SAN JOSE- On Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks poured on the offense in the third period. Unfortunately for Team Teal, one of the best goaltenders in the world was on the top of his game. All in all, U.S. Olympian Ryan Miller stopped 39 San Jose shots, earning his second shutout over the last two nights (Miller and the Sabres shut out the Anaheim Ducks by a 2-0 final on Wednesday).
Now while the Sharks arguably deserved a better fate, wins are the name of the game at this point in the season. As many have pointed out recently, there is no more time for moral victories with the season coming to a close.
With that in mind, the majority of the San Jose media are quite perplexed on current lineup trend for the Sharks.
It may be ticky-tacky, but San Jose’s sixth defenseman over the past 20 games in a row has been the veteran Colin White and has not faired well by any stretch of the imagination.
In that time frame, White has been easily San Jose’s worst performer. Over that span he has just two points, and is a minus-7 in the plus/minus department. The one night he actually scored his first goal since 2009, he finished that game a minus-three.
Time and time again, White has looked uneasy on his skates. Not only has the veteran defender been seen losing his balance in precarious situations (like on a simple back-skate) but he has been making blind passes leading to turnovers in critical situations. His play didn’t cost San Jose the game against the Sabres but it has cost his team dearly on numerous occasions.
Now it’s not as if White is a career long Shark, or a expensive player. He is in his first year as a Shark on a cheap one-year $1 million dollar contract. Fellow defenseman Jim Vandermeer is on the same deal but has been playing primarily in a forward role the last couple of weeks.
Despite appearing to have played better defensively in limited games (hasn’t played more than four games in a row on defense all season) than White, Vandermeer hasn’t played on the blue-line since Feb. 8 against Calgary.
In the seven games he’s played since at forward, he has no points, is an even zero in plus/minus and hasn’t made too much of a positive impact at the forward position. On sports websites, Vandermeer is listed as a defenseman, and it has been odd to see him play consistent forward but not consistent defense.
With White struggling, it would only seem natural. Furthermore, the Sharks have had at least one of their top six injured at almost all times this season. Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers, Brent Burns, and Douglas Murray have all missed games with injury.
The Sharks signed both White and Vandermeer this offseason to identical deals to add depth to their defense but can they even rely on Vandermeer at this point to play defense when he has rarely been given the chance? And with White struggling as mightily as he is, well, the Sharks better not hope they see any of their starting six miss significant time come playoffs because that almost certainly would mean another run short of the Stanley Cup.
On the season, White is a minus-six as a defenseman playing in 44 games. Meanwhile Vandermeer is a plus-two in the plus/minus department playing in less than twenty games on the blue-line. Certainly odd that Vandermeer hasn’t seen more action on the blue-line.
Now against Buffalo, the Sharks welcomed back center Dominic Moore to the lineup, which naturally would bump another forward out of the lineup. The victim? Andrew Desjardins.
Desjardins has a respectable 13 points this season playing in 59 of San Jose’s 64 games as the main fourth line center. The rookie center had previously played in 19 straight games. In the most recent two games in which he played, Desjardins saw a respectable 18 and a half minutes of ice time in total.
Not limited ice time by any stretch.
For the season, Desjardins is a plus-four and has been consistent in his role. One would have thought the simple move to make would be to push Vandermeer into White’s defense spot and keep Desjardins in the lineup against Buffalo.
But when two of the most respected Sharks columnists were asked why Desjardins was out while White has remained in the lineup consistently, they were at a loss for words.
That’s right, writers at a loss for words.
Even if there is some unknown confidence in White to break out of his slump, it would have at least made some sense for Desjardins to slide to left wing and for Vandermeer to take a seat as Desjardins has averaged more ice time this season.
When assistant coach Matt Shaw was asked after the Buffalo game why Desjardins was the odd man out, he simply affirmed that it was a “coach’s decision.”
White on the blue-line, Vandermeer at forward and Dejsardins in the press box.
Bizarre, peculiar, puzzling, you name the adjective.
Certainly most of us outsiders are left scratching our heads.