SAN JOSE- If it wasn’t obvious already, a 3-2 OT loss at home to the bottom feeding Carolina Hurricanes should make it brutally so.
The San Jose Sharks desperately need personnel help on defense, particularly of the left handed variety.
Behind Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks left handed defenseman are Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan and Matt Irwin, all of whom are playing just about what you would expect from a third pair defenseman. Yet if the Sharks stand pat by Wednesday’s trade deadline, and Vlasic were to become injured, one of those three would be forced into top-pair action.
San Jose’s weak depth at the left handed defense spot is made even worse when you consider their former top defenseman Dan Boyle (who shoots right handed) is having a terrible season. Last season Boyle and then rookie Matt Irwin were a solid pair, this year however, Boyle’s partners have been a merry go round. For the past few weeks, when not paired with Vlasic, Boyle has to be considered part of the worst pairing in the lineup.
Without a doubt right now, Vlasic is the Sharks MVP. He showed the world on Team Canada just how talented he is, allowing partner Drew Doughty to dominate the tournament. Vlasic is the best shut down defenseman in the entire NHL. Behind him, the Sharks have limited left handed options, and none that should be even sniffing 20 minutes of ice time per game.
Vlasic, along with Justin Braun and Jason Demers are the only three Sharks defenseman playing at a high level, right now. The three of them combine for a plus-41 rating, while the other four Sharks defenseman, Boyle, Stuart, Irwin and Hannan combine for plus-4.
Plus-41 versus plus-4. The math is simple. And in this case, plus/minus is a very useful statistic when comparing defenseman on the same team.
As their roster currently stands, the Sharks could still do damage in the playoffs if they lost Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau or Joe Pavelski to an injury. It would certainly hurt losing any of these four, but they could make do. Without Vlasic, the Sharks would be lucky to get out of the first round.
Even if they don’t lose Vlasic, if they were to lose either Braun or Demers, with the way their defense is currently constructed, they would be down to one good defense pair and one good defense pair doesn’t get you anywhere in the playoffs.
Teams that win the Stanley Cup are deep in every facet of the roster. But right now the Sharks are very thin on defense with only three players (in case you didn’t know, at least six defenseman suit up for an NHL game) performing at an above average or better level of play. That simply isn’t good enough to get the job done.
If the Sharks don’t add a defenseman by Wednesday’s trade deadline, their chances to make a deep playoff run don’t look very good. Unless Boyle can somehow find a fountain of youth, this team has a clear weakness on the back end.
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