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Thursday, September 14, 2006

On the eve of camp...

Training camp officially opens tomorrow, and Sharks fans already have a pretty good idea about what their team will look like. Barring any unforeseen changes, the line combos should work out to something like this:

Forward Lines:
Bell/Thornton/Cheechoo
Bernier/Marleau/Michalek
Grier/Goc/Niemenen
????/Brown/????

Defense:
McLaren/Ehrhoff
Hannan/Carle
????/????

Up front, Goc and Brown are interchangeable, but there are no guarantees for Patrick Rissmiller or Mark Smith to be on the fourth line. Brown can also play the wing, so there's a chance that Smith may re-take the center position, leaving one wing open. Devin Setoguchi impressed the hell out of a lot of people last season, and Lukas Kasper wowed people at the rookie tournament this year, so it looks like there will be some competition for those roster spots. You've got a bunch of forwards in the queue and only two spots available:

Mark Smith
Patrick Rissmiller
Ryan Clowe
Devin Setoguchi
Lukas Kasper
Scott Parker
Grant Stevenson

I have a feeling that if Setoguchi or Kasper make the squad, that'll bump Ville Niemenen down to the fourth line to try and get the new kid a little bit more offense. Minus Setoguchi and Kasper, the battle for the fourth line is really just a mix of grinders. Smith has heart and speed but no hands, Parker's a defensive liability and a pretty lumbering skater, and Stevenson simply isn't an NHL caliber player. My prediction: the Sharks will keep Smith in the active roster, take one of Setoguchi/Kasper to offer some flexibility. That means Rissmiller and Parker watch from the press box while Stevenson and Clowe disappear to Worcesheshesheshesheshter where they belong.

On the back end, it's anyone's guess after the top four. There certainly are arguments for Josh Gorges being penciled in, but there's no reason for that to be certain. In essence, you've got a replica of what's happening to the forward lines: two spots for a crapload of players...

Doug Murray
Josh Gorges
Rob Davison
Jim Fahey
Mathieu Biron
Marc Vlasic
Ty Wishart

Wishart was just drafted this year, so even though he was a first rounder, don't expect him to compete for a spot. Here's one telling sign -- the Worcester Sharks have Rob Davison as part of their web page. Another telling sign -- Doug Murray was assigned a normal number (3) instead of the goofy training camp number he wore through last season (41). As funny as Jim Fahey is on Shark Byte, he seems to have earned a second career as press box pizza boy, which, considering how much he gets paid, may be the easiest job in the world, but also kinda sucks. Fahey's big chance was several years back and he blew it; the best thing for him would be to A) grow five inches and 30 pounds of pure muscle or B) get traded and hope he can get a fresh start somewhere else.

Biron's a total wildcard. Here's a giant dude who was drafted high and hasn't done crap except earn the title of "Worst Player Ever" by some disgruntled Washington Capitals fans. He's not a reclamation project because he never really amounted to anything, but maybe yet another change in environment can get his head out of his ass and actually motivate him to utilize his talents. He's got some offensive upside, but his biggest asset is his wingspan. One thing to note -- Biron's only played on crappy, losing teams, and maybe putting him in a culture of winning and accountability will change his attitude.

Gorges had problems last year with getting pushed off the puck, especially by the Oilers. If Murray can regain the form he had prior to his shoulder problems, he should be a perfect fit as a punishing #5 dman. The last spot is a crap shoot, though considering the fact that Ehrhoff's only in his second real season and Carle and Murray are still technically rookies, I'm leaning towards going with someone who has more NHL experience than Vlasic. I'd gamble on Biron as long as he's not a total training camp disaster, and stick Gorges in the press box.

Of course, everything could change when one of the goalies gets dealt. It's just too bad that Mike O'Connell isn't still around to be fleeced, and there's no one on the Islanders roster worth tricking Garth Snow for.

8 comments:

Ted said...

Thanks for all the analysis. I don't have high hopes for Brown. Given his salary, it doesn't appear the Sharks really do either. This is probably two more chances to salvage his career than the Sharks should have given him. Must be buds with D Wilson. I hope Smith wins a spot. I think Brown has a spot, then after he craps out someone else will have to be brought up.

Yes Fahey played one good year, and has looked absolutely aweful since. Biron is probably no better or worse than Davison. I think Gorges is in, he is better than the rest and won't be sky boxed. I would hope Murray gets the other spot and hits people with even half the frequency of last year. Wishart is too young yes. If I was going to gamble on someone it would be Vlasic making the club. There have already been numerous comments within the organization that he is ready.

Ted said...

Oh yeah, and one more thing I would say is that Goc might not be assured of anything after last season. Like everyone I was a huge fan of his efforts two seasons ago, but he slumped. He used to be gold defensively, now, not so much. I would throw him in with the players fighting for job.

Earl Sleek said...

Good work, Mike. Just found out today that I will be in attendance for the SJ-Ana preseason tilt next Wednesday.

I'll give you the drinky scoop on things then!

Ted said...

I just happened upon an article about the various jersey numbers that will be changing this year. Murray is swicthing to #3 by choice, so that's not an indication that he's out of favor.

zanstorm said...

I can't see Niemenen playing on the fourth line. But he will need alot of icetime as a checker, which he is damn good at.

MetroGnome said...

Lord I miss Nieminen. He was only a Flame for a soirt period of time but he quickly became one of my favorites...

MetroGnome said...

short I mean. Short!

Mike said...

I don't think the Sharks would re-sign Parker for close to $1M if they didn't think he'd play regularly. Plus he's apparantly a great locker-room guy. I think the 4th line will be Brown/Smith/Parker.

As for the D, I'm not convinced either Gorges or Davison are NHL caliber. Biron and Murray are my guesses.

Ted, do you have a link to that article? I have a sick fascination with jersey numbers.