The Sharks loss to the Blue Jackets last night wasn't quite the catastrophe some are making it out to be, but it continued to highlight a glaring weakness: the bottom six forwards. Much of this can be attributed to the line shuffling being done in the absence of Logan Couture (not to mention Melker Karlsson) but there's a bit more to it than that (not much, but a bit).
First, let's look at the team's WOWY (With Or Without You) chart. Usually these are used to look at how one player impacts his teammates, but this should give you a good idea of who's contributing and who's not.
So, to the chart — to the surprise of no one but friend of the blog Kevin Kurz, Mike Brown is the worst player on the Sharks. I know, I know, this chart doesn't take into account all the momentum that his fights bring or the energy that leads to teams taking more shots on San Jose goalies, but hang in there. I'm sure those charts are coming.
This has also been a not-so-great stretch for Chris Tierney, or, well...see for yourself. Pretty much any player on the bottom six has struggled this season. Losing Couture to injury broke up a very dynamic third line and no Karlsson has kept the bottom six from recovering. Trotting out Brown every night certainly doesn't help (in fact, it actively hurts the Sharks) but even replacing him with someone from the AHL won't likely solve San Jose's problems.
5v5 shot rates so far this year. pic.twitter.com/9iCtsNMWjP— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 4, 2015
San Jose is about a middle of the road possession team right now. Getting Couture back will provide a dramatic lift to a lineup that needs it, but let's try to remember that the Sharks are not a bad hockey team. They've played about even possession hockey overall despite playing a few games without one of their best defenseman and most of the season without one of their best forwards.
Losing to a team like Columbus (a team that hasn't reached whatever win plateau we've decided is acceptable) sucks, but the Sharks played well after being shelled early in the first period. This team isn't the one destined for mediocrity that we saw last year; they're a bit banged up, but the Sharks are a playoff team and will prove that when they get everybody back on the ice.