What does the ideal Sharks lineup look like?
Difficult decisions to come
The San Jose Sharks will have a full plane on their four-game, eight-day, East Coast road trip.
There’s only 20 spots in the lineup on a given night, and the Sharks will have 26 players on their road trip, with goaltender Antoine Bibeau joining on an emergency basis due to Jones’ injury. Once Goodrow and Martin are activated, they’ll be two players over the roster limit.
Jones and back-up Aaron Dell are locks when healthy, but what does the rest of San Jose’s ideal lineup and roster look like? Let’s take a venture, line by line and pairing by pairing.
First line: Tomas Hertl, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski
There’s little chance Peter DeBoer breaks up his two longest-tenured forwards, and it seems Hertl is a lock on the wing. Why not reunite his most successful line? Since he took over, only ten other trios league-wide have scored more five-on-five goals, according to Corsica Hockey.
Second line: Timo Meier, Logan Couture, and Joonas Donskoi
Since Donskoi joined the Sharks in 2015, Couture’s three best lines (minimum 200 minutes) in terms of puck possession have had Donskoi on his wing. Meier’s also driven possession alongside Donskoi (79.37 percent corsi-for in 31 minutes, per Natural Stat Trick). On paper, they should rarely be without the puck.
Third line: Kevin Labanc, Chris Tierney, and Mikkel Boedker
These three haven’t played much together, but Tierney and Labanc have controlled 59.09 percent of the shot attempts in just under 40 five-on-five minutes together, per Natural Stat Trick. Tierney’s an underrated set-up man, and adding Labanc to the mix improves the line’s finishing ability.
Fourth line: Jannik Hansen, Danny O'Regan, and Melker Karlsson
This line comes down to special teams impact. O’Regan’s been overmatched at times at even strength, but has been a pivotal component of a revamped power play. Similarly, Hansen and Karlsson are oft-used forwards on the league’s second-best penalty kill.
First pairing: Joakim Ryan and Brent Burns
Burns and Paul Martin have been near inseparable, but he’s even better with Ryan: Their 55.52 percent corsi-for together is the fourth-best mark of pairings that have played 200 minutes together, according to Corsica Hockey. Goals should soon follow.
Second pair: Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun
DeBoer’s usage continues to take a hit on the pair’s possession numbers, but Vlasic and Braun comprise his trusted shutdown pairing. They should always face the toughest competition, but by how much is another concern.
Third pairing: Brenden Dillon and Tim Heed
After spending the first two games in the press box, Heed’s only missed one other game since. He’s now a fixture on the power play, and brings out the best in Dillon just as David Schlemko did last season.
Martin and Ward’s experience is invaluable, but their presence also reflects a financial reality: Their contracts are among the toughest to move, given their ages. Goodrow’s an intriguing matchup alternative to O’Regan, and has shown more than Ryan Carpenter.
Carpenter, as well as DeMelo, have simply been passed on the depth chart. They’ll need to be waived in order to be sent to the minors, so San Jose has to accept the risk of losing either player for free in order to ice their best lineup.