(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)
Brodie Brazil had a few things to say about how the Sharks’ top lines will look when the season starts:
Go ahead and ink in Joe Thornton, centering Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. There’s San Jose’s top line to begin the season…it’s pretty clear to see Todd McLellan following that with Logan Couture, flanked by Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat. -Sharks Talk
I must have missed the quote where McLellan says he’s sorted out the 3rd slots on the top lines and isn’t giving it another thought.
Those combinations don’t look bad at all, spreading the speed out a little instead of doubling up on the top line. One could argue that Pavs doesn’t necessarily belong up there, he hasn’t been up there much at all. He isn’t very fast, but he is very clever. Clever can make up for not fast, especially when the line does have one very fast skater.
But saying it is all a done deal rubs me the wrong way. McLellan likes to change things around anyway, so why go out on a limb and tell us to pencil lines in at this point? Based on what, training camp? Pre-season games? A wise man told me: you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on exhibition games. Easy to say you should include scrimmages in that class of inconclusiveness.
That is one of the funny things about watching training camp. You have a bunch of players all playing at different levels, not only because of their skill level. Some players are green, with very little chance of making the big club yet, they’re just trying to figure it out and also impress someone. You have players on the cusp who are working their tails off to prove they can make the jump. There are players on a conditional invite, again giving their all to earn a spot. Then you have guys who have contracts and security who are just tuning up. What conclusions can you draw from this about how the players compare to each other? Ignore the roster players completely? But you can’t do that, not if you are also trying to figure out which top player should play on which line.
Of course the coaching staff has a good sense of most of those players and their histories. They are looking for very specific things in each one of them. But for a spectator who hasn’t seen most of them much at all, it’s a crap shoot.
So who does actually begin the season if Havlat isn’t ready? Do we assume Ferriero will be on the second line? Hey, that’s how they did it in camp. I’m just not ready to assume that.
If Havlat is ready, is it a lock that he will be with Clowe and Couture? Pavs played very well with Clowe and Couture last season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him back on that line again. Havlat has participated in drills at practice, but he hasn’t had playing time with many potential linemates. You can hardly get a strong sense of how he would fit on a line from Captain’s Practice scrimmages.
I read on, to see how Brodie would flesh out these introductory remarks. He didn’t. He went on to talk about the 3rd and 4th line possibilities. I don’t see why that is in such doubt. We saw all those guys play at camp too, how can we not know for sure who is making the team and what lines they will be on? Can’t we just judge by how much they scored in scrimmages? No? Okay then.
Brodie concludes by saying:
… the chemistry of youth, and healthy internal competition, has the chance to greatly help San Jose become a deeper team. As well, it will likely leave things fairly wide open until the start of the regular season.
True, I would just open that a little wider to include the top lines as well. I know it’s fun to guess and gamble on things but it seems more informative to just set out the possibilities without making wild assertions.
Like what does it mean that Ferriero was with Couture and Clowe through most of camp, like some sort of Havlat placeholder? Does it mean the team knows exactly what they have in him, they don’t need more data? They don’t need to see how he plays with anyone else, like someone who might be on the 3rd or 4th line? Is it a good sign that he was in such esteemed company? Or is it a really bad sign that he wasn’t tested in a position someone might actually expect him to play in? I don’t know, I won’t assume anything.