2019 wasn't exactly a banner year for the Sharks. On January 1, 2018, the Sharks were 21-14-2, sporting a +2 goal differential, enough for 8th in the West with 3 games in hand on the Red Wings. Come April, they'd finished the season on a 12-29-4 run, plummeting to 12th in the West thanks to a -40 goal differential, in no small part due to Rick DiPietro turning from a Cinderella Vezina candidate back into an injury-prone pumpkin. The only silver lining was that they held on to their first round pick and acquired hard-nosed future fan favourite Brady Tkachuk at 6th overall.
What has changed since then? First, the offseason saw the Sharks reach for the future by dragging out some tired old retreads: Dany Heatley (37), Ryane Clowe (36), Mike Komisarek (36), all to one-year contracts. True, the three of them combined make just over 4 million per year and so the risk is minimal, but so far only Heatley (40P/44GP) has worked out, whereas Clowe (9P/35GP) failed in his audition for second-line right wing and is languishing on the fourth line and Komisarek (8P/40GP) is in the midst of a well-earned 10 game suspension. Even the relatively youthful Vlasic (31 years old; acquired presciently off waivers just before McCoshen's season-ending injury) hasn't quite rekindled his previous glory, with a respectable 4 points and questionable -3 rating in 9 games since rejoining the Sharks.
Has any of this improved the team? Apparently so. The Sharks are 26-16-2 and holding on to 6th place in the perrennially tough Western Conference. Their goal differential is an unimpressive +4, partly because they've played 4 more games on the road (10-13-1) where they struggle mightily compared to in the reassuring confines of the Shark Tank (16-3-1). Can they maintain their pace or is another collapse inevitable? There are reasons for optimisim (the resurgence of Nugent-Hopkins and Kopitar; Radulov, Ladd and Edler crushing pucks and skulls in various ratios), as well as good reasons for pessimism. The team's brightest prospects were expected to make big contributions this season but all have struggled. Keller, Yamamoto and Koskenkorva have a combined 30 points and a putrid -30 rating in 104 games, while Blake Siebenaler managed a remarkable -10 in just 4 call-ups so far. Brady Tkachuk looks like a complete player, but like the rest of the team, it remains to be seen what exactly he'll grow into - a great white, a hammerhead or a nurse*?
*With all due respect to nurses and the fine breed of nurse sharks.