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. Yesterday, we assessed how San Jose’s lineup compares to the Colorado Avalanche, which you can read here.
In today’s article, we’ll compare the Sharks to the Minnesota Wild.
If the Sharks have one thing going for them, they still have quality forwards at the top of their lineup.
Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and Timo Meier should lead the way for San Jose, while Minnesota will rely on Kevin Fiala and 36-year-old Zach Parise, with Mats Zuccarello injured. Star prospect Kirill Kaprizov could provide a huge boost but he’ll still need to adjust to North America and the team also lost Eric Staal and Luke Kunin in the offseason. Both teams still have some depth, with the likes of Ryan Donato, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau for the Sharks and Nick Bonino, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Marcus Johansson for the Wild. Overall though, if the Sharks’ top forwards can stay healthy, they should have the better offense.
Minnesota has the better defense group. The Wild have a strong top-four group with Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.
They can all add offense and are very capable of limiting chances defensively, while Brad Hunt, Greg Pateryn and Carson Soucy also provide solid depth. For the Sharks, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are coming off poor seasons and will need to show that they’re able to bounce back. In addition, San Jose lacks depth, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic now showing his age and Mario Ferraro and Radim Simek are still fairly inexperienced.
This is one matchup where I’m actually not prepared to say the Sharks will get the worse goaltending. While Devan Dubnyk had a brutal year with the Wild last season, perhaps he could rebound with the Sharks and if not, maybe Martin Jones finds his game once again. It’s wishful thinking but I’m not sure the Wild have a much better situation. Cam Talbot was added by the Wild in place of Dubnyk and though he had a .919 save percentage last season, there are still questions as to whether he’ll be able to repeat that. Remember, he did post a brutal .892 save percentage in the 2018-19 season and with Alex Stalock injured, Kaapo Kahkonen, who presents as a solid prospect but has played just five career NHL games, could be Talbot's backup. Both teams have uncertainty in goal and while I think the Wild could have a bit of an edge, I'm not prepared to bet on them getting great goaltending either.
We should actually see a fairly even matchup when the Sharks play the Wild this season. Both teams have questions in their lineup but based on the other teams in the division, either could make a push to squeak into the playoffs.
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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 Wild in the standings this season?