With the hockey world currently embroiled in its bimonthly edition of The Great Fighting Debate, a straw man argument is being frequently tossed out by the pro-fighting crowd that those of us who think that maybe the likes of George Parros and Colton Orr populating NHL lineups solely to beat the shit out of each other is a bad idea would also like to see any type of physical contact, hitting included, abolished from the game. To show that couldn't be further from the truth and since we're suckers for corporate tie-ins (go buy EA Sports NHL 14, with its improved real-life physics engine, on shelves now!...or something) here's our countdown of the top five Sharks hits from last season:
5. In typical gutless fashion, Patrick Marleau ducks a hit from gritty, poised, veteran Blues leader David Backes. If only Marleau could be more like the inspiring, 6-goal scoring St. Louis captain.
4. Brent Burns was a loose cannon as a forward all through the second half of last season with some of his best moments coming when he had the chance to deliver all 230 pounds of himself into an unsuspecting opponent via an ass-check. Coming in Game 4 against L.A., this was the best of those moments.
3. Andrew Desjardins was inexplicably given a game misconduct for this admittedly brutal but definitively clean hit on ex-Shark Jamal Mayers. The league came to its senses and rescinded the misconduct after the game.
2. Here's Desjardins again, with yet another clean hit. The officials didn't screw the pooch this time around but Jake Muzzin sure did with his stupid and unnecessary "response" to a legal check.
1. This was unquestionably the most notable Sharks hit of 2013, and had some very negative effects on young Gabriel Landeskog's season, but was it dirty? I can see both sides of the argument and the Department of Player Safety's decision not to suspend Stuart set an interesting precedent. Or would have if that department's decisions were steeped in any degree of logic.
|1-0-0, 2 points
||1-0-0, 2 points|
|Tied-2nd in Pacific
||Tied-2nd in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
John McCarthy - Andrew Desjardins - James Sheppard
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Projected Coyotes Lineup
Mikkel Boedker - Mike Ribeiro - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lucas Lessio - Antoine Vermette - David Moss
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Chipchura - Chris Brown
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - David Rundblad
Both teams are coming off 4-1 victories in their respective season openers on Thursday night. Phoenix poses an interesting challenge to the Sharks this season and, I think, to much of the division. I would have pegged 33-year-old Mike Ribeiro and his nonexistent defensive game as a poor fit in free agency for almost every NHL team. And while it's likely the Coyotes will end up regretting the third and fourth years they were forced to give him, Ribeiro should not only jumpstart a dormant power play but gives Phoenix the type of depth down the middle that allows them to move Martin Hanzal out of a featured offensive role. Ribeiro, Hanzal and Vermette isn't exactly what the Sharks have to work with at center ice but it's a solid one-two-three punch that could potentially create matchup problems for other teams, something the Coyotes have never been able to boast with their forward corps. Should be a fun game and a good early test for the Sharks.