Digging into the mailbag with the Sharks struggling for wins...
It appears the #SJSharks depth isn't that deep. Injuries have shown this. Where do they need improvement? #SharksTalk (Steve @shrxfan89)
The depth issues this team is experiencing –- particularly on its third line -– fall squarely on the shoulders of management, and frankly, they should be nervous the way some of these guys are performing in a season in which the team may have to make the playoffs in order for them to keep their jobs.
Already in his third season, Matt Nieto -- still looking for his first even strength goal -- is showing signs of being rushed into the NHL. I thought it was interesting that Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford admitted last April that he rushed former first round pick Beau Bennett – another young/high draft pick/winger/California native that has had similar NHL production as Nieto (Bennett has averaged .35 points-per game in 102 career NHL games, while Nieto is at .37 points-per game in 150 career games).
Although I would never expect such public bluntness from anyone with the Sharks, I think that the club may have seriously hindered Nieto’s development by not getting him AHL experience.
Chris Tierney is another one. The Sharks erred by giving him a roster spot at the start of last season when he clearly wasn't ready, but made the right move by reassigning him to the minors early on. He thrived in Worcester and returned as a different player, but now he again looks like he needs more time in the AHL. He's not only not producing, with just one empty-net goal and two assists, he’s taking some bad penalties to boot.
These are two kids that have good heads on their shoulders, are both former second round draft picks, still have tremendous potential, and yet are struggling mightily.
A prime reason guys like Nieto and Tierney haven’t been able to spend enough time in the minors is due to previous management missteps. Just take a look at some of the forwards on last year’s team -- Adam Burish, Tyler Kennedy, James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and Tye McGinn all played regular roles with the Sharks last season, but none of them is currently even in the NHL at the moment.
Maybe players like Nieto and Tierney earned their spots on the Sharks roster last year, but in hindsight, how hard was it with that lack of quality internal competition?
As to your question, where does the team need improvement? I’d start with some better decisions by those running the organization.
Should we be worried about Martin Jones? #SharksTalk (DennisRobles @djr62167)
On a list of things to worry about, Martin Jones would be very low on mine. Sure, he’s let in a few goals recently that he was stopping earlier, but this is still a guy with a 2.16 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 10 games. There are a number of reasons the Sharks have lost six of their last eight games, and while Jones hasn’t stolen any victories lately, he hasn’t exactly been dreadful, either.
Still, this is Jones’ first season as an undisputed NHL starter. No one knows how he’s going to hold up getting the bulk of the work over the grind of a seven-month season. I have seen evidence that Jones is a passionately hard worker both on and off the ice, and he’s going to do everything in his power to be successful, but his consistency will be an ongoing storyline.
It’s worth noting, too, that Jones seems like a stand-up guy when it comes to evaluating his own play as well as the team in front of him. He was blunt on Tuesday night in saying he thought he let in a few bad goals, but he wasn’t afraid to add that he thought the Sharks as a team got outworked by the Blue Jackets, too. It’s nice to see those kinds of leadership qualities in someone so young that’s still getting used to his new teammates.
What's going on with Ben Smith and his injury? Any anticipation of seeing more of him if they're shaking up bottom six? #SharksTalk (Olof Johansson @olofj)
Ben Smith is still feeling the effects of taking that puck to the head against the Islanders on Oct. 17. He had a setback, according to Pete DeBoer, and it’s uncertain when he’ll be back.
Regardless, it’s becoming pretty evident that Smith just hasn’t worked himself into DeBoer’s good graces, for whatever reason.
He never really had a regular role on one of the four lines in training camp, and was a healthy scratch for the first three games before Logan Couture got hurt. DeBoer gave him a pretty quick hook in the Dallas game last Saturday, benching him in the third period after his line was caught out on the ice for a key second period goal-against. The coach confirmed on Tuesday that Smith was removed from that game for his play, and not for health reasons.