After starting the season on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, Kevin Labanc is heading to the minors. First reported by Paul Gackle of the Bay Area News Group as a possibility following last night’s win against Anaheim, the AHL confirmed the transaction this morning. The Sharks have not released a statement.
Halfway through last night’s game, while the Sharks were down by one in a tight game, Labanc was demoted from the top line down to the fourth line. After the game, he was called to a meeting with Doug Wilson.
He started this season off to a hot start, but after the Sharks’ initial home stand ended, he cooled off. The 21-year-old has posted three goals and fours assists in 13 games this year, but only has one point in the last six games.
This could be an opportunity for Barclay Goodrow to see more ice time, as he made only his second appearance this season last night, replacing Ryan Carpenter on the fourth line. Neither Carpenter or Goodrow are waivers-exempt, so one of them has been in the press box all season, usually alongside either Jannik Hansen or Joel Ward. There’s little room for flexibility on this Sharks roster, without only Labanc and Timo Meier eligible to send down without passing through waivers first.
Another option would be to call up a forward from the Barracuda, with Marcus Sorensen or Danny O’Regan making strong cases for themselves. We saw Sorensen plenty last year, but O’Regan has been establishing himself and his game on the Barracuda’s top line and his natural center ability could make him an appealing option before the Sharks face off against the charged-up offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
The Barracuda, on the other hand, are probably a little relieved to have Labanc join their ranks, as the start to their season has been rough. After making it to the Western Conference Final last season, they are currently seventh in the Pacific, with a 3-5-0 record so far.