SAN JOSE -– A few thoughts on the Sharks’ preseason, as they prepare to announce their final roster early for opening night in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
1 – I have to think Mirco Mueller has earned a roster spot, and will probably even be in the lineup against the Kings. The 19-year-old averaged more than 21 minutes over the last three preseason games, and was paired with Brent Burns in all three. After so-so camps from Matt Irwin and Jason Demers, the Mueller-Burns duo may even start out as the team’s second D-pair behind Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.
Scott Hannan and Taylor Fedun could stick around to push Irwin and Demers, after Todd McLellan hinted last week that the club could carry eight defensemen to start the year.
2 – I believe McLellan when he says that each goaltender will get plenty of action early in the season, with 16 of the first 21 games away from home.
Still, for a team that has insisted it wants to get younger, it makes little sense for 31-year-old pending free agent Antti Niemi to get the bulk of the work. Alex Stalock should absolutely be in net on Wednesday against the Kings, and if he plays well, should get the call for the home opener against the Jets, too. It’s time to find out if the 27-year-old can carry the workload and the pressure that comes with being an NHL starter. Why wait any longer?
3 – It’s impossible at this point to predict how the Joe Thornton saga will end, but there were no indications in the preseason that his on-ice role will change. He played the final preseason game with Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski, and those three will probably line up against the Kings on Wednesday, too.
Still, I found it somewhat odd that Hertl was skating with Pavelski as the center (and Tye McGinn on the other wing) in the team’s penultimate preseason game on Friday in Arizona. Perhaps the Sharks wanted to see what their team would look like without Thornton, in the event that the two parties decide at some point this year that they are better off parting ways. If the Sharks get off to a poor start, the Thornton – and to a lesser extent, Patrick Marleau – trade talk will only get louder.
4 – If Chris Tierney and Barclay Goodrow end up making the team, which veterans will get pushed out? Adam Burish remains the most likely bet, and if I had to guess, I’d say he starts the season playing in AHL Worcester.
Tyler Kennedy and James Sheppard both had their camps hindered due to injury, with Kennedy playing in just one preseason game and Sheppard not able to play at all. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the forwards, as Kennedy’s roster spot was in danger already, and there may not by any room for Sheppard now, either. The Sharks can kick the can on those two, though, if they put them on injured reserve.
5 – The John Scott signing continues to be puzzling. If Scott makes the club ahead of a guy like Eriah Hayes or Tye McGinn, how does that help the Sharks in terms of developing another younger player who may be ready to make the jump and has obviously done enough good things in camp to stay this long? I don’t get it, but I also don’t see any scenario in which Scott isn’t on the opening night roster.