Part of me feels as if the famous song by the band Green Day should actually be titled “Wake Me Up When August Ends.”
Sure enough as hockey fans we use the hashtag "#IsItOctoberYet?", so the Green Day song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” certainly works. However, after a boring month of August, September training camps and preseason games are very much a delight for us die hard hockey fans.
With the worst month on the calendar (August) soon coming to a close, we are that much closer to hockey season. So that said, what will the Sharks look like to start the 2017-18 regular season? While this writer believes the Sharks would be silly not to sign Jaromir Jagr, the following would be the likely line combinations without him.
Line 1: Jannik Hansen---Joe Thornton---Joe Pavelski
Jannik Hansen certainly isn’t the most popular choice among Sharks fans to play alongside the Joes and that’s understandable. Hansen had little to no impact in the series against the Oilers last April. However, when he was first acquired, this trio played together and looked extremely good for the first few games. Of course, it was just a few games, and Thornton and Pavelski can often make any third forward on their line look good for a short stint. That said, Hansen is a veteran with speed who has extensive experience playing with high end players. This is what makes him an ideal fit on the left side of the Joes.
While there is no question that Tomas Hertl is a better player than Hansen, this isn’t about hierarchy. A team’s three best forwards don’t always play together and a team’s six best forwards don’t always play on the top two lines. Most teams try to spread the wealth up and down the lines. Some teams will load up the top lines more than others, but typically speaking, you’ll see the majority of teams utilize a second or third best forward on the second line and fifth or sixth best forward on the third line.
We know Hertl is a great fit with the Joes, but the Sharks seem to believe (and yours truly agrees) that the team is best if Hertl can elevate his game at the center position. Hertl playing at a high level as a center behind Thornton and Couture as the top-two centers? That makes the Sharks an extremely tough team to match up against.
Another fit on this line of course is Melker Karlsson. We have seen him spark the Joes before in short stints. Karlsson’s skillset is similar to that of Hansen, but the Swede in this case is a tad better fit as an under the radar player. He just isn’t quite dynamic enough for consistent top line duty.
Line 2: Joonas Donskoi---Logan Couture---Kevin Labanc
This is a line that Sharks Head Coach Pete DeBoer hasn’t given us much, if any look at yet (if memory serves). Joonas Donskoi was in and out of the lineup last year with injuries and Kevin Labanc was up and down between the Sharks and Barracuda. That said, both Donskoi and Labanc have demonstrated notable chemistry with Logan Couture in each of the past two seasons. Donskoi played primarily with Couture in his rookie year two seasons ago and Labanc had his best games as a rookie last year with 39 as his centerman.
With Patrick Marleau moving on to Toronto and Joel Ward falling down the depth chart, the wings next to Couture are wide open for young forwards. While Mikkel Boedker played his best hockey last year with Couture and Marleau, Labanc and Donskoi have performed far better next to Couture. Timo Meier could be another option or even Karlsson who has looked good next to Couture in very brief stints. Donskoi and Labanc though make the most sense to start out on that second line.
Line 3: Timo Meier---Tomas Hertl---Mikkel Boedker
This is a line to which yours truly alluded to a few days ago in an article about Tomas Hertl. The size and strength combination of Meier and Hertl together is a tough duo for opponents to defend in the corners. Boedker on the other hand brings the necessary speed and agility component to work the space that Hertl and Meier can create.
Unless Boedker is playing with particularly fast and highly skilled linemates, he is the type who needs at least one linemate to handle the physical load. Meier and Hertl in this case fit that bill. The two of them showed they work well together in the playoffs against Edmonton. The two big boys on this line will create space down low for Boedker, and vice versa, Boedker’s speed through the neutral zone should help create space for shooters like Hertl and Meier off the rush.
Boedker’s playmaking will ideally benefit guys like Hertl and Meier who like to shoot the puck. It is no secret why Hertl has had success on the Thornton line and why many want to see Meier on the Thornton line. They both love to put the puck toward the net.
Line 4:: Melker Karlsson---Chris Tierney---Joel Ward
Karlsson and Chris Tierney---San Jose’s top penalty kill duo from last year---have quality chemistry together. There really isn’t much to say here, other than these are the three forwards left who are most likely to round out the lineup. With Ward on the last year of his deal, my preference would be to see a younger player take his spot. However, knowing DeBoer’s penchant for preferring players he feels he can trust (aka veterans), I don’t see Ward being scratched to start the year.
If it were up to me though, Marcus Sorensen would get onto that fourth line instead. Karlsson and Sorensen are both extremely quick and disruptive on the forecheck. It may be cliche, but when anyone talks about fourth lines, we talk about energy. At his age and lack of speed, Ward doesn’t really bring that anymore. Sorensen and Karlsson though could be extremely effective against other team’s third and fourth lines and third defense pairs. They could get in on the forecheck and cause a number of turnovers.
Agree or Disagree?
Please leave a comment with what you expect the forward lines to be to start the season!