The San Jose Sharks will be competing in a new-look division for the upcoming NHL season. Leading up to the start of the season, we’ll be looking at how the Sharks’ lineup compares to each team in their division.
This will be the last article of the series, but you can read all other comparison articles here:
In today’s article, we’ll compare the Sharks to the Arizona Coyotes.
This area isn’t close. San Jose has four forwards who can produce at a high level, while the Coyotes don’t have many players they can rely on at the top of their lineup. Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel were both underwhelming last season, while Nick Schmaltz’s ceiling may not be more than 50-55 points (per 82 games). On top of this, losing Taylor Hall won’t make scoring any easier. While the Sharks may not be able to count on a ton of depth scoring once again this year, they do have quality top-six forwards and if the group can stay healthy, they’ve certainly got the better forward lineup.
As is the case with all of these comparisons, the strength of San Jose’s defense group heavily relies upon whether or not Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic can recover. If they can bounce back, even without much depth around them, San Jose’s defense (and team as a whole) looks much better. However, the Coyotes have a well-rounded group, featuring Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which should limit chances in their own end. With uncertainty as to what San Jose will get from their blue line, Arizona has the advantage here.
The Coyotes definitely have the advantage here as well. Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta were one of the league’s best tandems last season and despite the addition of Devan Dubnyk, the Sharks aren’t likely to get great goaltending this year. If one of Arizona’s goalies starts the struggle, even for a game or two, they have another quality goalie who they can count on. The Sharks, on the other hand, will probably be lucky if either goalie gives them consistency throughout the year.
Despite San Jose’s advantage up front, Arizona may be the better team, based on their defense and goaltending. That said, these two teams are in the same range within the division, where neither will be a contender but either could fight to earn a playoff spot.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Do you think the Sharks will finish ahead of the Coyotes in the standings this season?