James Sheppard

Sharks make positive moves, re-sign Wingels and Sheppard

It’s an understatement — make that a gross understatement — to say the bulk of the Sharks fan base has been unhappy with recent decisions made by San Jose’s bigwigs.

So hopefully this week’s re-signings can put smiles on faces across Sharks territory, as the team inked contracts with two young faces on Team Teal’s roster.

The team was busy over the last few days, announcing signings of forwards Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard. Restricted free agent Sheppard was inked to a one-year $1.3 million contract, while Wingels’ tenure in San Jose was extended with a three-year $7.4 million deal.

Both players impressed last season, and should the decision-makes in San Jose keep to the “going younger” plan they’ve been preaching this off-season, Wingels and Sheppard could play larger roles in the team’s 2014-2015 campaign.

“Tommy stepped forward and made a big commitment to our organization. He is an important part of our team,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said of the Wingels signing.

Wingels registered 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) and a +11 rating in 77 games last regular season. Not to mention seven game-winning goals in that span.

Sheppard was no slouch either, notching 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) a plus-three rating and 35 penalty minutes in 67 games last regular season. He displayed what Wilson called “perseverance and dedication,” adding that Sheppard “worked tremendously hard and earned himself a key role on our team last season.”

Looking beyond the numbers: both players could be pivotal in what appears to be a much-needed turnaround of the Sharks’ overall identity.

Even before their disappointing collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks had a difficult time prevailing against seemingly non-threatening teams. Not because the Sharks didn’t have the skill on their roster to win those games, but because their leadership — both on the ice and on the bench — wasn’t pushing them enough to notch key victories. Both Wingels and Sheppard possess a work ethic and mental toughness that, if put into larger leading roles, could be what the team needs to bulldoze through said roadblocks.

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