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After missing playoffs, Sharks turn to DeBoer, Jones

by Eric Gilmore continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

SAN JOSE -- Following a historic collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference First Round, the San Jose Sharks missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely last season for the first time since 2003.

Changes were inevitable after San Jose's dismal showing, and the biggest one came first.

Todd McLellan, the winningest coach in San Jose history, parted ways with the Sharks after seven seasons in what he and general manager Doug Wilson called a mutual decision. Wilson hired former Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer to replace McLellan, who became coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

DeBoer led New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, his first season with the Devils, one year after they finished 11th in the Eastern Conference and missed the postseason. He fully expects the Sharks to bounce back quickly.

"I think if you enter the San Jose Sharks organization like I am as the head coach, the expectation is to win right now," DeBoer said. "There's a tradition here of winning and challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That's my expectation. I think that's Doug's expectation. I don't think anyone is looking for anything less than that here."

The Sharks also have a new No. 1 goaltender, former Kings backup Martin Jones. Antti Niemi's five-season run as San Jose's top goaltender ended when the Sharks traded his negotiating rights to the Dallas Stars for a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Soon after the draft, San Jose acquired Jones from the Boston Bruins for a first-round pick in 2016 and forward Sean Kuraly, a fifth-round pick in 2011 who was unsigned.

Jones, who was traded by the Kings to the Bruins during the draft, appeared in 34 games for Los Angeles over the past two seasons. He is 16-11-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his NHL career.

"Martin was at the top of our list of players that we had targeted," Wilson said. "We're extremely excited to have him on board."

Jones made his NHL debut in the 2013-14 season and won his first eight starts, tying an NHL record for consecutive victories to begin a career. He had a 0.98 GAA and three shutouts during that stretch. Last season, he went 4-5-2 with a 2.25 GAA and .906 save percentage.

Wilson had hinted about the possibility of a blockbuster trade approaching the draft, but that never happened. So the Sharks will likely enter the season with a roster packed with familiar faces, including forwards Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Tommy Wingels, Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson, and defensemen Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon.

Wilson signed two veteran free agents, forward Joel Ward and defenseman Paul Martin, adding experience and grit to the lineup.

Ward, 34, had 19 goals and 15 assists during the regular season, playing all 82 games for the Washington Capitals. He had three goals and six assists in 14 playoff games. In 517 games for the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Capitals, Ward has 97 goals, 123 assists and a plus-17 rating.

"Joel is an identity player in that he plays exactly the way I want our team to play," DeBoer said. "He's big, strong, fast and hard to play against. That's exactly what we are looking for."

Martin, 34, led the Penguins with a plus-17 rating last season, when he had three goals and 17 assists. He has a plus-100 rating in 697 games with New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

"Paul is a versatile, puck-moving veteran who enhances our younger group of talented defensemen," Wilson said. "He comes from a winning environment, is capable of playing heavy minutes and is accustomed to playing with high-end players."

The Sharks decided not to re-sign three unrestricted free agents, forward John Scott and defensemen Matt Irwin and Scott Hannan. Niemi, who was also an impending unrestricted free agent, signed a three-year contract with the Stars.

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