On Thursday, San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee. He suffered the injury during Saturday’s preseason game at the SAP Center in San Jose during a minor collision at the blue line, and will now be out for the next few months.
Torres figured to be on the third line with Joe Pavelski and probably Tommy Wingels. That would have been a great third line, but now all we can do is wonder what if. So, with the fact that guys like Logan Couture recognize Torres is “kind of an irreplaceable player,” how do they go about replacing the irreplaceable?
With Torres out, the San Jose Sharks are able to give some of the young guys an opportunity to step up and have an impact on the third line, especially with a team that is already short on wingers. With Tomas Hertl’s spot all but locked up, some of the young guys left to fill Torres’ spot are Freddie Hamilton and Matt Nieto.
But, don’t forget a few other guys as well. General Manager Doug Wilson has said that some of his fourth liners such as Adam Burish could also make a case for themselves. It’s an open battle right now, and there does not to seem be a clear-cut leader at the moment.
So what needs to be replaced?
One of the more overlooked parts of Torres’ game is his offensive efficiency. While that may seem both hyperbolic and a bit outlandish consider this; Raffi Torres was second on the Sharks last season with 2.15 points per 60 minutes behind only Logan Couture.
Yup that’s right. He was ahead of every other offensive star on the team. This of course also includes his games with the Phoenix Coyotes before he came over during the trade, but the numbers don’t lie. Overall he was 62nd in NHL in that category among guys that played at least 30 games last season.
But, the absence of Torres will not only hurt offensively, but physically as well. One of the main reasons he was brought to the Sharks was because of the physical presence, something that the Sharks severely lacked last season. Without him in the lineup, that might once again be a weakness, and the role of or enforcer falls to Wingels. While he is pretty good at it, he certainly needs some help, but with a team filled with offensive stars physicality is hard to come by.
One of the side effects of that physical play was the energy that he brought to the Sharks as well, something which can often be underestimated. Again, somebody else will have to fill that role. But is there someone else capable?
An interesting quote from Todd McLellan came out earlier today as well, which was in response to a question posed by David Pollak of the Bay Area News Group.
“Is it a good thing of a bad thing if someone in the room feels they now have to be the new Raffi?” Pollak asked.
McLellan responded by saying, “That would be a great thing. But you have to play within your skill set. You can’t wander outside and be something you’re not. As soon as you do that, you’re going to end up in trouble. You’re not going to have success.
“If you’re biggest asset is your legs and you can skate, then use them. It still means you can make body contact. It still means you can win battles. If it’s your mind, you better be using it to put yourself in the right spot. Raffi’s assets are his tenacity – he’s hard, he’s hard to play against – and we have players in there that can match that.”
Coach certainly understands the impact Raffi has on this team and certainly believes he has the guys in the locker room who can step up and fill those holes that are left with him out of the lineup for the next few months. During the exchange, McLellan also gave glowing reviews on Neito and Hamilton, both of whom have impressed him.
I think it will most likely be one of those two guys to fill his spot on the third line, depending on what the coaching staff wants to do with it. Hamilton would be more of a physical player who is defensively responsible while Nieto shows greater offensive abilities and could pair well with Pavelski.
No doubt the loss of Raffi Torres hurts the team and great impacts the team moving forward this season, but it looks like the Sharks will be okay given the plethora of choices available for his replacement on the third line. It could be a chance for one of the young guns to prove they belong in the NHL.
I for one look forward to the Sharks giving a young guy the chance to prove himself rather than using veterans on one year contracts to fill out the roster.