Worcester roster depleted with loss of top scorers

Last weekend, I got a chance to sit down and update the Worcester Sharks roster in the new NHL 12 video game by EA Sports. After making the necessary changes and creating both Mike Connolly and Brodie Reid from Petr Puck’s NHL 12 website, the reality of Worcester’s dire situation finally hit me as the squad is lacking "wow factor."

While San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson was busy in the off-season retooling San Jose for a Stanley Cup run, which should always be his top priority, he lost the heart of Worcester’s scoring from the 2010-11 season as T.J. Trevelyan {73 gp, 19-21-40, 31 pims}, Dan DaSilva {80 gp, 16-25-41, 68 pims} and Jonathan Cheechoo {55 gp, 18-29-47, 14 pims} were not brought back for the 2011-12 season despite combining for 128 points.

Trevelyan, who led Worcester in goals {19} and shots {240}, signed on to play with Augsburger of the Deutsche Eishockey League {DEL}; DaSilva signed with HC Lev Poprad of the Kontinental Hockey League {KHL}; Cheechoo, who led Worcester in assists {29}, points {47} and power play points {6-15-21}, signed a two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues organization.

In addition, forward Patrick Davis {26 gp, 4-4-8, 2 pims} signed on to play with Wolfsburg of DEL while forwards Kevin Henderson {73 gp, 8-13-21, 45 pims}, Michael Swift {18 gp, 1-6-7, 28 pims}, and Corey Quirk {72 gp, 4-7-11, 32 pims} were released.

Losing as many forwards as Worcester did this off-season has left the squad thin up front. Currently, the only forwards on the team are Connolly {42 gp Minnesota-Duluth, 28-26-54, 59 pims}, Reid {37 gp Northeastern, 11-17-28, 18 pims}, Benn Ferriero {43 gp, 16-17-33, 16 pims}, Cam MacIntyre {42 gp, 4-4-8, 32 pims}, John McCarthy {25 gp, 7-5-12, 13 pims}, Tommy Wingels {69 gp, 17-16-33, 69 pims}, Ben Guite {72 gp with AHL Springfield, 17-30-47, 91 pims}, Frazer McLaren {40 gp, 2-2-4, 71 pims}, James Marcou {41 gp, 4-15-19, 18 pims}, Tony Lucia {2 gp, 0-0-0, 0 pims}, Marek Viedensky {63 gp with WHL Saskatoon, 36-52-88, 52 pims}, James Livingston {62 gp with OHL Plymouth, 22-28-50, 52 pims} and Curt Gogol {15 gp with WHL Saskatoon, 1-1-2, 59 pims; 47 gp with WHL Chilliwack, 4-8-12, 142 pims}.

However, both Marcou and Lucia are out with injuries, leaving only 11 forwards and of those 11, only six {Ferriero, Guite, MacIntyre, McCarthy, McLaren, Wingels} played in the AHL last season.  In addition, Darryl Hunt {@210Darryl} tweeted last week that the Sharks organization is one of five NHL teams that doesn’t have anyone signed to an AHL-only contract, which could change to one if tryout Nathan Moon {65 gp with OHL Kingston; 32-42-74, 89 pims}, who was assigned to Worcester’s camp from San Jose’s camp on Sept. 21, is signed.

Defensively, Worcester only lost three players as defenseman Nick Schaus {77 gp, 4-15-19, 46 pims} signed a free agent contract with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL while both Joe Loprieno {52 gp, 3-1-4, 61 pims} and Jon Landry {11 gp, 1-2-3, 8 pims} were released.

Unlike the forward position, depth will not be an issue for Worcester on the blueline as head coach Roy Sommer will have eight defensemen he can rotate on a game-to-game basis. Of the eight defensemen, five are returning regulars from last season and include Nick Petrecki {57 gp, 3-11-14, 129 pims}, Mike Moore {49 gp, 2-10-12, 50 pims}, Sean Sullivan {73 gp, 12-23-35, 46 pims}, Matt Irwin {72 gp, 10-21-31, 43 pims} and Justin Braun {34 gp, 5-18-23, 8 pims}.

Joining them will be rookies Taylor Doherty {68 gp with OHL Kingston, 14-39-53, 86 pims} and Sena Acolatse {66 gp with WHL Prince George, 15-48-63, 128 pims}, both of whom joined Worcester for the final three games of the 2010-11 season, and free agent signee Matt Pelech {59 gp with AHL Abbottsford, 3-2-5, 198 pims}.

As for goaltending, Sharks fans had their hearts sink when it was announced during the off-season that Alex Stalock {41 gp, 19-17-4, 2.63 gga, .907 svp} would miss most of, if not all of, the 2011-12 season as doctors told him he can’t return to on-ice training until February 2012, a full year after suffering a sliced nerve injury behind his left knee in a Feb. 4 game against the Manchester Monarchs.

With Stalock out and Carter Hutton {22 gp, 11-7-2, 3.01 gaa, .902 svp} signing a free agent contract with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, it was expected that newly re-signed goaltender Thomas Greiss, who spent the 2010-11 season with Brynas IF of Elitserien {SEL}, would be Worcester’s starting goalie with Harri Sateri {7 gp, 1-3-1, 2.56 gaa, .918 svp; 49 gp with Tappara, 21-22-4, 2.73 gaa, .915 svp} serving as the backup.

That plan is now in jeopardy due to the rumored hip surgery for San Jose goalie Antero Niittymaki, which could keep him out of action for three months. If Niittymaki does have the surgery, Greiss would be called up to San Jose to serve as Antti Niemi’s backup, leaving Sateri as the starter in Worcester with either rookie Thomas Heemskerk {65 gp with OHL Moose Jaw, 36-21-6, 2.94 gaa, .908 svp} or Tyson Sexsmith {6 gp, 2-3-1, 2.94 gaa, .902 svp; 17 gp with ECHL Stockton, 10-3-3, 2.74 gaa, 0.899 svp} serving as the backup.

Based on paper, the 2011-12 season could see the Worcester Sharks swimming in troubled waters.  However, we all know games are played on the ice, not paper, and anything can happen once the puck drops.  The young Sharks in Worcester should take to heart the words of Paul Heyman, who said, "Where there is chaos, there is opportunity."

*Statistics provided by www.sharksahl.com and www.hockeydb.com*