The Sharks took some time to get into the game on Saturday, which makes sense given the five days off before the game against the Vancouver Canucks. It turns out the only team in British Columbia is bad at ice hockey this year, so it didn’t much matter which version of the Sharks showed up.
It’s a good thing, too, because head coach Pete DeBoer turned in a doozy of a lineup. Let’s take a look.
Kevin Labanc - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker - Logan Couture - Patrick Marleau
Chris Tierney - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward
Barclay Goodrow - Micheal Haley - Melker Karlsson
Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh. The top three lines are mostly fine. But the fourth line isn’t good enough for a team with much better options at its disposal. And I’m not just talking about Micheal Haley; though he’s where we’re going to start.
Haley posted the worst even strength corsi numbers of any Sharks player on Saturday night according to hockeystats.ca (-7). This isn’t new, but it’s particularly egregious when DeBoer plays Haley at the center position given San Jose’s depth down the middle in the AHL.
Ryan Carpenter is averaging 1.55 even strength primary points per 60 minutes with the Barracuda and Daniel O’Regan is averaging 1.92. Both play center and both have better NHL prospects than Haley. Oh, and did I mention both play center. Want to keep Haley in the lineup because you think he provides a deterrent? You’re wrong, but play him at winger. You know, his actual position. To do otherwise at this point is absolutely ludicrous.
Now that we’ve pushed Haley out to the wing, let’s talk about it. Wasn’t it neat how Haley stopped Melker Karlsson from getting run last night? Oh ... wait ... that’s right. It didn’t happen, because deterrents don’t work anymore people. So instead of doing that, let’s call up a player who can actually drive possession on the fourth line like Timo Meier.
It’s pretty simple to me. If Haley doesn’t provide a deterrent (and if you think he does after last night, well) and his possession game isn’t there and the Sharks need scoring, isn’t it time to turn to someone else? I get it: Meier hasn’t scored much, but at this point we need to look at scoring outside the NHL. Meier has torn up the AHL this year, tore up the QMJHL every year he was there and is shooting at a very low percentage this year.
If you think Haley is going to be a better scorer than Meier if given the chance, godspeed. I don’t know what to tell you. You can swap out Meier’s name with almost any player chomping at the bit with the Barracuda to get to the NHL at this point and the argument stays the same.
Then there’s calling up Goodrow instead of the handful of over the ‘Cuda players who, frankly, deserve the recall more than he does. Even if we look beyond Meier, you’re going to tell me O’Regan hasn’t done enough to earn another look? Doug Wilson doesn’t have a problem playing centers on the wing (or wingers at center, apparently) so let’s throw that argument out the window. Here are the players with more even-strength, primary points per 60 than Goodrow with the Barracuda:
Marcus Sorensen, Timo Meier, Daniel O’Regan, Buddy Robinson (yep), Ryan Carpenter, Nikolay Goldobin and Nikita Jevpalovs. You want to argue Goodrow has earned it more than one or two of those guys? That’s fine. But all of those guys? Come one. We know what Goodrow has to offer and frankly it’s not a whole lot! He doesn’t offer a grittier game than Meier (fewer hits/60) and his scoring is not any better in a larger NHL sample size.
This becomes (slightly) less urgent if Donskoi comes back. Goodrow will be sent down, Tierney will move to center the fourth line and playing Haley, while still a mistake, will be mitigated.
What’s frustrating is that it feels the Sharks have learned so little since all their big offseason talk of playing a “fast, four-line game.” Beyond picking up Mikkel Boedker (who DeBoer has benched on multiple occasions), it’s frustrating to see the Sharks enter game 62 without their money matching their mouths.
It’s time to put up or shut up. If there’s a commitment to be made to skating four lines, it should start on Tuesday. Otherwise, it’s just proof nothing was learned in June after all.