NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the San Jose Sharks.
[Sharks 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Will Joe Thornton return?
The 40-year-old center ranks third in Sharks history in goals (244), second in games (1,034) and points (1,024), and first in assists (780). Thornton, who had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 games last season, is an unrestricted free agent and remains undecided on whether he will return for a 22nd NHL season. He has played the past two seasons on a one-year contract.
"I think everybody that knows 'Jumbo' expects him to be back," Sharks forward Timo Meier said Aug. 15. "The way he's training and the way he's still in shape with his 40 years, I don't doubt that he's coming back. He'll be playing until he can't anymore. Probably he'll play longer than he can walk. I really hope he's going to be back because he's just a huge presence and the guys all love him there, and obviously we all know what kind of hockey player he is."
Video: 31 in 31: San Jose Sharks 2019-20 season preview
2. Can Martin Jones bounce back?
The 29-year-old goalie had the worst statistical season in his six-year NHL career with a 2.94 goals-against average and .896 save percentage, which was fourth-lowest among goalies to play at least 30 games. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jones had a 5.33 GAA and .838 save percentage in his first four games before a 2.68 GAA and .908 save percentage in his final 16 games.
The Sharks are hoping Jones can put up numbers closer to his averages in his first three seasons (2015-18) with San Jose, when he had a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage.
"I don't want to blame it all on goaltending and I don't think it was all of our goaltending's fault," center Logan Couture said. "Playoffs, Jones played very well. … We have all the confidence in the world in him and we expect him to have a good year."
Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Jones denies Perron's great scoring bid
3. Who will be named captain?
San Jose is without a captain after center Joe Pavelski, who served that role for the past four seasons, signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars as an unrestricted free agent on July 1. San Jose will likely name a captain prior to the season, and candidates include Couture and defensemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the longest tenured player on the Sharks (13 seasons) with Thornton (14 seasons) unsigned.
"I don't know what's going to happen going forward," said Couture, who has played 10 seasons for San Jose and is fourth in its history with 507 points (240 goals, 267 assists). "[Pavelski] was a tremendous captain for us. He will definitely be missed in the room for his leadership and what he did on the ice. Other guys are going to have to step up and fill that void when it comes to leadership and his production on the ice, so we'll see what happens."