San Jose and the myth of depth
Your team can't survive losing its best players. That's why they're the best players.
The Sharks suffered against the Rangers on Monday night, playing without Logan Couture and Paul Martin for the second-straight game. Now San Jose boasts a two-game losing streak after being shut down by the Rangers' backup netminder and against a team playing a back-to-back.
It's not quite time to panic. Unless Couture is out 4-6 months and Martin is gone for the next two. In which case, sure, let it all out. What the loss of two of the Sharks best players highlights is the myth of depth in the NHL in 2015. It doesn't exist the way it once did (if it ever did exist to this extent).
There are no teams (none) that can survive losing a top-four defenseman (top two if we're talking about actual defensive talent) and a top six center. That team doesn't exist in a salary cap league, and quite frankly I'm not convinced that team existed much before the NHL was a salary cap league. If you could easily replace the production of your best players, they wouldn't be your best players.
So much of this, in all sports, stems from the "next man up" philosophy coaches spew at their players from a young age. It's about picking up your teammates, filling in the hole and taking over for a fallen comrade — right, it's just shitty war symbolism.
What this cliche doesn't acknowledge is there isn't always a next man up for a player suffering an injury. There's no replacement for Martin on the San Jose defense, and there can't be. You might have forgotten that the Sharks have no salary cap space but that doesn't stop it from being true. Yes, San Jose's third pairing is currently a couple of AHLers — but there's not a whole lot Doug Wilson or Peter DeBoer can do about that.
Losing Couture, along with Melker Karlsson and Raffi Torres, opened up a big hole in the Sharks forward ranks. This stings, though perhaps not quite as badly as the Martin injury. Couture is often taken for granted around these parts (I'm guilty of this as well) but he's a damn special player and that second line — which looked fabulous with him — just can't be the same without him.
Bryan Lerg can not replace Couture. Goldobin can't replace Couture. Hertl can't replace Couture. There's no depth in the world that can save you from losing a top-six forward. You might bemoan the poor performance against the Rangers, but I'd contend that (other than the scoreboard) it wasn't all that poor.
San Jose hung with the Rangers for a while but started to taper off at the end, which is disappointing given the score but...still not a disaster. The Sharks get to head home now and will have a few days of practice before taking on the Kings at home. Hopefully Martin's mystery ailment clears up by then, otherwise this losing streak could grow a bit longer and a bit uglier.
That's not a testament to the Sharks poor depth, it's a statement on the modern NHL. Depth is Santa Claus and injuries are Krampus.