Programming note: Flames-Sharks coverage starts Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – It’s taken several weeks into the season for the Sharks to slowly but surely start to make some of changes to their roster that were promised in the offseason.
The transactions of trading popular defenseman Jason Demers, and equally as popular forward Adam Burish (in the locker room, anyway) suggests that the “clean slate, no equity” philosophy that was preached by team brass before training camp began hasn’t changed.
*Demers, 26, regressed this season, plain and simple. He wasn’t getting involved offensively, looked a step slower, and was making the same kind of errors with the puck that plagued him earlier in his career. He still has time to get things back on track in Dallas, but it was evident that he needed a change of scenery. So, he’s gone.
*Burish wasn’t doing anything productive of note, other than taking regular shifts on the penalty kill. Of course, his nine minor penalties – several of which were unnecessary and untimely – meant that he wasn’t even able to contribute even in that regard often enough. It would be surprising to see the 31-year-old return to the Sharks this season or next, considering guys like Chris Tierney, 20, and Freddie Hamilton, 22, are still marinating in the AHL and would be more likely options ahead of Burish. Bid him adieu.
*Scott Hannan, 35, and Matt Irwin, 26, haven’t gotten the job done on the third defense pair. While he’s not counted on to produce offense, Hannan’s zero points in 17 games is a good indicator that he’s spending far too much time in the defensive zone. Irwin has a team-low -9 rating, and has just 14 shots on goal in 11 games – and getting pucks through to the net is supposed to be one of his biggest strengths, after he was first among Sharks defensemen with 2.3 shots per game last season, and 147 total, second to only Dan Boyle. At the very least, a press box view seems likely for that pair.
Enter Brenden Dillon, 24, Matt Tennyson, 24, and Barclay Goodrow, 21.
Just how the Sharks handle their blue line group will be something to monitor over the next week. Todd McLellan commented on Monday about carrying eight defensemen, when only six are going to play.
“Does it turn the heat up on some individuals? Maybe. But, trying to find the best six to play on a nightly basis is what we’re trying to do, and give some young players an opportunity to play.”
The Sharks will keep all eight on the roster through Wednesday’s game with Calgary, but “we’ll see what happens after that,” McLellan said.
Dillon, of course, will be expected to contribute right away. He skated for 21 minutes and 20 seconds in his Sharks debut on Saturday against Arizona, with four hits, seven shot attempts (although just one was on net), and a -2 rating paired with Brent Burns, who struggled in the 4-3 shootout loss.
“The skill set that [Dillon] has, we saw in the game,” McLellan said. “We saw him use his size, his legs, set himself up for a big shot. He was in the play, and he was able to skate back. … New teammates, new partner, new environment. I thought he handled it very well.”
Tennyson was paired with Dillon during Monday’s practice, which is probably an indication that he’ll be in the lineup against the Flames, as well.
Goodrow, whom McLellan has seemed high on since training camp, continues to take a bigger stake in the club, too. The rookie played a season-high 14:21 on Saturday against Arizona, topping his previous high of 13:23 on Thursday vs. Florida.
He’s also starting to take shifts on the penalty kill, as Burish’s demotion has left a void among that group.
“We think he’s a smart enough and strong enough player to be in that situation,” McLellan said. “If everything goes well, he should get more and more minutes there.”
The Sharks still have one more decision looming, perhaps as soon as the end of the week. Mike Brown is just about ready to return from a broken left finger, and San Jose is already carrying the maximum of 23 active players.
That could provide a feeling of uneasiness in the room among some of the team’s veteran players. Considering the Sharks uneven start to the season, that’s how it should be.