It is time to see how the first eight predictions of this series add up—i.e. how many points do the San Jose Sharks earn this season?
Right from the first installment of August predictions, we knew the only result that really matters is where the San Jose Sharks finish. The eight predictions so far this series have helped to bring some of the variables that could reasonably be forecast into focus.
Now it is time to look at the real measure of success for a team. How does San Jose perform?
It is important to remember that the August Predictions series hold a double meaning. No prediction that is unlikely to come true was made just for the sake of boldness that is exalted these days while few are held accountable for being wrong.
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You will not see a prediction of precise record nor even points. The chances such a prediction comes true are too remote.
Yet predictions that are yawners are even worse. Merely predicting the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years would not be worth anyone’s time.
It seems best to focus on a milestone. Even then the number of variables necessitates the ever-popular disclaimer, “barring major injury issues.”
Prediction No. 9: San Jose finishes with over 100 points. Many might think that should be obvious even though it has not been done since the 2013-14 NHL season. Thus, a bonus prediction is that the 111 points that team earned will not be reached.
That means at least three more points than last season. Some may feel that is too modest given the injuries the Sharks had to overcome in the first season under head coach Peter DeBoer.
The reality is they did not suffer that many injuries over the span of the 2015-16 NHL season. The metric used by HFBoards shows they had fewer total games lost to injury than all but four other teams. Even factoring in the impact of which players were lost, they rated in the lower third of the league.
What San Jose did have was a couple early key injuries at a key time when players were still trying to adapt to head coach DeBoer’s system and style. The loss of Logan Couture was a major blow to scoring and the blue line was initially thin enough that any top-four player lost was devastating.
That is no longer the case. The Sharks will have capable reserves everywhere but possibly goalie during the 2016-17 NHL season.
Dylan DeMelo was on blue-line patrol for more than 40 games as a rookie. He was solid by last spring but was in the press box for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs after the Roman Polak trade.
DeMelo will be back there during the 2016-17 NHL season barring injury. San Jose lost Polak to free agency but landed David Schlemko.
Even if two defensemen are hurt, 2013 first-round pick Mirco Mueller appeared to turn a corner and could be ready to build on his 50 games of experience. Julius Bergman or Jeremy Roy could also be ready to take the next step to at least fill in competently.
The Sharks are even deeper at forward. Though Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus will not return to the checking lines, Mikkel Boedker was added to the scoring lines and Timo Meier is only the best of a few prospects pushing to make the roster.
If Meier makes the roster as expected, San Jose will have Matt Nieto or Tommy Wingels in the press box every night. Alongside him will be either Barclay Goodrow or Micheal Haley, with the other playing in the AHL. Below them, Nikolay Goldobin and Ryan Carpenter already have showed they can play in the NHL and Marcus Sorenson could be also ready.
That adds up to the Sharks being able to endure injuries in the likely scenario they suffer more impact during the 2016-17 NHL season than last. That should enable them to earn over 100 points even with the stiff competition of the Western Conference.