What a Sharks “Tomorrow” Team Should Really Look Like

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

After losing to the Los Angeles Kings last spring in their epic collapse, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson called his club a “tomorrow team” during the offseason. However, this season the Sharks continue to play struggling veterans over a number of younger players. When you consider what they would look like if they genuinely went to a tomorrow team lineup, it makes one wonder what their goal is this season. Is the goal to miss the playoffs for a teeny tiny chance at Connor McDavid? The current lineups they keep rolling out are basically the same thing game after game. The fourth line gets the most tweaks but usually only to get worse rather than better. With an eight game home losing streak, isn’t it time to try a more dramatic change? In recent games, the lineup has looked more or less the same. Often looking like the following:

Stadium Series Lineup:

Patrick Marleau—Joe Thornton—Melker Karlsson

Joe Pavelski—Logan Couture—Tommy Wingels

Matt Nieto—James Sheppard—Tomas Hertl

John Scott—Andrew Desjardins—Tyler Kennedy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic—Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon—Justin Braun

Matt Irwin—Scott Hannan

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

There are a number of things wrong with this lineup. First and foremost is that Karlsson hasn’t done much of anything in the top six in recent weeks. He is a young player that is part of a tomorrow team, but when you haven’t scored a goal in 10 games and have just two assists over that span? That hot scoring stretch he had was awhile ago, time to bump him back down to the bottom six. Furthermore, while Sheppard is a nice role player, he is not a third line center capable of carrying a third line. He has just one point in his last 15 games and has only briefly been bumped to either the wing or the fourth line during that stretch. Furthermore, players like McGinn, Scott, and Kennedy, who clearly aren’t a part of the Sharks future, take away minutes from players that actually have growth potential. While I’m a fan of Kennedy’s game, neither of these three players have had or are going to have a significant impact in teal.

On the blue-line the Sharks continue to scratch 19-year-old first round pick Mirco Mueller as he rots in the press box. Furthermore, they recently sent down defenseman Matt Tennyson who was arguably one of their better defensemen at the time. Yes, he has a two-way contract that nobody else has on the blue-line, but Scott Hannan is very likely in the final year of his career. Waiving him and keeping Tennyson would have made the Sharks better now and into the future.

What exactly Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan want out of this team is incredibly perplexing. What was the purpose of those “tomorrow team” comments if that is not how the team is going to be put together? None of it makes much sense when you consider that the following lineup, one that would actually be a legitimate tomorrow team, might actually win more games than the lineup above.

An Actual Tomorrow Team Lineup:

Daniil Tarasov—Joe Thornton—Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau—Logan Couture—Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow—Chris Tierney—Melker Karlsson

Matt Nieto—Andrew Desjardins—Tomas Hertl

Marc-Edouard Vlasic—Brent Burns

Mirco Mueller—Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon—Matt Tennyson

(Credit: Stat19/Flickr)
(Credit: Stat19/Flickr)

Unlike Karlsson, who was an unheralded free agent acquisition from Sweden this year, fellow rookie Daniil Tarasov comes with some offensive hype. He is known to be a fast, creative Russian winger. He has only played in two games this season in the NHL on a fourth line but he could fit very well on a possession dominant line. Take advantage of Tarasov’s offensive creativity by playing him with two puck possession studs. Plus Tarasov’s speed helps counter the two studs who aren’t as fleet of foot. The second line remains the same and can be utilized as the primary shut down line so that Tarasov in the top-six doesn’t have to be as over-matched as he otherwise would on a scoring line.

With this set up a third line centered by Tierney would be no worse than what they have rolled out most of this year with Sheppard. For awhile Sheppard centered Goodrow and Karlsson and the trio was quite effective. Now all you are doing is reuniting the rookie wingers with a rookie center. All three of them can grow together for the future. And finally the fourth line in this lineup is miles better than the typical fourth line San Jose has been rolling out. The skill from Nieto and Hertl will dominate the vast majority of opposing fourth lines. Desjardins brings the faceoff skills and grit necessary for balancing the line but he is also talented enough to help out in a strong cycle game. It would also be a line good enough to play third line minutes if the rookie trio is struggling in their matchup.

Defensively, the Sharks saw that Dillon and Tennyson played well together before the latter was sent down. These two as a third pair are certainly a slight upgrade from Irwin and Hannan. For the short term a Mueller and Braun second pair may be a tad weaker than Dillon and Braun but not by a whole heck of a lot. The Sharks have had problems defensively for awhile now, but this younger blue-line wouldn’t be much worse, if at all. The bonus though is you get experience for the young guys instead of sitting in the press box.

Younger Lineup Actually Better?

