by Mike Chen on 09/19/08 at 08:16 PM ET
The ever-vigilant Dave Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News has posted that the Sharks will open training camp with Patrick Marleau on Joe Thornton’s wing. The duo will be flanked by Ryane Clowe, not Jonathan Cheechoo:
Here’s how the top forward lines will look on Day One:
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Ryan Clowe
Milan Michalek-Joe Pavelski-Jonathan Cheechoo
Marcel Goc-Torrey Mitchell-Mike Grier
Tomas Plihal-Jeremy Roenick-Devin Setoguchi
I’m personally not a fan of putting Marleau and Thornton on the same line together except for the power play.
It’s nothing against Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Cheechoo, or Milan Michalek, but when he’s on his game (as in post-trade deadline Marleau), Marleau can create offense by himself. Cheechoo can be a wizard when it comes to shooting and “Did he just do that?” moves that are equally ugly and beautiful while Michalek and Pavelski are still coming into their own. I think history has shown us that when one line’s stacked, it generally does less good for the team than spreading the depth out.
And I don’t necessarily buy all of the fantasy chatter that Cheechoo is a 20-goal scorer who had one ridiculous year. Keep in mind the groin problems he’s had over the past two seasons. Last year, he didn’t feel good until late January—not coincidentally, he started firing off goals at his expected pace. I don’t know if Cheechoo will ever break 50 goals again but a healthy Cheechoo in his prime should be able to hit 40 goals regularly.
As for Pavelski, he’s certainly got the tools to be a second-line center—he’s crafty with good stickhandling skills and passing vision. Combined with a fair amount of grit and you’ve got the makings of a solid 60-70 point guy…eventually. But for now, I’d rather stick with the lines that finished out last season: Michalek/Thornton/Cheechoo and Marleau/Pavelski/Clowe. The issue with the team wasn’t necessarily line combinations or chemistry, it was a systemic thing (speed through the neutral zone, skating rather than coasting, more shots on net, more driving to the crease) that new coach Todd McLellan is, in theory, trying to address from day one.
By the way, I’ll be taking in tomorrow’s scrimmage with a few friends before attending to “real life” projects in the afternoon. If anything stands out, I’ll post some notes either here or at the Battle of California...or maybe both!
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