At the beginning of this season, the worry that surrounded the Sharks was of how Team Teal was going to score. They fell short last season due to an inability to score, especially at even strength. The Sharks have exploded on offense, thanks to a stellar start by phenom rookie, Tomas Hertl. In a recent thumping from the Los Angeles Kings, however, the Sharks lost much more than two points. A knee-on-knee hit forced the kid out early and he now stands to miss at least a month. The Hertl injury now puts pressure on the same cast from last season to score and keep up with the cutthroat Western Conference.
Dustin Brown received no further discipline for this hit. It was deemed that his ejection from the game and penalty assessed was sufficient. While the Sharks have been disappointed with the reaction from the league and the Kings themselves, they must look ahead.
Hertl Injury and Its Impact
The rookie that has taken the league by storm will likely miss out on more than just a month. He is one of the favorites for the Calder at this point in the season and was even making a case for a spot on the Czech National Team.
He leads all rookies in the league with 15 goals and 25 points. He provides the engine for one of the most dominant lines in the entire league with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. But now, the Sharks must dig deep to find a replacement.
Possible Candidates to Replace Hertl
Thornton and Burns need a third skater on their line. More importantly, they need someone to provide the scoring touch that Hertl gave them.
The newest veteran addition to the San Jose Sharks from the offseason is Tyler Kennedy. During the preseason, he spent most of his time skating with Jumbo and Burnzie. He has been very versatile all season long, playing on every single forward line. He is scoring over 1.25 points per 60 minutes of even-strength hockey. Moreover, he has the experience of playing against the top competition in the league. His most common opponents are the Sedin twins from Vancouver. The amount of his ice time against quality opponents is up from his time in Pittsburgh.
The Hertl injury has opened the door much like the Marty Havlat injury did in the preseason. The Czech rookie capitalized on his extra time during the preseason and won his spot in the starting lineup. As grim as it seems, it may give other new faces a chance to earn some valuable time in the NHL. Matthew Nieto is the closest competitor among the Sharks’ rookies.
Matt Nieto could experience the same boom of learning from Joe Thornton that his fellow rookie got. Nieto will bring the same zest for the game that Hertl does. While he cannot hope to match the production of the twenty year old, he can provide speed and grit to go with Brent Burns. Nieto on the line with Thornton and Burns will give him valuable time, but the production will definitely suffer.
No Perfect Solution
Of course, no-one on the Sharks roster can exactly match what Tomas Hertl brought to the table. Not only is he leading rookies in scoring, he was a top scorer for the Sharks as well. Nieto and Kennedy cannot hope to come close to his scoring his totals. But with the injury to Raffi Torres, the Sharks surprised everyone by winning when they were expected to fold. The same could be true for the Hertl injury. Don’t doubt their ability to survive just yet.