San Jose Sharks season preview: Big changes could bring playoff payoff

Martin Jones will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders in his first season as a No. 1 goaltender. 

Kyle Terada/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Plus: The Sharks made major changes to their team following a rare playoff miss last season. They needed to improve on offense, and they did so when they acquired Joel Ward, a 19-goal scorer last year, via free agency. They also rid themselves of former coach Todd McLellan, who never seemed to be able to keep a peaceful locker room, in favor of Peter DeBoer. San Jose improved its defense by bringing in a veteran presence in Paul Martin, who will be entering his 12th season.

Minus: While the Sharks got rid of one controversial figure in McLellan, they kept Joe Thornton, an aging scorer who has seemed to be at odds with management in the past. The team will need to appoint a new captain while hoping that former captains Thornton and Patrick Marleau will follow the new leader without issue. In addition to the off-ice issues, the Sharks will look to rely on an unproven goaltender in the young Martin Jones. While he has shown his talent before, he has never been a go-to goalie at the NHL level.

X-Factor: Martin Jones

It’s hard to predict how the Sharks will do without knowing what Jones will be like as a full-time NHL No. 1 goaltender. Jones has 34 NHL games under his belt over the past two seasons. While he played well in his first season with the Kings, he struggled more in his second year, finishing with a 4-5-0-2 record and a .906 save percentage.

Prediction: After missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Sharks should be able to return to the postseasonr. They have the potential to compete for the Pacific crown, but it seems unlikely they’ll win it given the improvement and talent throughout the Los Angeles Kings’ and Anaheim Ducks’ rosters.