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Marleau, new system among Sharks questions

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003 and replacing longtime coach Todd McLellan with Peter DeBoer, the San Jose Sharks face plenty of uncertainty approaching the 2015-16 season.

The Sharks are coming off a season that was filled with dysfunction on and off the ice, and they hope to make a quick turnaround.

Here are three questions facing the Sharks this season:

How quickly will the Sharks adapt to DeBoer's system? Many of the Sharks have never played in the NHL for a coach other than McLellan, who came to San Jose in 2008. McLellan brought his puck-possession approach from the Detroit Red Wings, where he served as an assistant under Mike Babcock for three seasons. McLellan made tweaks throughout his tenure, but now the Sharks have to adjust to a new coach and new systems.

"I believe in pressure hockey," DeBoer said. "The more pressure you can put on the other team in all three zones -- defensively, in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone -- the better off you're going to be. I think players want to play that way, and I think fans want to watch that type of hockey. It's structured pressure, make no mistake about that. You got to be on the right side of the puck and you can never cheat the system. We're going to start right from Day One implementing that structure and that foundation, and that's going to be the base that's going to carry us through."

Who will be the captain? In the wake of San Jose's collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round two seasons ago, McLellan stripped center Joe Thornton of his captaincy. McLellan never did name a replacement. Instead, the Sharks had four alternate captains throughout the season: Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

DeBoer said he'll name a captain before the start of the regular season. Pavelski has to be considered the favorite. He was the de facto captain much of last season, especially down the stretch. Then again, DeBoer said he'll have an open mind when making his decisions. Players such as Tommy Wingels and Logan Couture have shown leadership qualities, and Thornton is still one of the most respected players in the Sharks dressing room.

Can Patrick Marleau bounce back? Marleau had 19 goals and 57 points in 82 games last season, his lowest totals in a full season since 2007-08, when he had 19 goals and 48 points in 78 games. Marleau played heavy minutes at even strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill last season. He averaged 19:35 of ice time per game, more than any forward except Pavelski, who led the Sharks in goals (37) and points (70).

Marleau, who turns 36 in September, is still one of the Sharks' fastest skaters, and he is their career leader in goals (456), points (988), power-play goals (142) and game-winning goals (87). Only Pavelski and Couture had more than 25 goals last season, so the Sharks need Marleau to get back on track. In his previous five full seasons, Marleau averaged 36.4 goals and 72.2 points.

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