The San Jose Sharks have the roster make up of a Stanley Cup Champion. They have for several years now. What’s stood in the way of hoisting The Cup over the last 10 years is the great mystery, but through the first eight games of the 2013 season you have to wonder if it isn’t too early to start thinking this is the year.
Sure, San Jose had approximately 732 power play opportunities in their 6-3 victory over the Calgary Flames. And yeah, they allowed three goals, including two late giving their fans reason to pucker. But they got even more production from their roster mainstays: a goal and an assist from Patrick Marleau, two helpers from Joe Thornton, an assist and an empty netter from Logan Couture and (ho-hum) two goals and two assists from Joe Pavelski.
Four points from their third line center. The Sharks have some serious depth.
Being that A.) I’m a worrywart and B.) I’ve got some chips invested in the defense of Thornton and Marleau, it’s hard for me not to look down the road to the end of the season and wonder what will happen when the two most prolific/scapegoated Sharks reach the finish line of their contracts.
Stop for a second and wonder how the Sharks 7-0-1 start would shape up without them. Pavelski has carried a lot of the load — he’s second in the NHL points race behind Sidney Crosby (17) with 12 (again, as a third-liner) — but Marleau and Thornton are both in the logjam between third and ninth with 11. Good old Gutless has scored a goal in all but one of the Sharks’ games to start the season and Thornton has registered a point in six games this season, including three multi-point games.
Then there’s the question of Dan Boyle. In case you were wondering how important he is to the Sharks, watch any of their power play opportunities from Saturday night. 3-for-9 isn’t great. Muffled zone entries, minimal shots, defensive breakdowns … these are the behaviors indicative of a Boyle-less Sharks squad.
His contract is up at the end of the season as well — in case you were wondering why Doug Wilson went so defense-heavy in this year’s draft, it may be due to the fact that they probably can’t afford to keep all of three of them.
Look at me, getting away from what’s really important. The Sharks are now eight games deep and still without a regulation loss. They’re scoring early, often and without mercy, and they’re doing it without Boyle, Martin Havlat, Adam Burish, Raffi Torres … you get the picture.
Off the Post
– For all my worrying about players who may not be on the roster next year, the Sharks got a whole lot of love from guys who will be. Randy Hahn said it best: “The Devin Setoguchi Trade” has officially become “The Brent Burns Trade”, and the Wild have to be watching Sharks games wondering what they’re missing by keeping him on defense before getting rid of him completely.
– It was probably premature of me to suggest Couture would inherit the captain’s “C” from Thornton this season, but with Boyle out for this game (and probably the Sharks’ road trip), Couture has taken over the duties of alternate captain in his absence. His response? A beautiful assist on Pavelski’s insurance goal late in the third.
– No comment on the Maxim Lapierre suspension.
– The winner of the “Dan Boyle Time-On-Ice Award” tonight was Justin Braun with a whopping 24:06. Todd McLellan knows where his bread is buttered though: Marleau, Couture and Pavelski all registered over 20 minutes of TOI as well.
– Scott Hannan now has two goals on the season, which is absolutely insane when you really think about it. The offensive production from Hannan and Marc Edouard-Vlasic is both meager and mind-boggling.
– Tomas Hertl has cooled down a little bit, on the score sheet at least. The kid is still dangerous with the puck and he did register a point on the aforementioned Big Foot sightin .. err, goal. I don’t expect the goal drought to last.
– San Jose now lifts off for a five-game road trip that will take them to Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Los Angeles before finally coming home on November 2nd to face the Coyotes (who got a goal from goalie Mike Smith tonight – neat!). Remember those SAP Open road trips that seem to derail the Sharks every season? Let’s pretend this is one of those road trips. With that in mind, a much more apt evaluation can be made when they finally get home.