San Jose Sharks: First August Prediction for 2016-17 Season

The San Jose Sharks will enter the 2016-17 NHL season with high expectations. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
The San Jose Sharks will enter the 2016-17 NHL season with high expectations. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

The possibilities are almost endless for the 2016-17 San Jose Sharks, but here is the first august prediction offered during the month of August…

August is a tough time for a lot of fans. Followers of the San Jose Sharks are understandably more impatient for the 2016-17 NHL season than most coming off the team’s first-ever Stanley Cup finals appearance last spring.

All there is to do right now is speculate. Afraid to be wrong, most of what comes from mainstream media is obvious.

Thank you ESPN for telling us last October that the Sharks will make the playoffs but not the Stanley Cup finals. (To be fair to Pierre LeBrun, the former may not have been certain coming off missing the postseason plus all the upheaval, and he was bold enough to predict fourth place—just one off.) When there is not much happening to report, we take what we can get.

The same predictions were both 10-for-10 until the 2014-15 NHL season and the latter was true for the first 24 years before this May. Meanwhile, no one had Melker Karlsson or Joonas Donskoi making the rookie splashes they did.

In an attempt to offer an alternative, the blogosphere is often overly assumptive. Fan sites are also very entrenched in either the optimistic or pessimistic camps and are the self-proclaimed real fans either because they alone believe or accept reality.

One in 2014 predicted Mirco Mueller would be the Calder Trophy winner and San Jose would win its first Stanley Cup—the same year the 10-season playoff run ended. Another predicted that the blue-line move of Brent Burns would be a disaster and the team could not succeed until Doug Wilson—the most successful general manager in almost every way outside of the eight that have championships during his tenure—was fired.

Related Story: Burns and Wilson Prove They Are Where They Belong

As with everything from sports to presidential races, the truth is usually somewhere in between. Burns struggled initially but was almost as good as Joe Thornton by last American Thanksgiving. Wilson still has not won a Stanley Cup and has to take some responsibility for not giving Mueller more time to develop.

In an effort to not only play upon the double meaning for a month that needs more hockey discussion but also provide some, August here will be filled with predictions worthy of fans. They are neither safe nor reckless, but significant yet realistic.

The first thing that must be examined before any predictions about a team with an established coaching staff is the roster. Thus, it makes sense to start with who makes the Sharks, and perhaps the biggest roster speculation centers around the backup goalie.

The San Jose Sharks wil probably start the 2016-17 NHL season with Aaron Dell as their backup goalie. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
The San Jose Sharks wil probably start the 2016-17 NHL season with Aaron Dell as their backup goalie. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Prediction No. 1: San Jose will go with Aaron Dell as the backup goalie until at least the All-Star break and trade for another before the deadline. This does not match with our previous speculation that Thomas Greiss is the most likely trade option, but chances are that Wilson wants to see how the talent he has handles the role before giving anything up.

The Sharks are actually better off having Troy Grosenick be the backup goalie so Dell can develop. However, they will find he is not up to the task in training camp and be forced to play someone in the role with only one full season as an AHL starter under his belt.

That will not go that well. San Jose has nine sets of back-to-back games before February 11. Dell will have to start those plus at least one more between October 18 when the first set ends and November 25 when the second begins.

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We saw how even a few games with an AHL goalie did with Alex Stalock last season. We also saw how easy it was to get a backup at the deadline and how well that works. In fact, the Sharks have changed backup goalies during the season four times in Wilson’s tenure and none have been problematic.

Were this series about bold predictions, the player traded for would be included. With so many variables, that would also likely turn out to be wrong.

On the other hand, predicting no other new goalie would be signed and which of the two in competition wins the job—even in combination—would be too safe a prediction. Thus it is necessary to further predict that will be insufficient and compel Wilson to make a trade to make it worthwhile.

That still seems a better-than-even chance but is not something to take to the bank. Hopefully that made it speculation worth reading.