The San Jose Sharks are long past the days of competing for the Stanley Cup. We saw this well before they finished seventh in the Pacific Division last season. San Jose is in the midst of what could be a long rebuild, and it may be hard for their fans to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As a result, this season has little promise. The Sharks are unlikely to compete for a spot in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In fact, they are unlikely to finish higher than sixth in the Pacific. And finishing sixth would be a finish the Sharks would be happy to take.
That said, there are things for San Jose fans to look forward to this upcoming season. With that in mind, let's throw out three major predictions for the San Jose Sharks ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Filip Zadina wins his bet
The Sharks took a flier on former first-round pick Filip Zadina this summer. Zadina departed the Detroit Red Wings in a rather publicized matter. The 23-year-old gave up around $4.5 million in order to have his contract terminated by the Red Wings.
Zadina essentially took a major bet on himself. His belief was that, if given the opportunity, he could unlock the potential he entered the 2018 NHL Draft with. He could perform to the expectations that were placed upon him due to his draft position.
In 2023-24, Zadina will win his bet. I'm not going to go so far as to say the 23-year-old will become a star overnight. But he will show that he can contribute at the NHL level, and potentially set himself up for a legitimate break out season in 2024-25.
A goaltending surprise
The Sharks were not afraid of taking fliers on once-promising players this summer. San Jose also did it with goalie MacKenzie Blackwood, initially acquiring him from the New Jersey Devils via trade. They eventually re-signed him as an unrestricted free agent.
Blackwood figures to receive game time in San Jose this season. At the very least, he will form a platoon of sorts with former Minnesota Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen. And I believe the change of scenery will work wonders for Blackwood this year.
Blackwood, like Zadina, won't become a star. But I do believe he can become a solid NHL goaltender. He'll take the first steps toward that this season. If he can keep it up, he may prove to be a diamond in the rough for general manager Mike Grier.
Sharks flirt with 70
The Sharks finished last season with 60 points, which was 17 points fewer than their 2021-22 total. San Jose hoped bringing David Quinn in to lead the locker room would prove beneficial. And while Quinn may still prove to be the right man for the job, he experienced real growing pains in season one.
This season, things will improve a little bit. San Jose will finish with more than 60 points, and should even flirt with the 70-point mark. Of course, it will take more than Zadina and Blackwood stepping up to achieve this. But it is far from impossible.
Also, finishing with 70 points won't change their standing too much. The gap between sixth and seventh in the Pacific last year was 23 points. San Jose could finish with more than 70 points while still finishing in seventh place again this season.
But at the end of the day, your placement in the division isn't the only way to measure improvement. Wins and losses are the most important thing in professional sports. And if the Sharks can string together a few more wins, they'll feel better about the state of their team moving forward.