Finding Holes: San Jose Sharks' Defense Lacks A Serious Two-Way Threat
A true two-way defenseman.
He is considered by many to be a rare breed. A breed that over excels in every area of his craft.
He is a defenseman that you would not step in front of to absorb one of his hits, even if it was your grandma trying to fish out the puck in the corner. This guy isn’t afraid to mix it up and get his elbows so dirty that a world’s supply of soap couldn’t get them clean.
But he is much more than a guy just willing to throw his body around to make a difference.
He also has the ability to decide the outcome of the game with his stick. He effectively moves the puck, keeping offensive attacks flowing, plus he can launch powerful shots that will rock the entire arena.
This guy is so good he could convert a stadium packed with fans throwing objects into a crowd of cheerful supporters by simply wearing the home team’s jersey.
Landing a top-line, two-way bruiser like this requires more luck than your average leprechaun can typically provide. The odds of rolling the free agency dice and getting a Chris Pronger, Dion Phaneuf, or even a Shea Weber are unimaginably high.
Some teams have better chances at pulling a potential two-way defensive star through the NHL Draft. Look at Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and New York. They have guys like Victor Hedman, Zach Bogosian, and Michel Del Zotto oozing with the qualities needed to be the next two way defensive stars.
Whether they pan out or not can only be decided over time, but at least these fans have a name and a face to rest their future hopes upon.
Despite the lack of a true two-way defender, the San Jose Sharks have shown that it is possible to be overly successful without one.
However, it could be this highly-coveted, hyper-hybrid piece that is standing in the way of the city of San Jose and the holiest place throughout all of hockey’s lands.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sharks have several great weapons currently patrolling the blue line, but it’s hard to say that any of them are in the same category as the thriving two-way defensemen mentioned above.
Dan Boyle can most certainly change the outcome of a game with a flick of his stick, but it is unlikely that you will be see him delivering a unhumanly-huge hit or dropping the gloves to try to change the “Mo” (that’s momentum for you non-hipsters) in a game that is slowly slipping through their grasps.
A young Rob Blake probably wouldn’t be afraid to stir the pot with his fist, but this “grizzly veteran” version is more useful when the Sharks can take advantage of his canon for a shot instead of wondering when he will return from injury.
On the other hand, Douglas Murray certainly feels at home turning his body into a human wreaking ball, but watching him handle the puck makes me feel more uncomfortable than watching Larry David trying to split a dinner bill.
This is unfortunate, considering Murray is the only blue liner on the Sharks willing to use his body. He is currently the lone Sharks’ defender averaging over a hit per game, and his 78 total hits are over three times more than Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s second place total (24).
It is not just this year that the Sharks have lacked a true two-way defenseman. The Sharks haven’t really had a solid two way defender throughout their existence.
The experiments with young prospects like Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Stuart, and Mike Rathje never fully lived up to their extremely over hyped expectations.
Even experiments with trades and free agency acquisitions for proven veterans over the years have not been fruitful in finding this defenseman anomaly.
A few years ago, the trade for Brian Campbell brought excitement to the Bay Area because of the red-headed stepchild’s cocky yet extremely slick stick, but this only brought more offensive fire power and not enough grit.
Campbell’s inability to get in the mix did nothing to change the flow of games and when his offense production eventually was shut down, he became about as useless as an unwound paperclip.
But the list of free agent defensemen that failed to bring this superhero quality to the ice could go on forever. From Craig Rivet to Marty McSorely, the defenders the Sharks could produce from the free agent market landed somewhere in between great one-way defenders and outstanding two-way defenders a couple years past their prime.
San Jose’s defense is loaded with firepower and put that together with their TNT laced forwards and it is hard to count the Sharks out of any type of Championship conversation.
But if this Western Conference powerhouse and NHL’s point leading team is missing anything, it is that their defense doesn’t instill fear into their opponent. Teams know that when the Sharks come to town, they won’t have to worry about a tough, nose to the grind defensive corp. They aren’t exactly cowering at the thought of taking a hit from Blake, Boyle, or Vlasic.
It is the lack of hitting that is missing.
Last year, Brad Lukowich and even Ehrhoff averaged above a hit per game and complemented the brute force that Murray brought to the ice. This season the Sharks are still waiting for someone to step into these backup hitting roles.
The list of defenders who are capable of making this aggressive step is slightly more frightful than the weather this time of year. But with these gloomy climates comes holiday cheer and for the Hockey fan who appears to have everything, there is always something extra that would make them even happier.
For this Sharks fan, my Christmas wish is for a defenseman that will compliment the forceful attitude that Murray is trying to bring to this defense and that he isn’t afraid to send full body messages several times a game. And if it’s possible, make sure he also has a decent shot...that would be great.
Also, I don’t mind if the gift has to show up a little after Christmas...just make sure it gets here before Mar. 3.
I hope that’s not too much to ask for.
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