Like you, I can't wait for this next season to start. Like you, I've been speculating about how the Sharks' new additions will fit into the scheme of things. So I've decided to give armchair coaching a try. Enjoy.
Now, I've written about the Sharks before (mainly in school/local newspapers a few years back) and I've been following the Sharks ever since I was best friends with Bernie Nicholls' son (in kindergarten, no less). And honestly, (knock on wood) this looks like the best roster they've ever had. Forget Heatley. Forget Selanne. Brent Burns is the biggest (literally?) acquisition the Sharks have ever had this side of Joe Thornton. Add Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus and a slew of younger third- and fourth-liners, and you've got one hell of a cocktail. So let's get mixing.
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Martin Havlat
I'm not really buying into the idea of sticking Havlat on the second line. He's a bona fide first-liner with an insane repertoire of moves and dangles. In Todd McLellan's puck-possession offense, a guy like Havlat is gold. His ability to take contact and maintain control of the puck is up there with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin. One advantage that Havlat has over his predecessor is speed. Joe Thornton is arguably the best in the NHL at leading his targets, and with Marleau and Havlat flying down the wings and Dan Boyle potentially jumping into the rush, expect plenty of odd-man rushes.
As far as names go, I'm thinking the "Jumbo Party" line... (Jumbo, Patty and Marty... geddit? geddit?)
This looks to be the Sharks' core line for the foreseeable future, with three promising youngsters who have shown grit, poise and clutch scoring ability throughout their young careers. (Side note: can you believe that Pavs is a 5-year veteran?) Assuming Havlat fits in well, these top two lines are going to be quite fluid throughout the season, a huge plus in case of injuries or scoring slumps. If you're trying to win a key faceoff, this is the line to send out. All three guys can take the draw, so they don't have to worry about being
This is where the fun starts. I see this as a checking line with some scoring pop. Handzus is a seasoned veteran who's itching for playoff success. He's like Manny Malhotra with hair. Lots of hair. McGinn and Mashinter are wild cards. If McGinn can regain his scoring pop (a topic which has been beaten to death over this summer), he can provide quite a spark. Mashinter is a big guy who likes to throw his weight around. He's like a second Ryane Clowe - a guy who can win the puck on the boards and then go park himself in front of the net.
This is really a placeholder line. Unless someone has a brilliant training camp (think Benn Ferriero last year), it looks like these guys will be the frontrunners for these spots. It'll be a hotly contested battle, but I reckon these three will win out. Of these three, Sheppard's got the most to prove. He was drafted 9th overall in 2006 - over guys like Michael Grabner, Chris Stewart and Claude Giroux. He's yet to live up to that potential, but something tells me T-Mac may have something up his sleeve for the speedy center. Torrey Mitchell is probably a lock to make the team, and Desjardins showed some promise in limited action last year. But like I said, the battle for these spots will be intense. Ferriero, Ben Guite, John McCarthy, Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard (once he recovers) are all waiting in the wings.
Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Oddly enough, the defense is the part of the team that is most concrete. All three lines pair an offensively-oriented defenseman with their stay-at-home counterparts. Don't see much potential for change here, barring a trade involving Jason Demers (in which case Justin Braun or even Nick Petrecki could replace him). But that's a different debate altogether. As far as the Vlasic/Burns pairing... this offseason soooo needs a fast-forward button.
I can haz moar Nemo?
And there you have it. My predictions for the Sharks' opening day lines. I tried to keep it simple (no statistical analysis, etc.) Please leave feedback in the comments below.
This should be fun.
- The Legion of Boom