Faces old and new will be donning teal sweaters this upcoming season. But as some edge closer to the end of their careers, other players are just getting started. Paul Martin, Martin Jones, and Joel Ward will undoubtedly take major roles in the new-look Sharks. Let’s see where the forwards line up.
Guys Moving Up the Depth Chart
Last season hosted few bright spots for Sharks fans. Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson were, of course, the silver linings of a poor showing by San Jose. While Karlsson enjoyed his time on the first line, some have given his slot next to the Joe’s away to Ward.
Tierney on the other end of the spectrum is listed as the fourth center on the Sharks depth chart. He spent most of his time as the third line center and it should remain that way. With the third line comes reduced competition, and as a budding shooter, Tierney needs the sheltered minutes to grow.
Players Dropping in the Roster
I have been a harsh critic of Patrick Marleau, but don’t confuse that for not believing in his work ethic and effort. Another year older is another year slower. Marleau needs his minutes reduced and the Sharks can’t afford to lose time on second liners, he will do well on the third.
Then, there is Tomas Hertl. The golden boy a few seasons ago will drop to the very bottom. After floundering in his sophomore season, Hertl needs to start over. The fourth line center treated him well last season when he visited and coach DeBoer should keep him there.
The Forward Lines
No changes to the top line come this season. Keeping Karlsson up with the best two forwards DeBoer has will give him a tough, but necessary assignment. With more depth up and down the lineup, however, it won’t be difficult to reassign him to another line if he hits a slump like Tomas Hertl did. And of course, there is no other place to put the Joe’s than the first scoring line. Pavelski does his best offensive work with Thornton centering him.
Deemed the shutdown line in years past, Couture’s line is meant to take on the toughest minutes for the Sharks. Ward becomes the grinder that is able to shutdown opposing players and brings his veteran presence to a young line. The removal of Marleau may provide a dip in shooting, but it increases passing activity between the three, which may help bring Nieto out of the funk he suffered last season.
Tierney welcomes the perennial Shark, Marleau, to his line this season. With reduced minutes and easier opponents, Marleau becomes the sharpshooter to the gritty play of Tierney and Wingels. With two bulldogs alongside him, Marleau will enjoy the plethora of takeaways his new linemates will provide. For the first time since Pavelski lurked down there, the Sharks will have a dangerous third line.
As fellow THW writer, Andrew Bensch, has seemingly harped on for ages, the Sharks need versatility up and down the lineup. With a four-goal game scorer, a grinding youngster, and the overlooked Goodrow (so overlooked he isn’t even on the active roster right now), this fourth line can eat some minutes and create their own scoring chances without dropping off defensively.
On the Outside… For Now
Forwards that will either be healthy scratches or riding the now-much-shorter shuttle to the AHL will have some old veterans on it this year. Mike Brown, the last remaining “enforcer” the Sharks employ will be around when a bottom six forward slumps and a heavy hitting team is staring the Sharks in the face. He could slot in on the fourth line to protect Hertl. The other, arguably more attractive option rests in Raffi Torres. He does the same job with a more offensive touch, but his fragility in recent seasons is cause for caution.
Checking in at the end is Russian talent, Nikolay Goldobin. The former first rounder will need to play his way into the lineup. With the up and down season of Mirco Mueller and Hertl’s drop, the Sharks brass will likely be much more careful with the teenagers it employs. Goldobin turns 20 in October, and he could explode, but the Sharks need to make sure he explodes the right way.