COACH: David Quinn (22-44-16 in one season in San Jose).
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 12 vs. Vegas.
GOALIES: Kaapo Kahkonen (9-20-7, 3.85 GAA, 0.883 save percentage) and Blackwood (10-6-2, 3.20 GAA, 0.893).
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK STANLEY CUP ODDS: 200-1.
LAST SEASON: The Sharks are coming off their worst season in more than a quarter-century as the team is in a rebuilding stage following a 15-season run as a perennial contender. Quinn and GM Mike Grier took over before last season and began a tear-down process by trading away star forward Timo Meier to New Jersey before the deadline. The one bright spot last season was the play of Karlsson, who won the Norris Trophy after becoming the first defenseman since 1991-92 to reach the 100-point milestone. The Sharks traded him to Pittsburgh in the offseason.
STRENGTHS: Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. The two centermen are among the last remaining ties to the team that made it to the Western Conference final in 2019. While they might be overmatched at times as top six centers, they are the best the Sharks have to offer. Couture had 27 goals last season but might not be ready for the start of this season after getting hurt over the summer. Hertl's production dropped last season but he still was third on the team with 63 points.
WEAKNESSES: Defense. A team that had a pair of former Norris Trophy winners on the blue line just two years ago in Karlsson and Brent Burns is now lacking star power on defense. Mario Ferraro is a solid contributor but Marc Edouard-Vlasic has been on the decline in recent years and there are few other proven players on the back end. Offensive production from the blue line will be tough to generate without Karlsson but this group needs to do a much better job in its own end this season if San Jose has any hopes of being competitive.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Sharks have missed the playoffs in four straight years for the first time in franchise history. That drought doesn't appear as if it will end this season as San Jose has the worst odds to make the playoffs, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Getting some development from young players is probably the best the Sharks can hope for as they lay the groundwork to getting back to contender status.
PLAYER TO WATCH: F William Eklund. The seventh overall pick in the 2021 draft has played just 17 games his first two seasons as a pro. Eklund turns 21 on opening night and is being counted on as being a building block for the future. He has shown flashes in his brief time in the NHL so far and his progress is one of the most important things for the Sharks this season.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL
The Associated Press