Programming note: Sharks-Red Wings coverage starts today at 4 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California.
The Sharks have nine games remaining before their season will officially end without a playoff berth for the first time since 2003. While that’s obviously not an ideal situation, there are still some things than can be accomplished.
Here are a few suggestions.
1 – Get Pavelski 40 goals.
Joe Pavelski won’t win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer as Alex Ovechkin has that wrapped up with 47, but Pavelski enters Thursday night’s game against the Red Wings with 35, tied for fourth in the league. The Sharks’ best player this season and still the likely future captain, Pavelski admitted around this time last season that hitting 40 goals would be meaningful to him (he finished with 41). It’s probably safe to assume that he’d like to reach it again.
2 – Let Stalock play more.
Antti Niemi won’t be back next season. Alex Stalock still has one year left on his contract. Now would be an ideal time to give Stalock the chance to rebound from what has been a difficult season, and help to build his confidence heading into next year. Maybe the Sharks only view Stalock as a potential backup at the NHL level, but he’s never been given a chance to start a stretch of consecutive games. Get him in the crease now, and if he gives the Sharks a chance to win on a nightly basis, keep him there.
3 – Hope that Worcester makes the playoffs.
The Sharks’ roster remains littered with young players that were arguably rushed to the NHL and haven’t done enough to earn regular roles in the NHL. Still, many of them can be reassigned to AHL Worcester if that club makes the playoffs. The Worcester Sharks are currently one point out of a playoff spot, but have some games in hand on several of the teams they are chasing. A long playoff run in the minors would do some good for the development of players that would be eligible to participate like Mirco Mueller, Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Daniil Tarasov and maybe even Nikolay Goldobin.
4 – Make Burns a forward.
This would elicit some scoffs from the fan base, most of which has been clamoring for this all season, and it’s unlikely to happen, but making Brent Burns a forward for the final few games could at least remind the rest of the NHL of how effective a player he can be up front. That would make him more marketable in the offseason, and if the Sharks make a big transaction – something Doug Wilson (if he's still here) has already hinted at – Burns, who has a limited no-trade clause, is probably the most likely big name that would be moved. It’s worth noting, too, that Burns has seen his ice time reduced by about four minutes a night on the blue line since the trade deadline passed.
5 – Play with pride.
There is a long list of Sharks players that have had down seasons, as Logan Couture basically spelled out after the loss in Ottawa on Monday. How will they finish when the games don’t have any meaning in the standings? Pride and character are two words that will be prevalent over the final stretch, and for a team that’s been criticized in the past for not having enough players that hate to lose, it will be telling which players show up on a nightly basis and which look like they are mentally on the first tee at Pebble Beach.