This past week, San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson was quoted as saying that the team was in the middle of a “reset”. After enduring an 11-13-3 start to this season (good for second to last in the West Division), following a 29-36-4 record last season, Wilson has acknowledged changes need to be made.
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More specifically, he stated the team would need to take a step back before they would be able to be competitive and return to the Cup contending team they had been over the last long while. After posting a solid 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, defenseman Erik Karlsson offered his reaction to Wilson’s comments, stating:
"“Obviously, I did not sign here to go through a rebuild or go through what I did for 10 years in Ottawa. I think that we need to find a way to build with a core group that we have here and figure out a way how to be competitive here in the upcoming years.”"
Now, there’s a lot that one can take from just these few short snippets (besides the obvious remark on the Senators, more on that later) and it has taken me a few days of self-reflection to even decipher and compile an opinion that doesn’t just devolve into an incoherent rant. However, before I engage in that, there is something important to be brought up regarding this situation. Not too long ago, I did a piece on Karlsson, more specifically, his contract situation and slow start to the 2020-21 season, both for him and the Sharks.
As a sportswriter, I don’t typically like to write multiple pieces on one player, at least not in a way that is directly focusing on them or their situation solely. In my piece on Karlsson, I thought I had divulged all the thoughts and opinions I had towards the former all-world offensive defenseman, but, alas, things change.
The situation in San Jose has continued to devolve over the last little while, with the team embroiled in both on-ice and off-ice struggles. While Wilson’s comments are something that no GM nor team wants to admit or hear, Karlsson’s response didn’t exactly do much to help justify the Sharks potential to qualify for a Playoff spot this season.
Franchise defenseman Brent Burns has gotten off to one of his worst starts since his early years with the Minnesota Wild, Tomas Hertl continues to deal with injury troubles stemming all the way from last season, and the situation in net is quiet frankly a revolving door with no apparent exit. Having an overall lack of identity and sense of cohesion or chemistry, the Sharks’ occasional strong showings continue to be marred down by inconsistency and, again, off-ice controversies.
While former First-Round pick Evander Kane is off to one of his best starts of his career, posting 26 points (12 G, 14 A) over 27 games to lead the Sharks in scoring, it’s apparent there’s another form of shark that’s tailing, and subsequently revealing, his less than scrupulous financial situation, the details of which are too complicated to fully delve into here.
However, at the forefront of the Sharks struggles, at least until Kane’s finances and apparent bankruptcy came to light, has continually been Karlsson. I already took a deep and nuanced look at his contract in my previous piece, but for those of you who still aren’t aware, I’ll quickly break it down. Eight years, $11.5 million a year, $92 million total.
Again, whilst you recover from the shock that comes with hearing numbers like that, Karlsson is off to the definitively worst start of his career. With just 2 goals and 8 assists over 23 games, Karlsson is not exactly living up to his contract, nor is he being competitive in the same way he wishes his teammates were.
With the San Jose Sharks in the middle of an apparent “reset”, Erik Karlsson’s comments show a continued struggle to live up to his contract
No player ever wants to admit their own struggles, and it is obvious Karlsson is one such player, but it still needs to be said that, as one of San Jose’s franchise players, he needs to find a way to be competitive, possibly more so than any of his teammates, most of which have had solid, if unremarkable starts.
One of the main points to bring up regarding Karlsson’s play as of late is obviously his foot speed, stemming from a torn tendons in his left foot suffered during the 2017-18 season. Karlsson isn’t the lightning quick skater he once was, but even in spite of that, had still managed to produce at a solid pace in his first two seasons in San Jose, with back-to-back 40-point campaigns.
In contrast, this season has just not been the same, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the price tag that’s permanently affixed alongside him. While I’m a firm believer in giving players opportunities to prove themselves in a reduced role, even if they’re playing on a high-value contract, Karlsson’s comments signify an apparent want for his team to pull their weight, when, in reality, it’s Karlsson who needs to pull his weight above anything else.
After the slow pace to these past few seasons, it’s expected that Karlsson would like a trade out of San Jose, especially giving the comments he offered and his apparent frustration with his team’s lack of success. However, in direct contrast to that, I’m going to re-use a phrase from my previous piece.
Erik Karlsson’s contract isn’t just buyout-proof, it isn’t just trade-proof, and it isn’t just waivers-proof, it’s the complete CLR Calcium Lime and Rust Remover that every homeowner needs, and no NHL team wants. Yet, San Jose finds themselves completely, totally, and utterly stuck with it. In spite of my previously mentioned want to keep a level-head in my articles, I’m going to offer a blunt and to the point opinion.
Erik Karlsson is a truly untradeable player. For the seven years that remain on his deal, every single one of those years will be with the San Jose Sharks. While it is obvious from his statements that Karlsson did not particularly enjoy his time in Ottawa (even in spite of their success), his future now remains locked to a franchise who find themselves in a possibly more difficult situation.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the 2020-21 season will fare for the San Jose Sharks, but as long as their off-ice controversies and inconsistencies continue, it seems as though a second straight season without a trip to the postseason is in their future, and unless he picks up the pace he doesn’t seem to think he’s lacking, it seems as though Erik Karlsson’s downward spiral will continue amidst this “reset”.