3. Life Without Joe – San Jose Sharks
It is the start of a new era for the San Jose Sharks who opened Training Camp without franchise icon Joe Thornton for the first time in 15 years after the center signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the offseason.
So, while Thornton is currently preparing to start a new challenge with the Maple Leafs on Monday, the Sharks opened Training Camp in Arizona on New Year’s Eve with a rather different feeling in the air.
It will take some getting used to for San Jose given how important Thornton was to this franchise and to hockey in the California area in general.
Also, Thornton’s departure will leave a massive void when it comes to leadership and experience both in the room and on the ice, two intangibles the Sharks really need right now.
Granted, Patrick Marleau did return during the offseason so he will pick up some of that slack, but the Sharks will still need someone to step up and fill a center role for the 2020-21 season.
Dylan Gambrell, who put up 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in 50 games in 2019-20, has impressed in Training Camp by all accounts and could be in contention to slot in on that third-line, while Noah Gregor is also a potential candidate.
But, in what will be a weird season anyway, the San Jose Sharks will have to hope that certain players step up both on and off the ice to help ensure that Joe Thornton isn’t missed that much, or it could be a long year.
2. Options, Options, Options – Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are in the midst of a mass teardown but they turned a significant corner during the offseason after stocking up on depth by making a plethora of trades and deals to make this roster as it is currently constituted a lot more competitive.
General Manager Pierre Dorion sent a 2021 Second-Round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for veteran center Derek Stepan, before shipping the injured pair of Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson to the Tampa Bay Lightning for more depth in bottom-six center Cedric Paquette and veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn.
Those moves will make this Senators team a lot more competitive in 2020-21, while adding some much-needed leadership and veteran to that young locker room.
Plus, Head Coach D.J. Smith has already confirmed that No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Tim Stuetzle, will start the season on the left wing and he would be an ideal fit on Stepan’s line.
Veterans in the ilk of Stepan could prove invaluable to this Ottawa Senators team and rookies like Stuetzle, while there should be enough depth on this roster to ensure that they are competitive in an All-Canadian Division.