The San Jose Sharks recent injury bug has left the team with a forward group that resembles a third of what their Worcester Sharks team should look like. Players have been called up from the team’s AHL affiliate in order to buy time for the regulars to get healthy.
While that would seem to be a problem for most teams, this may in fact benefit the Sharks and in multiple ways.
Firstly, the Sharks have never had to deal with this rash of injuries during the last decade of success.
Star forward Logan Couture is out for another month or so after having surgery on his hand. Rookie phenom Tomas Hertl has begun his rehabilitation from right knee surgery. Martin Havlat (lower body) and Scott Hannan recently went on injured reserve. Raffi Torres (knee surgery) and Adam Burish (back surgery) have yet to play in a game this season.
Dan Boyle also missed a significant chunk of action early in the season as have Tyler Kennedy and Tommy Wingels more recently.
All but Hertl is expected to be back by the time the Olympics in Sochi finish up. Which means the Sharks will have some players aching to get back on the ice, in addition to being fresh for the condensed schedule down the stretch and the playoffs.
The Shark’s aren’t an organization known for their minor league depth. They aren’t able to bring up blue-chip prospects like many other teams and oftentimes the players who are called up show a significant drop in play from the player they’re replacing.
Years of finishing towards the top of the league, trading away draft picks and some poor selections have led to this problem.
The players in the current lineup merely need to keep the ship afloat until reinforcements arrive and thus far they’ve done a surprisingly good job.
A few weeks ago the Sharks dressed a lineup that was missing seven of the 12 forwards anticipated to be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season.
This is a new hurdle for the team and it’s individual players that they aren’t accustomed to. As a result, players like Matt Nieto, Bracken Kearns, John McCarthy, Eriah Hayes, and Freddie Hamilton have been brought up from Worcester; some prematurely.
When players go down, good teams can fill the voids and stay competitive. To this point, that’s exactly what they Sharks have done.
Each of those players have found limited success in their past call-ups but because of more consistent minutes they have embraced the roles they were given and stepped up their games.
Nieto and Kearns have taken on top nine roles and added scoring punch to the lineup. McCarthy and Hamilton quickly gained the coaching staff’s trust with their defensive play and have been able to eat up decent penalty kill minutes to keep the star players from exerting themselves in those situations.
The experience and confidence these players are gaining will also be invaluable once they do become permanent lineup fixtures within the next few years.
Last season many people felt the Sharks could have won their seven-game playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings had Raffi Torres not gotten suspended and Martin Havlat not been hurt. As it turns out no one was able to replace the production.
This is a scenario that the Sharks may very well face in the playoffs again and the teams that make long runs frequently do and are able to overcome them.
If the Sharks want to sustain a long playoff run this season and make it to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup finals then more of these individual efforts will be needed.
Written by Inside Edge Hockey News writer: Tejus Govindjie
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