Sure, one player does not a team make. But as the San Jose Sharks saw last season, one player can change the entire complexion of a team.
Such is the case for Erik Karlsson, who came to the Sharks on this date one year ago thanks to a blockbuster trade that sent shockwaves across the league. There's no denying that the former Ottawa Senators captain has had a profound impact on San Jose since his arrival in Silicon Valley.
Now that Karlsson has signed to an eight-year contract with San Jose, will have an "A" on his sweater, and will hopefully start the season with a clean bill of health, the focus shifts to how Karlsson could further evolve with the team.
San Jose already has big names on its roster and was known across the NHL for being a competitive product before Karlsson came to the South Bay. With a future Hall of Famer in Joe Thornton and a Norris Trophy winner in Brent Burns, just to name a few, San Jose already had a way of grabbing the rest of the league's attention.
But the addition of Karlsson to the Sharks' lineup put a whole different spotlight on them. Adding one of the best two-way defensemen on the planet to a blue line with Burns instantly bumped up San Jose's stock, making them a heavy favorite in the Western Conference.
Of course, with that spotlight also came heightened criticism. The Sharks were the subject of scrutiny early in the season when Karlsson didn't instantly assimilate to the team, particularly when San Jose went on a couple of ugly losing skids. The denunciation resurfaced again in the latter part of the season when Karlsson sustained a groin injury that took him out of the Sharks lineup right up until the end of the regular season. And then, there were the constant questions as to why Karlsson didn't sign a long-term contract with the Sharks during the season and whether his days in San Jose were numbered.
But don't forget -- Karlsson's first year with the Sharks wasn't all doom and gloom. During a window around December and January of last season, before all of the chaos regarding his injury and his contract status, the Swede went on a hot streak that gave the Sharks both an offensive and defensive boost that made them a force to seriously be reckoned with. His speed and skill in the defensive zone served as a big help to the Sharks' often shaking goaltending, while his work setting up plays at the opposite end of the ice added a layer of danger to San Jose's forward attack.
Alongside Brenden Dillon, who became San Jose's plus-minus leader for the duration of the season, Karlsson became a key to San Jose's success. He even set a franchise record at the start of the new year, becoming the first Sharks player to record at least one point in 13 straight games.
Once Karlsson found his footing, he helped morph the Sharks into the team everyone thought they would be at the start of the season. And that's exactly the kind of play the Sharks want to see more of as the new season gets underway.
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How Karlsson will perform after having surgery this off-season remains to be seen. But the Sharks are clearly already putting quite a bit of stock into him being available to lead the team on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room. After one season of being the new guy in the room, Karlsson has pivoted into a bigger leadership position, similar to the one he held before that trade one year ago that brought him to San Jose.
After an eventful first season in teal, it's anyone's guess what Karlsson's second year with the Sharks has in store.