Boughner should plan on decreasing ice time for veterans

Marleau and Thornton will likely both suit up in teal next season, but should serve primarily as locker room guys.

Over the last two decades, long-tenured Sharks Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have established themselves as the two best players in Sharks’ history.

Marleau was selected with the second pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, tied with Pat Falloon and Andrei Zyuzin, for the franchise’s highest pick ever. Making an immediate impact his first season, the team improved their record by 16 points, and made a playoff appearance after missing the previous two seasons.

In 20 seasons with San Jose, Marleau has played over 1,500 regular-season games with 518 goals, 584 assists, and 1,102 points.

During the middle of the 2005-2006 season, the Sharks traded away Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, and Marco Sturm. In return, the team got back Joe Thornton in one of NHL history’s most shocking trades.

After 15 years with Team Teal, Jumbo has played over 1,100 regular-season games with 251 goals, 804 assists, and 1,055 points.

Both Marleau and Thornton averaged 15 minutes of time on ice last season. Despite both being over 40-years of age, they were top-six forwards on their respective teams.

The Sharks cannot give the two that sizable of a role heading into next season. New head coach Bob Boughner should give those minutes to some of the promising young talent already on the roster. Namely, Noah Gregor, Joachim Blichfeld, Ryan Donato, and Dylan Gambrell.

In the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Gregor was selected after playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL. In his final full season in the juniors, he posted 88 points through 63 games.

Last season, he played in 28 games for San Jose and strung together 5 points. While that stat line isn’t as impressive, Gregor is only 22-years old and has a tremendous upside.

Danish native Joachim Blichfeld had his name called in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL Draft. While playing for the Portland Winterhawks, Blichfeld had 114 points through 68 games.

With the Barracuda last season, Blichfeld played 44 games with 32 total points. He’s seen minimal ice time in the NHL, appearing in just three games for the Sharks last season.

New acquisition Ryan Donato is another player that deserves to see a solid amount of ice time. A self-proclaimed versatile forward, the 24-year old believes that he could play left-wing, right-wing, or center at a high level.

Last year with the Wild, Donato played in 62 games and scored 14 goals, 9 assists, to a tune of 23 points. Between his youth and early NHL experience, he could and should see an expanded role from San Jose early.

The final Shark forward that should command more ice time is Dylan Gambrell. Another 2016 draft selection, he has the most experience with Team Teal out of these younger forwards.

During the 2019-2020 season, he had five-goals and six-assists over a span of 50 games. Like Donato, an increased amount of ice time should allow Gambrell to take the next step.

All Sharks fans love Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, and they should. The two always have a spot on the roster if they want it, but they should begin to cede ice time to younger talent.