2. Can Erik Karlsson be peak Erik Karlsson again?
There has been no better sight in hockey in recent years than witnessing Erik Karlsson at the peak of his powers, moving the puck around the ice like it was no effort at all and letting loose with his hammer of a shot.
He was a hell of a lot of fun to watch and he was the reason the Ottawa Senators made a deep run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17. After all, Karlsson put that team on his back and produced the performance of a lifetime despite playing on one leg.
And, sadly, it has been injuries that have defined the defenseman’s career since then with Karlsson unable to remain fully healthy.
Despite those injury concerns, however, the San Jose Sharks still knew what they would be getting in the six-time All-Star, hence why they sent an absolute haul over to the Senators for Karlsson before signing him to a blockbuster eight-year, $92 million contract.
After all, Erik Karlsson on one leg is still one hell of a player.
However, injuries have limited the two-time Norris Trophy winner in San Jose so far, with the blueliner suffering a slight dip in production in 2019-20 with 40 points (6 G, 34 A) in 56 regular-season games.
Granted, Karlsson was stuck on a bad team that couldn’t score and also couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, which didn’t help, while he did show flashes of the brilliance that we all know he is very, very capable of.
The one major positive heading into the 2020-21 NHL season, though, is the fact that Karlsson has now had perhaps the longest break of his career to fully heal and recover from any lingering injuries and ailments.
He’s been off for months and that break away from the grind has probably done him the world of good mentally too, so there is a chance that the 30-year-old will be more motivated than ever once puck drops this week.
If that’s the case then it is possible that we see the best version of Erik Karlsson for the first time in a long time, and that will only significantly boost the Sharks’ chances of making a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Whether Karlsson can play to a Norris Trophy-Caliber level is another question entirely but, if he can at least carve out some of his best hockey in a long time, then that will be a massive boost and a huge weapon for the San Jose Sharks in 2020-21.