Can the Sharks keep up their surprisingly competitive start to the 2021-22 NHL season?


Teammates congratulate #26 Jasper Weatherby and #42 Jonah Gadjovich after a San Jose goal.

Karthik Iyer, Staff Editor

Throughout its history, the Bay Area has been blessed with extremely successful sporting franchises. The Raiders of the ’70s, 49ers and A’s of the ’80s and ’90s, and the Warriors and Giants of the 2010’s have blessed the Bay with their high flying performances, colorful characters and never-say-die attitudes. However, there is one major sport that hasn’t caught on to the same extent: hockey. The San Jose Sharks have proudly represented Silicon Valley’s largest city, but it’s safe to say that the love hasn’t really been reciprocated to the same extent. Especially so this season, in which ticket sales and attendance have plummeted for a variety of reasons. But sticking to the on-ice product, and with a quarter of the season in the books, what can we expect from the Sharks this season?

First, a quick summary of the Sharks’ season. The Sharks are 13-10-1 (meaning 13 wins worth 2 points each, 10 losses, and an overtime loss, worth a point). That adds up to … (sorry, just checking on the calculator) … 27 points! That’s good for fourth in a surprisingly competitive Pacific Division. Left winger Timo Meier leads the team with 11 goals and 13 assists, for a total of 24 points. In the goalie category, James Reimer leads the team with 7 wins and a .933 save percentage.

Before we highlight some of the main themes that have defined the past 20-odd games, the elephant in the room must be addressed. Oh Evander, my Evander, our fearful trip is not done. Evander Kane has certainly struck fear into the hearts of fans; unfortunately, not opposing ones. Kane, who has had a messy offseason chock full of controversy, was recently put on waivers by the Sharks. It was widely reported last season that his locker room presence and consistent flaunting of Sharks rules had a negative impact on many younger players, particularly forward Timo Meier. Kane, having just cleared waivers Monday night, will now be sent down to the AHL, which is the equivalent of the G-League in hockey. He and his $7 million salary will be stuck down there until the Sharks decide to either buy out his contract or trade him. One thing going for Kane’s trade chances is that he is actually a good hockey player, as he was the Sharks’ best player last year and someone capable of scoring 30 goals per season (that’s really good). However, his poor personal choices have led to an untenable situation for at least the remainder of his time on the Sharks. Time will tell whether another team is willing to look past his issues and bite on the tantalizing talent that is Evander Kane.

Now, onto something slightly less depressing. Timo Meier! I mentioned him before, and the Sharks seem to finally be witnessing the breakout season of the Swiss international. Drafted ninth overall in the now vaunted 2015 NHL Draft—the first pick was Connor McDavid; you may have heard of him—Timo teased the Sharks faithful with a 30 goal season of his own in 2018-19. However, his subsequent two campaigns were disappointing, to say the least. Kane, who was traded for in 2019, may have been the reason for his decline in production. Meier has now rediscovered his game as a power forward. Similar to a non-shooting power forward in basketball who crashes the rim, a hockey power forward bullies his way to the net and looks to beat the goaltender with the puck, and when he doesn’t have the puck tries to redirect his teammates’ shots away from the goalie and into the net. Meier’s 6-foot, 210-pound frame is well built for this playstyle, and with the absence of Kane, one of the premier power forwards in the league, he has taken the mantle of the leading physical presence on the team. His box score contributions reflect his effort and positive attitude as a burgeoning leader.

James Reimer, who had a stint with the Sharks in their 2016 season, when they made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Signed to a 2-year, $4 million contract, he has beaten out Adin Hill, who was acquired via trade from Arizona over the offseason, for the starting job. He has done some excellent work tending the goal, and could be flipped at the deadline or after the season for those sweet, sweet draft picks, if the Sharks are unable to remain competitive. 

Tomas “Fun Must Be Always” Hertl remains the most exciting player on the team. The Sharks’ 2012 first round pick has continuously proven his worth, and is in the last year of a 4 year, $25 million extension that he signed after the expiration of his rookie contract. Hertl will rightfully demand an eight year contract, the maximum length under NHL rules, and an average salary of $7-8 million dollars would be an accurate reflection of his status as an elite NHL player. The one concern suppressing his value have been his persistent knee issues. If the Sharks don’t feel comfortable extending an injury prone player into his mid-30s for such a high price, they can trade him at the deadline. A trade becomes more likely if Kane’s contract can’t be moved off the books via trade. It may be in the long term interest of the Sharks, but it would be a shame to see Hertl go. (Seriously, this guy is insane. Watching highlights of his 4 goal game against the New York Rangers will make your day.)

These are just some of the main storylines concerning the San Jose Sharks this season. They are in the playoff race so far this season, but it’s uncertain whether they have the talent, coaching, and grit to maintain that status as a Stanley Cup hopeful. It’ll be a whirlwind, dare I say a sharknado (sorry), witnessing the short- and long-term direction this team decides to take.