Marleau - Marleau had surpassed 30 goals in seven of his previous nine seasons, but he scored just 19 markers in 2014-15 to go with 38 assists and a minus-17 rating in 82 games. His performance was eerily similar to the totals he posted in 2007-08 when he had 48 points and a minus-19 rating. The good news is that he was able to bounce back from that and fantasy owners should keep that in mind going into next year. Marleau still managed to rack up 233 shots and 24 power-play points, so he has the potential to be a valuable contributor.
Tomas Hertl - Hertl had a promising rookie campaign in 2013-14 with 15 goals and 25 points in 37 games. However, he didn't progress the way the Sharks were hoping in his sophomore season. Still, that isn't an uncommon situation for young players and Hertl has the talent to be successful at the NHL level. He tallied 13 goals and 31 points in 82 games with the Sharks this past year. If he can regain a spot in the top-six group of the Sharks then he possesses the upside to break out offensively. Keep an eye on him at training camp, as he could be worth taking a chance on late in your drafts.
Alex Stalock - It was an educated guess by several pundits that Stalock would get more playing time in 2014-15 because of Antti Niemi's inconsistent play and his struggles in the 2014 playoffs. That obviously didn't happen because Stalock didn't show that his play warranted more starts. He posted an 8-9-2 record when he played to go with a .902 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against average. Niemi will probably leave the team via free agency in the summer, so Stalock could be in a position to battle for playing time next season. Of course that will depend on who the Sharks bring in during the off-season if Niemi does in fact jump ship.
Matthew Nieto - Nieto generated 10 goals for a second straight season after joining the Sharks from Boston University. He's viewed as an important part of San Jose's rebuilding structure, but he didn't show much improvement in his sophomore campaign. Nieto played in six more games and he registered three more points to end up with a total of 27. He also had a minus-12 rating and failed to produce despite seeing most of his five-on-five playing time alongside Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks remain high on Nieto's potential, so if gets another shot on that line and Marleau bounces back then Nieto could benefit tremendously. However, it's hard to recommend him outright, so take a way-and-see approach.