It seems the laundry list of injuries just keeps getting longer and longer, and now it has hit one of the San Jose Sharks’ superstars. Now Logan Couture, arguably the San Jose Sharks’ top centerman, has been added to a list that already includes Raffi Torres, Adam Burish, Martin Havlat, Tommy Wingels and most recently Tomas Hertl. With almost two full lines of starters missing, the San Jose Sharks look more and more like the Worcester Sharks every day.
So how do the Sharks cope with this latest injury? Last week we talked about how they would be able to do without Hertl for the rest of the season, but Logan Couture is on a whole other level. He plays the opposition’s top lines every night, is great in the faceoff circle, is a top tier special-teamer on both the power play and penalty kill, and puts up points at almost a point-per-game level.
For those wanting that backed up with stats, here they are. He is third in the league in blocked shots for forwards with 49, has a faceoff win percentage of 54%, and had 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 43 games. He also leads the league with seven shootout goals showing that he really can do it all.
And for all you stat geeks out there, according to behindthenet.ca his Corsi relative quality of competition (judges the quality of his on-ice opponents each night) is 1.890, good for ninth in the league and fourth among all forwards who have played at least 20 games. What does that mean? Well it means he takes on guys like the Sedin Twins every night, shuts them down, and still puts up great offensive numbers. For what it’s worth his linemate, Patrick Marleau, is right behind him in 12th in the league and sixth among forwards in the same category.
That’s something Sharks fans have never seen in teal before, and personally something Steve Yzerman and Team Canada overlooked when they did not choose Logan Couture to be on their Olympic team. Sure he probably would not have played anyway, but either way he still deserved to have made the team if healthy.
As you can see it is impossible to replace the irreplaceable. So rather than trying to fill the void with one guy it is going to take a complete team effort. Unfortunately his injury comes at a bad time and a few of the guys who might be able to step up.
To cope with his absence Patrick Marleau was moved over to center the second line where he is more than capable of playing. Marleau now centers Bracken Kearns and Matt Nieto in what is not quite as potent a line as it once was. Also added to the lineup was Eriah Hayes who has filled in on the fourth line. Freddie Hamilton, who has been a regular in the lineup since Hertl’s absence, has also been part of this recent San Jose-Worcester Sharks hybrid team.
From listening to their game the other day against the Predators you could tell the offense had trouble generating sustained offense. It will take some time to get used to each other, and I for one see the top line being split up to keep scoring more balance. If not, that top line made up of the two Joes and Brent Burns will have a lot of scoring to do in order to keep the team afloat. Joe Pavelski has shown he can thrive with almost anybody on his wings as well so it is definitely feasible.
Overall, I do expect the Sharks to hit a bit of a bumpy road over the next few weeks, but it won’t be anything they will not be able to handle. Still, the Sharks will have a tough task of keeping up in the Pacific Division with their recent string of long-term injuries. Their depth will be tested even further than it already has. Who knows, if the Sharks ever weather this injury bug it could prove to be a rallying point for them come playoff time.