SAN JOSE – Erik Karlsson said after last season that he wouldn’t have minded remaining with the San Jose Sharks had he been in his early twenties instead of his early thirties.
Despite the Sharks having the worst record in the NHL, Karlsson said he remained bullish on the team’s future and is a believer in general manager Mike Grier’s plan as the franchise continues with a rebuild that could last for a few more seasons.
“It’s an unfortunate part of the business and the cycle, where the team and the organization are right now,” Karlsson, 33, said. “Unfortunately, the clock is ticking a little bit faster (for me) than I would have liked.
“The people that came in, the people that are trying to shape this (are) good people. They have good intentions and a purposeful plan.”
Karlsson in August was traded by the Sharks to Pittsburgh in a three-team deal that brought back to San Jose forwards Mikael Granlund and Matt Hoffman, defenseman Jan Rutta, and a conditional Penguins first-round draft pick. The deal also frees up $10 million in salary cap space for the Sharks for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 seasons.
The Sharks, prior to Saturday night’s game with the Penguins at SAP Center, were 0-9-1 and one loss away from tying the NHL record for most consecutive defeats to start a season. They had scored 10 goals in 10 games, desperately missing the production Karlsson provided last season with 101 points in 82 games.
Karlsson pointed to the Colorado Avalanche, which finished with just 48 points in a dreadful 2016-17 season but later won the Stanley Cup. That Avalanche team already had some young stars to build around, though, in forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen.
The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2022 and are one of the favorites again this season.
“Easy example is we look at Colorado six, seven years ago, where they were,” Karlsson said. “There was no one who thought that they would be as dominant as they have been for the last couple of years and looking like they will be for the foreseeable future.
“Even though things are not looking the best, maybe right now, (the Sharks) are going somewhere that’s going to be for the better and going somewhere with a purpose. It’s just going to need some patience and some time.”
INJURY UPDATE: Sharks goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, who was injured in Thursday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, felt better Saturday and was on the ice after the morning skate with presumptive scratches Kevin Labanc and Ty Emberson. The Sharks recalled Magnus Chrona from the Barracuda on Friday to back up Mackenzie Blackwood for Saturday’s game. Chrona played Friday night in Calgary and stopped 34 of 35 shots in the Barracuda’s 1-0 road loss.
SULLIVAN ON QUINN: Sharks coach David Quinn got a vote of confidence from his former Boston University teammate, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, before Saturday’s game.
Quinn is just starting his second season with the Sharks and had a record of 22-57-13 before Saturday, never climbing above a .500 points percentage.
“(Quinn’s) a very good teacher,” said Sullivan, who played with Quinn at BU during the 1986-87 season, five years before he joined the Sharks for their inaugural season in the NHL. “He has a good understanding of the game, a good command of the x’s and o’s, and not only that, he understands how to help players improve and grow and get better. I think his (coaching) experience in college hockey would really help them in that regard, just dealing with the younger generation and trying to help players grow and develop as people.
“That’s one of the strengths of his coaching.”
SULLIVAN ON WILSON: Sullivan said he was excited to learn earlier this year that his ex-Sharks teammate Doug Wilson would be joining the Penguins as a senior advisor of hockey operations. Wilson, the Sharks GM for 19 seasons, was officially hired by the Penguins in September and reports to Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas.
Wilson, 66, took a medical leave of absence on Nov. 26, 2021.to focus on his health, and resigned from his position on April 7, 2022, The Sharks organization raised a banner to SAP Center’s rafters in honor of Wilson’s legacy on Oct. 15, 2022.
“He brings a wealth of experience to our front office and I think he brings a lot of perspective in a competitive environment,” Sullivan said. “There isn’t too much that Doug hasn’t been through as a manager or as a player, for that matter. He’s a charismatic guy that has a way of making people feel comfortable and empowering people to feel comfortable in speaking their minds. He’s brought that to our hockey operations.”
Wilson was not in San Jose on Saturday, though, as Sullivan said he was probably in Wilkes-Barre, Penn, watching the Penguins’ AHL team.
“He’s really immersed himself in the process here with our team,” Sullivan said. “He’s one of the smarter hockey guys that I’ve been around.”