Erik Karlsson hoped that by the time Game No. 27 of the regular season rolled around he and his new team would be flying and piling up victories.
But the San Jose Sharks are struggling two days before the former Ottawa Senators captain makes his first return to the nation's capital.
The Sharks visit the Senators on Saturday having lost three in a row and five of their past seven. There is no panic with head coach Peter DeBoer's side. As he has remarked often in the first seven weeks of the season, the Sharks are "a work in progress."
Still, when they added Karlsson to an already loaded lineup that included defencemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, as well as forwards Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, many all but awarded the Stanley Cup to the Sharks.
With Karlsson, DeBoer changed the team's tactic. He wanted the defence to jump in on the rush as much as possible. But the Sharks have been slow to develop a consistent game. On occasion, they have looked like the powerhouse team most of us expected. At other times, they appeared out of sync and porous defensively because of little support for the aggressive defensive game plan.
WATCH | Auston Matthews shines against Sharks:
Auston Matthews recorded two goals and an assist, powering Toronto to a 5-3 win over San Jose. 1:51
DeBoer appeared agitated on Wednesday morning when the subject of how much time should elapse before Karlsson feels comfortable with his new teammates and they feel comfortable with him arose.
The Sharks head coach said 10 games was enough and that his club should be long past the familiarization period. He also said that Karlsson has been the best player on the ice for his team in most of San Jose's recent outings.
But you would never know with the Sharks' latest slide. They had an opportunity to exhibit how good they can be with visits to Buffalo and Toronto — two of the top teams in the East. San Jose, however, departed with a 3-2 overtime defeat in Buffalo on Tuesday, and a 5-3 loss in Toronto on Wednesday.
Karlsson's production down
Karlsson's production has been down, too. He only has two goals and 15 points in 26 games, a pace that won't even get him to 50, his lowest non-lockout point total since his sophomore season.
Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, there is 21-year-old defencemen in Thomas Chabot lighting it up with the Senators. He has seven goals and 29 points in 25 games.
The alarming statistics that indicate the Sharks have a long way to go to feel better about themselves with Karlsson in the fold has been five-on-five play. San Jose has scored a middling 49 goals (tied for 14th) and allowed 59. Only the Vancouver Canucks (60) and Senators (71) have surrendered more in five-on-five play.
But history is on the Sharks side. When teams acquire a stud defenceman like Karlsson, big things happen — especially when they have a full season to work it out.
At the 2000 trade deadline, the Colorado Avalanche added Norris Trophy-winner Raymond Bourque. After only 14 regular- season games, the Avalanche were beaten in a seven-game West final by the Dallas Stars. But with a full season together the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup 12 months later.
In the summer of 2006, Norris Trophy-winner Chris Pronger wanted out in Edmonton and fell into the lap of the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in Pronger's first year with a stellar defence that also included Scott Niedermayer.
In the summer of 2016, the Montreal Canadiens shipped P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators. The following spring Subban and his new team pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to six games in the Stanley Cup Final.
So the Sharks have time to iron out the kinks and figure out that all great teams need to play great defence, too.
In the meantime, all ears and eyes will be on Karlsson over the next couple of days to hear what he says about his return to Ottawa, the struggles of his new team and how he performs against his old club on Saturday.
Let’s block ads! (Why?)
CBC | Sports News