Halloween is known for its ghost stories, and the Sharks have two of their own: Dylan DeMelo and Jannik Hansen.The pair isn’t haunting San Jose from beyond the grave, but the press box, where they’ve spent the last nine and four games, respectively.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for either of them.
DeMelo entered the season as the Sharks’ clear-cut sixth defenseman, set to finally get an extended look after spending more time in the press box than on the ice over the previous two seasons. Hansen wasn’t expected to play alongside Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton as he was in the spring, yet was still pencilled in as a bottom-six lock.
Instead, DeMelo’s found himself back in the press box. Fellow right-handed defenseman Tim Heed, with six points in nine games and a role on the top power play unit, has pushed him out of the lineup. An injury on the left side of the depth chart hasn’t helped DeMelo’s cause, either, as head coach Peter DeBoer prefers to keep defensemen on their strong side.
DeBoer’s also tinkered with his bottom-six forward group in pretty much every game. Of third-and-fourth liners that skated in Monday night’s win over Toronto, only three had played in every game: Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, and Chris Tierney.
It’s hard to blame him. The Sharks entered Tuesday tied for 25th in goal-scoring, and tied for 27th in goal-scoring at five-on-five play. Boedker, Donskoi, and Tierney have scored four, six, and four points, respectively. Hansen’s scored one, and hasn’t been able to crack the lineup.
Depth driving difficult decisions isn’t a bad thing, especially when someone like Heed is playing so well. Still, DeMelo and Hansen’s absences are disappointing. In DeMelo’s case, that’s because this was supposed to be the year he finally carved out a regular role. In Hansen’s, it’s because he was acquired with the top six in mind, and is out of the lineup entirely 28 regular season and playoff games after the Sharks gave up a mid-round draft choice and a former first round pick.
Despite not playing much lately, DeMelo and Hansen are not among the players general manager Doug Wilson is reportedly trying to move, That’s surprising.
Not because they’ll fetch a more significant return than Boedker, Tierney, or Paul Martin, but because the two are fairly movable. Neither DeMelo nor Hansen is signed beyond this season, and they’re making $650,000 and $2,000,000, respectively. Hansen’s contract contains a modified no-trade clause, but his cap hit is easy to swallow for a team in need of forward depth.
DeMelo and Hansen may yet still have roles to play this season. Injuries, and ineffectiveness, can change things in a hurry. Until that happens, though, their respective absences are a bit spooky.