Early Line Projections for 2013-14 San Jose Sharks
If the 2013-14 San Jose Sharks are at the card table, they have called. If they're at the prosecutor's table, the state rests. As I spelled out for Examiner.com, it seems they will stand pat.
Because of the restrictions of Martin Havlat's cap hit, they have maybe $1 million of wiggle room once you consider they can officially start the season with Tomas Hertl in the system. That does not leave them many free-agent options.
Because of the restrictions of Havlat's predictable injuries, they would officially have a weak forward roster with only 11 players able to dress. Once the season starts, long-term injured reserve (LTIR) becomes an option, giving San Jose the room to add Hertl and a reserve forward to the active payroll.
As it stands now, the 12 forwards that will be dressed on a nightly basis seems pretty obvious. The bigger questions are who plays where, and who is in the press box?
The first and second lines are blurred for the San Jose Sharks. Logan Couture is clearly the best skater on the team, but captain Joe Thornton's line may be stronger given the support.
That support comes because of the rapport he has developed with the other elite San Jose forwards.
He has a long history playing with fellow top-two 1997 NHL Draft pick Patrick Marleau. In 2013, he clicked well with unpredictable forward Brent Burns, who often described how much fun it was playing with the captain.
The way to get the most out of each of them is to put them together. They would be a big line that possesses good speed and scoring ability, but could also defend well.
Logan Couture may be one of the 10 best players in the world. Not only has he been the leading goal-scorer for the San Jose Sharks over his three full seasons in the NHL, he finished second among forwards in blocked shots.
Any line with him on it is going to be a legitimate top line. But he has solid support from Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres.
Both have speed, so this line will have quick-strike capability. Torres provides toughness, is very good in his own zone and has some offensive skill. Kennedy is a very good offensive player that should work well with Couture, and whose defensive liabilities can be covered by his linemates.
When Joe Pavelski was sent down to the third line, no one mistook it for a demotion. There is no doubt that spreading the wealth worked in the Bay Area, as the San Jose Sharks got a jolt to their offense when they could roll three lines that could score.
While a lot of that scoring actually came when Pavelski was back on the top power play line, they drew more penalties because they were able to sustain offensive pressure. He meshed with whomever coach Todd McLellan put with him: Martin Havlat, James Sheppard, T.J. Galiardi, Raffi Torres and Tommy Wingels all spent time on his line.
Familiarity is not the only reason Sheppard makes a good choice. He has enough skill to warrant a top-10 draft pick. Wingels provides more grit with a similar skill-set, and both can skate well enough to give the one attribute Pavelski does not have in abundance.
This would be a very good defensive line centered by one of the best defensive players. Add its scoring potential and this is one of the best third lines in the NHL.
Tomas Hertl will get every chance to not only make the opening night roster, but fulfill a major scoring role. But expecting him to jump ahead of right wings like Brent Burns and Tyler Kennedy is unrealistic.
More than likely, even Tommy Wingels finishes ahead of him for the checking-line role he is better-suited for. However, Hertl should be able to crack the fourth line and work his way onto the second power-play unit.
That would put a true offensive threat with Adam Burish, who has already been used at center and has the ability to score 20 points in a full season. Andrew Desjardins is a solid skater who nearly got to 20 points himself two seasons ago, and another option at the pivot. Both are strong defenders that can cover the occasional mistake by the generally two-way Hertl.
Center John McCarthy is the current choice for the 13th forward of the San Jose Sharks. As captain of AHL Worcester in 2012-13, he scored nine goals and 16 assists in 65 games. But the 26-year old has 51 games of NHL experience, will not be overwhelmed and knows his assignments.
He also makes $625,000 no matter where he plays and is only a $612,500 cap hit as an insurance policy. But the team knows they do not want to rely on him for much playing time, and Matt Nieto, Brodie Reid or some other prospect is simply too unlikely to be ready for the next jump.
Thus, they are likely to sign at least one more forward along the skill level of current San Jose free agent Tim Kennedy to move ahead of McCarthy on the depth chart.