Couture Injured But Don’t Expect Sharks to Struggle

My brother kindly reminded me that I may have jinxed the Sharks. From my previous article:

“With this type of organizational depth, they should be able to sustain their strong play throughout the season even when the inevitable injury bug decides to hit.

While it is obviously never good news when a team loses a top-six forward to injury, the fact of the matter is the Sharks have the forward depth, particularly down the middle to withstand losing Couture for an extended amount of time. San Jose still has Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney and Tomas Hertl, five centers capable of playing as a top-six pivot.

Couture did have a career year points wise last season but he and Marleau had their worst defensive year as a forward pair. Without Logan in the lineup the Sharks will have an opening on the second line and on their top power play unit but from what we have seen thus far, guys like Hertl and Tierney are more than capable of filling in.

San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
Tomas Hertl will likely see a bigger role in Couture’s absence (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

In recent years the Couture line has been heavily used as a defensive shut-down line against other team’s top lines but the top line of Thornton and Pavelski can play the same role. With Tierney being a strong defensive center, the fact is the Sharks can role four lines without really having to focus too much on matching up. Considering the fact that Tierney started the season as the fourth line center, moving him up all the way to the second line would be a bit much. The second year center flourished as the third line center down the stretch last season but moving him up two lines would be a big jump.

The more logical scenario is to bump Tierney to the third line where he has chemistry with current third line wingers Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels from last season. That would then push Tomas Hertl up into the second line center spot vacated by Couture. Even though Hertl doesn’t have the defensive pedigree that Tierney has, the defensive responsibilities between the second and third lines can be evenly split up. Hertl also could play the wing and Marleau could play the middle on the second line. First year Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer has lots of flexibility with this roster.

Drawing into the lineup with Couture out will likely be Ben Smith, the hard nosed forward has yet to play this season but has underrated offensive skill. Two seasons ago he scored 14 goals for the Blackhawks and he began his Sharks career last season as the third line center. Smith makes the most sense coming and centering Barclay Goodrow and Mike Brown, a trio that would be tough as nails fourth line group. Regardless of how DeBoer chooses to alter his lineup with Couture on the shelf, San Jose has the depth to continue rolling four lines in his absence. If the Sharks fall off from their current hot start it won’t be because of Couture’s absence.