For over a decade, the Sharks have boasted one of the league’s most dominant power play units. Two guys have been mainstays on the special team, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. However, this season has seen a dramatic fall in the Sharks’ power play rate. With only a 16.5% success rate, the glaring question is; “What the hell has happened to the once dominant power play?”
There seems to be an unsettling trend this season when San Jose has the man advantage. Part of the problem is being able to set the unit up in the offensive end. Crisp, clean passes are sometimes missing, and the puck is turned over to the opponent. Time ticks off the clock and before everybody knows it, the PP is already half over. Once the Sharks establish the zone and set the play up, they pass the puck. Then they continue to pass. They pass so much, it gives the opponent plenty of time to stick check, turn the puck over and clear the zone. It has been absolutely infuriating to watch this team with so much firepower be unable to capitalize when given the opportunity.
It is a lack of scoring from San Jose. That does not mean, however, that GM Doug Wilson needs to make a trade for a scorer. When healthy, the Sharks lineup is one of the most dangerous teams in the league. With Joe Pavelski, Thornton and (for now) Marleau leading on the top line, it can not get much better than that. Logan Couture centering the second line with Joonas Donskoi and Kevin Labanc could rival most top lines in the NHL. A healthy Tomas Hertl paired with young Timo Meier and veteran Joel Ward is also a dangerous line to face. Finish the lines with Chris Tierney, Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson and the Sharks are deadly. So for anyone to say, “The Sharks need to make a trade.” No, they really do not.
What might get lost on most people is the fact that the Sharks are not healthy. Hertl might be the biggest difference maker in the lineup. When he returns, he will center the third line. However, that is not all the Sharks are missing. Hertl was a big player on the Sharks second power play unit. Without him in there, DeBoer has had to fill in pieces with guys who do not have the experience needed for the Sharks unit.
With a healthy Hertl, the units will stabilize, and will return to a more consistent special team. The thing that could change, though is Hertl could join the first unit. At 6′ 2″, and 210 pounds, he is a big body. That is what the Sharks are missing on the top line, a body to line up in front of the goalie and cause havoc in the crease. That will leave a spot open on the second unit, but who should take that spot?
Timo Meier is a great candidate for the second power play unit. Listed as 6′ and 210 pounds, he is another big body to make goalie’s lives harder during the man advantage. Meier is definitely not afraid to throw himself in the way of other skaters to land big hits. So, he would be no stranger to a little contact in front of the net. The Sharks know what Meier is capable of in terms of scoring, so a spot on the power play could yield big offensive numbers for the 20 year old rookie.
The San Jose Sharks power play has been fairly dormant this season. After years of explosive offensive power, fans are not quite sure how to handle the struggling unit. It does not help matters when a main piece of the unit in Hertl is missing with a knee injury. When he is ready to return though, the power play could return to the success it is so accustomed to. Do not be surprised either if Timo Meier gets a promotion to the second unit. The Sharks will need the power play to catapult them to another deep playoff run.