Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Is everything going according to plan yet?

It is early still to say whether or not the Sharks’ plans for the 2011-12 season are working, but there is some data available.

First part of the plan was to get Dan Boyle’s minutes down.  It does look like his TOI is creeping down.  At least from the first game (27:28) to the last (22:49) there’s a reduction, with a spike of in the middle there.  Boyle’s time on the penalty kill isn’t dropping off as much as some would like but overall others are balancing out his minutes.  The drop is not drastic but it is there, probably because Vlasic and Burns are looking better.

Was it a Sharks tradition to always let Dan Boyle work himself to death, à la “we can’t stop that goalie from playing….”?  I don’t think so.  I think Boyle got too much time before because he was the best defenseman and the drop off after that was dangerously steep.

No more.  Not only is Burns starting to take those minutes but, even though the pair of Demers/White has been disappointing, there is another.  Maybe Braun/Vandermeer won’t be much better but the team’s options could be worse.

So even if Boyle was still saw very high TOI for these first several games, I think that was because there was still a precarious drop off after him, tired as he was.  Burns and Vlasic didn’t make a great start, but they are on the uptick now so Boyle’s time should go down.

Actually, of all the players learning to play with a new partner, I think Vlasic has been the quickest study.  That’s important because Burns is probably the biggest change in the system, with the highest potential upside.  Good job, Vlasic.

Some say Boyle needs his minutes cut due to age.  Perhaps, but he isn’t much older now than he was 7 months ago.  He’s 7 months older, to be exact.  So, barring the sudden expiration of some age suspension formula he’s been using, I’m not going to put too much stock in the age argument.

No, he shouldn’t play 5-10 minutes more than the next busiest defenseman because that makes anyone tired, which makes him less sharp, less effective, more prone to injury, etc.

Boyle had a better game Tuesday in Nashville.  He wasn’t blow your mind spectacular but his game was a whole lot cleaner than his previous couple of games.  I think he’s starting to trust his team again, and therefore himself too.

The other part of that plan was to improve defense generally, take a little pressure of the top forwards.  Getting scoring from the top two forward lines can hardly be called a unique plan, but it is an important thing.

Right now, San Jose’s top six forwards are earning the moniker.  Each of the trios has its own unique chemistry that is coming together just as head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson hoped they would. -Sharks Talk

I agree with Brodie.  So far so good, at least on this road trip.  It is hard to tell after only two games but Havlat does seem to fit right in with Couture and Clowe.  Part of that fitting in has been in the scoring department but he also brings defensive play and good sense to bolster Couture’s skill in that area.  Second line effectiveness: check.

Now that Marleau looks to be all over that flu thing, he is looking better.  He looked a little dull to me, compared to his usual self, for the first couple of games.  He is definitely sharper now.

While Pavelski has shown that he can play pretty much anywhere, I think it really was to put him on the top line.  He can make the most of it, which for him is a lot.  I loved his comment about the empty-netter in Nashville, how the net looks smaller when there’s no goalie in it.  That’s him to a tee: he takes nothing for granted, keeps his wits sharp.

There was another plan last season that involved not over-working one goalie.  Had Niittymaki not been hurt, I like to think he would have played more last season, and Niemi less.  Now I’m not so sure.  McLellan doesn’t sound very interested in giving a lot of games to anyone but Niemi:

“We did that at the beginning of last year when we alternated days, but we don’t have much interest in that right now,” he said. “He’s got to establish himself now that he’s healthy as our number one guy.” -Sharks Talk

I have to pay a little attention to that “now”.  Maybe McLellan just means he needs to let Niemi get going, and then he can back off a little.  True, this season the other option is Greiss, who has played well but still doesn’t have Nitty’s experience.  While Nitty was a 2nd/1b goalie, Greiss is definitely viewed as a back up.  The difference might seem slight but it really isn’t, or it shouldn’t be.  Teams are not getting very far in the playoffs with tired goalies, no matter how much better they are than their backups.

But it is still early.  Tomorrow’s game against the Red Wings should be a good test.  Detroit has had a rough week and is impatient for a win.  Also, they have a bone to pick with the Sharks:

I mean, this is a team that used to own the Sharks (1994 playoff upset notwithstanding). But it’s also one the Sharks eliminated Detroit from the past two post-seasons, and played evenly at 6-6 since 2008-09 during the regular seasons. -Working the Corners

One regular season game won’t make up for all that but combined with their present situation I think the Red Wings will be very ready to play Friday.  So make that an excellent test, not just a good one, for the Sharks’ grand plan.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: antti+niemi, brent+burns, dan+boyle, joe+pavelski, marc-edouard+vlasic, patrick+marleau, thomas+greiss, todd+mclellan

Comments

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Petshark,

Always good to read your stuff. I completely agree that Friday’s game is huge. One team is on the upswing, and one has been sliding downhill. Should be quite a contest.

Although I want the Sharks to win, I don’t think they have their “stuff” together well enough to beat what is going to likely be a very motivated Wings team.

Hope I’m wrong.

P.S. How many blogs do you maintain?

Posted by Scum Bum on 10/27/11 at 07:50 PM ET

petshark's avatar

Hey there, scum:) Just this blog and the old wordpress one.

Here’s hoping the Sharks are more ready than either of us thinks tomorrow!

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 10/27/11 at 08:40 PM ET

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net