Editor's note: Comcast SportsNet Sharks television analyst Bret Hedican will periodically give three thoughts on hot topics surrounding the team in a new feature we’re calling “Hedi’s Hat Trick.”
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1. Top shelf
Sharks defenseman Justin Braun entered Thursday night’s game against Vancouver with a team-high +13 rating, skating with partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic. According to Hedican, Braun should be garnering interest from those in charge of selecting the United States Olympic Team.
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Hedican gave his assessment of the 26-year-old Minnesota native.
BH: “A few years ago when he came in, I didn’t know if he would be fast enough to really develop into a defenseman that was going to be able to play at the highest level, for a long time. He has definitely solved his speed issue. He is now one of the guys that you never have to worry about a guy getting around him due to the speed factor. As a matter of fact, he is tracking guys down.
“Because of that, his game now has elevated to a level where I feel he is world class, and when I say world class, I mean the US Olympic Team. He’s a shut down d-man that is reliable, limits mistakes, and makes good, sound decisions consistently on an every day basis. That equals trust.”
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2. Empty netter
The Sharks miss Brent Burns, who came out of the lineup on Oct. 19 and is sidelined indefinitely from a series of high hits. Burns had four goals and four assists and a +9 rating in his first eight games before the injury, and his absence has been noticeable, specifically on the Joe Thornton line.
According to Hedican, though, Burns’ absence doesn’t just hurt his line. It affects the entire team negatively.
BH: “Originally, I would have said when Brent Burns was a defenseman, losing him probably wouldn’t have hurt the Sharks. Up at forward, when he’s out of the lineup, it hurts. He is a big body and is physical, and is hard for the opposing defensemen to handle down low. When you have a forward that is big, it’s hard to take the puck away from, and is going to be physical, it wears out a defense corps.
“Him being out of the lineup affects the wear and tear on opposing defenses. In turn, by the end of the night and in the third period, is where the Sharks can really be effective and wear a team down. That’s where they miss him the most.”
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3. Under review
Sharks forward Marty Havlat recently returned from offseason pelvic surgery, making his season debut on Oct. 30, and recording a goal and an assist in the 5-4 shootout loss to Buffalo on Nov. 5. He’s just four games into his season, which may be a bit too soon to analyze whether Havlat fits into the Sharks’ “hard and fast” system. Hedican would like to see a consistent effort from Havlat through his first 10 games before fully evaluating the 32-year-old winger.
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BH: “I think Marty Havlat gets a passing grade right now. I would take the best game and the worst game he has over the course of a 10-game stretch, and throw those out. It’s the eight games in between that I’ll really judge him.
“He’ll have to be judged nightly, but ultimately, it’s the consistency that I want to see, the battle level, making plays offensively that he is capable of making on a nightly basis. I want eight solid, good nights out of 10, where you can say ‘this guy is making the team better.’ So, it’s too early to say, but I’m willing to give him a full 10 games before we judge what we’ve gotten out of those 10.”