After a lackluster start to the season saw San Jose go 1-3, there was at least tepid concern in Sharkland over the team’s mediocre play. To be sure, any levelheaded fan would have paid heed to the obvious caveats:
Four games is far too small a sample size to get worked up about – Absolutely true.
Everything gets blown out of proportion at the start of the year – Again, no argument.
A team that leads the league in shot differential is mostly just unlucky to find itself with a losing record – On this one I might make an argument about the quality of those shots, but the point is still a valid one.
Still, at that moment, after all the offseaon talk about getting off to a hot start and putting points in the bank, the Sharks had been defeated three games in a row and had scored just four goals in the process. And now they were looking down the nose of a precarious six-game road trip.
Enter Martin Havlat.
The highly skilled forward made his Sharks debut against the New Jersey Devils on the first game of the trip, and the Sharks snapped their losing streak with a 4-3 come-from-behind shootout victory.
Havlat jumped right onto the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe, who up to that point had been off to somewhat sluggish starts themselves. Since then, Havlat and Clowe each have five points over five games, and Couture is right behind them with four.
Good news right?
Well yeah, of course… Havlat has been an immediate difference maker, has made a significant impact on the second line, and is even on a better point per game pace than (the player he was traded for in the person of) Dany Heatley, despite averaging 4 1/2 fewer minutes played per game, significantly less power play time, and earning a contract that costs 2.5 million dollars less against the cap.
And yeah, through five games, he’s undefeated as a Shark.
On the other hand, these results also suggest that the loudest critiques of San Jose’s depth chart entering this season have some merit: The Sharks lack scoring depth beyond their top six forwards.
Which is to say, so long as their top six forwards stay healthy, the Sharks have one of the best and most well balanced line-ups in the NHL. But whereas the current roster could probably sustain an injury or two the D-corps or the bottom six forwards and keep on trucking, the same cannot be said for the scoring lines.
Not when the top options for fill-in duty are Benn Ferriero, Tommy Wingels, or Torrey Mitchell.
However, thanks to some shrewd financial moves this offseason (the Havlat for Heatley swap chief among them) Doug Wilson has a little bit of wiggle room under the salary cap for the first time in recent memory. That means he should be able to add a piece to the puzzle come trade deadline time, and can do so without giving up any roster players in return.
While some might be reticent to see the Sharks already depleted farm system take another hit, the fact is that San Jose’s window is starting to close, and that this core of players may never have a better shot at the cup than they do right now.
So the question wouldn’t seem to be if, but rather who does Wilson target, and when. Ideally, it would be a veteran two-way forward who can kill penalties, and who can also chip in with some scoring pop on the top two lines if called upon.
It is a bit hard to speculate who the Sharks might go after without knowing who will or won’t be in contention come February. But still, feel free to comment with your thoughts! Who would you like to see Wilson add before all is said and done this year?
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