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Overall there is a good chance this younger lineup is actually better than this veteran mix they are currently going with. The top six is nearly identical, although Tarasov could give it more of an offensive punch than Karlsson. The third line with Tierney won’t be any worse than the Sheppard led third line. Yet a fourth line with Nieto and Hertl is by far superior to the fourth line of the veteran group with McGinn and Kennedy.

Forwards wise, there is a pretty good argument for the younger group giving the Sharks a better chance to win. Defensively speaking Mueller has had his hiccups but Mueller and Tennyson in the lineup over Irwin and Hannan? Hard to argue they would be any worse at all. Net, net, there is a strong case to be made that the younger lineup is a better one. Therefore, this veteran reliance is extremely puzzling. The younger lineup makes them both better now and into the future. It makes one wonder if the management is purposefully putting a bad product on the ice to try and get players like Thornton and Marleau to waive their no movement clauses. It was widely speculated by respected media sources this offseason that Wilson wanted to move Thornton. Why else would Thornton have made the statement about not leaving San Jose as long as the fans wanted him?

16 thoughts on “What a Sharks “Tomorrow” Team Should Really Look Like”

  1. I’m
    tired of seeing people freak out over the Sharks suck this season when
    it was so easy to see it coming. 2014 was a fluke and if you cannot
    accept that then you clearly did not see that ridiculous
    over-achievement by well over half the roster during the worst injury
    plagued season since the 2005 lockout.

    But to better explain this why not compare this season to 2011, when San Jose was solid all around the puck.

    McGinn-Nichol-Mayers (Ferriero, Eager)x


    Now using this thing called math the Sharks dramatically lost their
    ability to succeed offensively after 2011. Mainly because they traded
    two top 6 forwards AND Ryane Clowe began to decline. Joe Pavelski was
    already putting up 60 points per season in 2011 and Couture was putting
    up over 50 so what has San Jose done to replace the scoring of Clowe,
    Setoguchi and Heatley. These three guys combined for over 160 POINTS!

    Well, Pavs and Couture have slighty. SLIGHTY increased their scoring
    so there is that, but Thornton and Marleau have declined so that negates

    Essentially the 160 points those three players provided in 2011 and
    even more in 2010 is being replaced by Hertl, Nieto and Wingels.
    Unfortunately by the end of the season these three players combined will
    not eclipse 100 points…they didn’t in 2014 either. There in lies the

    You might say to yourself BUT BRENT BURNS FORWARD ERMAGERD!?!!? Well
    in 2014 if you wanted to include Burns at forward to make up for
    injuries you still wind up short of 160 points and it takes up 4 roster
    spots instead of 3.

    On top of that the Sharks top 4 scoring D in 2011 combined for over
    100 points, without Burns the Sharks would be lucky to crack 60 by the
    end of this season. You can’t just forget about how important Dan Boyle
    was and blue line scoring was in 2010 and 2011.

    Anyway rant over, sorry that there isn’t anything positive to say.
    Winning eventually ends, not that SJ has ever won anything. Feels like
    2003 all over again.

  2. Any line up that still has Burns at defense isn’t going to work. Burns is a HORRIBLE defenseman.

    • So horrible that he leads all Sharks defensemen in just about EVERY statistical category, including fancy stats?

      • Ever actually watch a game? Defensemen are supposed to play defense (hence the name) Burns is AWFUL. Constantly on the wrong side of his man, getting bodied out in front of the net, losing his man completely and getting skated around like a pylon. Look at his plus/minus. He has 46 pts and is STILL a minus -4. Plus he doesn’t pass the eye test.

        • Burns is a mediocre D. His stats are not really relevant. He does not know how to properly play the position (his natural position is F). He would be of more value to the Sharks as a F, not as a D.

      • What? If those fancy stats include things like goals allowed, then yes Burns leads in that. Though most would dispute that leading in goals allowed is a goo dthing.

  3. That’s basically the same team as today except you’ve anointed a player who may never really make the NHL a first line winger. Nice job .

  4. I wonder who will be slotted in to replace McGinn’s roster spot. This will be an interesting few hours.

  5. Assuming the Sharks miss the playoffs (and potentially by a large margin), what is your guess at a percentage chance that Wilson and McClellan are both back again next year?

    • hard to say with mystery owner plattner, but i cant see Wilson firing mclellan. Only way i see mclellan getting the axe is if plattner fires wilson.

      • I say DW gets fired, right after this season, TM stays. But I also believe the Sharks will dump all the players that will be UFAs next season (as they have already started to do: Desjardins, Kennedy, etc.).

    • I don’t know about perfect lineup, my ideal lineup for them includes 88 at F and 8 at 3C but this at least takes advantage of young players

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