We have talked at length about what the San Jose Sharks have done to fill needs and holes on the roster. Since they are more-or-less finished due to being strapped by the salary cap, we can start analyzing a team that will pretty much remain the same until the start of the season. So what holes are left on the team?
Well for starters, forward depth is still lacking. Yes, Brent Burns and Tyler Kennedy will no doubt help out. But, with Martin Havlat injured again, and a big drop-off after the top forwards, there is still some work that could be done.
Enter winger Tomas Hertl. He could help out here in a big way if he can play up to his ability. If he can make the team, and it is fully expected he will, Hertl will get all the opportunities to succeed. One of those opportunities will be a chance to play on the top line with Burns and captain Joe Thornton.
Working off of that we have the second power play unit. It was absolutely dreadful last year and it seemed like every game we saw a new set of five guys out there to try and make it work.
Part of the problem was that Todd McLellan likes to stack his top unit, which in turn means there’s only the ‘leftovers’ that get thrown together in hopes they turn out to be a decent unit.
That clearly did not work. At times during the season you knew if the top power play unit did not score, the Sharks were not scoring on the power play at all. However, with newcomers Kennedy and Hertl along with a few others, there may be hope yet to inject life into what was a paltry secound unit.
Another weakness that has plagued the Sharks for a few years now is physicality. Last year, the Sharks were one of the biggest teams in the league last year by weight and height. But, even with that, they were unwilling to throw their weight around and ranked 22nd out of 30 teams in hitting.
I expect the Sharks to improve on that just a little bit with the presence of Raffi Torres and Brent Burns in the lineup full time, but do not expect a major change. The Sharks are a puck possession team on offense, and a highly skilled one, so hitting is not high on the list of priorities. Still, I expect an improvement.
One thing that was lacking last year for the Sharks was offensive production from the point. With Dan Boyle getting older, and the defense on the Sharks not the most offensively skilled, that could continue as well. There are a few guys like Jason Demers who have some offensive ability, but with Brent Burns moving up to forward the defense loses a huge chunk of their offense.
The good news is young left-hander Matt Irwin has shown he is more than capable when given the chance in the offensive zone. If he and Boyle can continue to develop some chemistry, especially on the power play, this weakness could turn into a strength in no time.
And that is true for many of these. After all, the Sharks do not own the second-longest streak of making the playoffs for nothing. The team has learned to adapt, and they will continue to do so.