FTF Regular Season Cheat Sheet: Top Four Defense

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The season is just around the corner (never really understood that phrasing, as time is linear and all), and we thought it would be great to give you a quick rundown on the roster, with a little blurb on each player. If you feel like we've covered this before, well, we have. But we're going to expand on it a little, include the stories that we've written on the players over the past year and give our input on what we expect next season. We don't know exactly how the lines will shake up yet, so everything from here on out is going to be based off the final preseason game in Phoenix.

Final cuts tomorrow. God save us all.


Dan Boyle

#22 / Defenseman / San Jose Sharks

5-11

190

Jul 12, 1976

 

Previous FTF Coverage: A Week in Review (Mr. Plank)Ehrhoff & Lukowich Moved for Prospects (Mr. Plank)Who Should Take Over the Captaincy (Mr. Plank/TCY/Captain Crunch)


2008-2009 Stats

GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG SPCT PPG PPA SHG SHA GWG ATOI
77 16 41 57 6 52 213 7.5 8 24 0 1 4 24:46


Our two cents:

Dan Boyle, San Jose's big offseason acquisition last year, did nothing to disappoint in his 2008-2009  all-star season. But how will he fare with a new defensive partner?

Now that Lukowich has been shipped for cap relief, Boyle will have to learn the subtleties of working with a new line-mate. If early combos are any indication, that partner will be the surprisingly improved Douglas Murray, who's physical games is a perfect complement for Boyle's wheelin' and dealin' style.

Boyle did a good chunk of scoring from the back end last year, and he'll be depended on more than before in the coming season. Now that Ehrhoff is gone, it's going to be up to Boyle to get the majority of the point production and power play quarterbacking done.

He'll probably have another big offensive season, but defense was never his strong suit. With the corps now thinner than before (losing Ehrhoff and Lukowich is a blow to depth), he'll have to step up his defensive game as well.


Rob Blake

#4 / Defenseman / San Jose Sharks

6-4

225

Dec 10, 1969

 

Previous FTF Coverage: Blake signs with Sharks for 1 year (SwisherThresher), UFA of the Day: Rob Blake (Mr. Plank)


2008-2009 Stats

GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG SPCT PPG PPA SHG SHA GWG ATOI
73 10 35 45 15 110 198 5.1 6 16 0 0 1 21:16


Our two cents:

Blake had a nice comeback season after being acquired as a free agent by San Jose last offseason, but how much does he have left in the tank? At 39, Blake has obviously lost a step or two, and got into the nasty habit of taking bad penalties when unable to catch up to quicker, younger forwards.

As the leader of San Jose's probably mid-pairing (with Vlasic on is side), Blake will still have to log 20+ minutes a game. How long, though, will he be able to sustain that work load?

Blake has looked good so far in the preseason, so perhaps he'll be able to hold up for the year. However, how much will he produce on the offensive side? We're probably looking at a moderate decrease. Blake's a solid team guy, though, and will be expected to contribute more in the leadership department.



Marc-Edouard Vlasic

#44 / Defenseman / San Jose Sharks

6-1

200

Mar 30, 1987

 

 

 

Previous FTF Coverage: A Week in Review (Mr. Plank)Ehrhoff & Lukowich Moved for Prospects (Mr. Plank)


2008-2009 Stats

GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG SPCT PPG PPA SHG SHA GWG ATOI
82 6 30 36 15 42 104 5.8 3 18 0 1 1 23:54


Our two cents:

Marc-Edouard Vlasic served in a shutdown role with Rob Blake last season, and was arguably the best defensive defenseman on the team- Plank nominated him for the Norris candidate last season in the Sharks blogosphere awards due to his performance both on the kill and at even strength. As was mentioned before, Blake's potential declines due to age-related maladies (admittedly he's not a Chris Chelios esque candidate for adult diapers just yet) makes it essential that Vlasic continues to improve in his development. At twenty two years of age it's not a stretch to think he will be able to do so.

The knock against Pickles has always been his lack of physical acumen, and while Blake will provide the necessary crease clearing calisthenics on that pairing, it would be a welcome surprise to see him improve that aspect of his game this season. The lack of that willingness to body up was a large reason he posted a -6 in the playoffs. Vlasic is never going to be Scott Stevens obviously, but with skating ability that isn't on par with Dan Boyle or Scott Niedermayer (and without the requisite goal scoring prowess as well), Vlasic still has a ways to go before he can safely be called an elite defenseman in this league.

With one of the best value per dollar non-entry contracts on the team (if not the Pacific division, if not the Western Conference, if not the galaxy), Vlasic should be a bright spot on a blueline that has some questions with depth. He's going to eat minutes, he's going to keep the puck out of the net, and he's going to be able to shut down line one on Team X all season long.

All that's left is for him to bare his teeth and go for the throat.


Douglas Murray

#3 / Defenseman / San Jose Sharks

6-3

240

Mar 12, 1980

 

 

 

Previous FTF Coverage: A Week in Review (Mr. Plank)Ehrhoff & Lukowich Moved for Prospects (Mr. Plank)


2008-2009 Stats

GP G A PTS +/- PIM SOG SPCT PPG PPA SHG SHA GWG ATOI
75 0 7 7 6 38 56 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 16:38


Our two cents:

Douglas Murray, as mentioned before in the season preview, is going to be an X-factor for a team with not a whole lot of proven defensive depth. At this point it looks as if he will be paired with offensive standout Dan Boyle, providing the necessary physical presence that will complement Boyle's aggressive puck carrying style.

The 2008-2009 playoffs were a sore spot for Sharks fans, but one shining beacon of hope to take into this season has to be the play of Douglas Murray. He was easily the best defenseman on the team not named Dan Boyle, and his ability to absolutely destroy opposing forwards at the blueline is an endearing trait on a Sharks roster that will need all of that and more if they want to get to the next level. Murray is prone to making a bad pinch every once in awhile due to his up-tempo physical play, but his ability to clear the crease and shut down opposing team's cycles make his inclusion into the top four the logical solution considering the amount of minutes they stand to eat.

Strong positionally and even stronger physically is the motto for Crankshaft. In San Jose, that kind of talent is at a premium.



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