Sharks Defense is Unsteady

by | Nov 2, 2016

Head coach Peter DeBoer rearranged his first and second defensive pairings prior to the Sharks’ encounter with the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Tuesday night.

Here’s the projected lineup for San Jose:

Mikkel Boedker – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Jonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Patrick Marleau – Tomas Hertl – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Dylan DeMelo, Matt Nieto

Injured: None

We all know Brent Burns is Brent Burns. He has 10 points in his first nine games, two of them on the power play, and leads all players with 45 shots on goal.

It’s a given that a 31-year-old who’s one of the NHL’s top offensive defenseman is going to put on quality performances. It’s also a given that he’s a pending unrestricted free agent who can earn more than his $5.76 million cap hit next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that that there isn’t a freeze on the negotiations between the Sharks and Burns in-season, so talks on a contract can continue while the Sharks defend their Western Conference title. By all accounts, he wants to stay in San Jose, but this isn’t going to be a simple negotiation.

It’s not a matter of cap space for the Sharks. They can pick up money in the future. This is probably the end of the line for Patrick Marleau, who earns at least $6.6 million yearly. Both Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are up in 2020, and Tomas Hertl becomes an RFA in 2019.

But if you look at Tuesday’s defensive pairings, DeBoer might’ve been mistaken.

It’s clear that the Sharks had to change direction.

Martin didn’t practice Monday due to flu-like symptoms. The 35-year-old was demoted to the second defensive line. Martin has two assists, seven shots on goal and a minus-two rating through 10 games. This isn’t the same defenseman that we used to know. In order to score goals and block shots, you need to stay healthy.

Burns is a returning player who is relied on to provide the team constant defensive play. However, the depth of the defense has been tested. The Sharks will need strong defensive play, especially from the second pair, to get off to another fast start this season.

Vlasic tallied three points (one goal, two assists) and posted 14 penalty minutes in nine games.

Vlasic is off to a slow start with just one breakaway goal off a loose puck in the Sharks vs. Ducks game on Oct. 25th. Overall, Vlasic tallied three points (one goal, two assists) and posted 16 penalty minutes in 10 games.

Perhaps it’s time for Dylan DeMelo to return to the blue line. DeMelo doesn’t play incredible hockey, but he gave the Sharks responsible minutes by making smart puck management decisions, using good body positioning to retrieve pucks off the wall and leading the breakout with a strong first pass out of the defensive zone.

In 45 games, DeMelo recorded four points (two goals, two assists) and posted an even rating while seeing an average of 13:37 of ice time per night.

“He isn’t necessarily looking for 50 points in 50 games, but he’s a solid defenseman,” Vlasic said. “You can trust him. He makes the right play.”

Braun has totaled zero goals and two penalty minutes in 10 games.

The 29-year-old is a veteran of seven NHL seasons. He’s given a copious amount of ice time (20:05) per game, but has failed to get on the scoresheet despite playing 10 games.

Braun needs to get involved offensively and set another record with blocked shots.

A couple of defensive lapses and 27 attempts blocked cost the Sharks an opportunity to get a win against a hapless Coyotes team. Arizona took advantage of San Jose’s turnovers and produced three goals in the second period.

“Definitely some lapses and they took advantage. They threw some pucks to the net that kind of had some eyes on them,” Marleau said. “We like our odds if we put that many shots up each and every night.”

The Sharks could’ve executed a little bit better last night. San Jose went 0-for-2 on the power play, which is a bad thing. They had 41 shots overall, but didn’t have enough time to equalize.

What needs to be fixed is the defense. The goaltending could be better, but each goalie has their good and bad days. Jones is here to stay.

The Sharks can do things about the defense. Perhaps it’s time to call up some prospects such as Karl Stollery and Scott Timmins to replace Vlasic and Braun,

According to eliteprospects.com, Stolley is a smart two-way defenseman with good passing ability and power-play skills.

Timmins recorded 11 points (four goals, seven assists) with the San Jose Barracuda last season. He’s well-rounded with some offensive ability.

It’s just a matter of being able to find space on the roster.

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