San Jose Sharks Line Profiles - Top Six
The San Jose Sharks have made some noise this offseason through trades and free agency. Once again, they look to have one of the most prevalent top six forward groups in the league. Now that we know all of the Sharks' moves this summer, its time to breakdown that top six and make my predictions on point totals.
Line One: Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski
With the departure of Dany Heatley this summer to the Minnesota Wild, the door is now open for Joe Pavelski to once again take his rightful place among San Jose's top six. As Sharks' fans know, Pavs is a big game scorer who always seems to score timely goals, a welcome sight from the inconsistency of Setoguchi, who occupied the right slot on the top line last season. But Pavelski is also a top-notch two-way forward, which Joe Thornton will definitely appreciate. Now that some of the defensive responsibility will be relieved from Jumbo Joe's shoulders, who led the league in takeaways last season with 121, I can see him returning to his offensive numbers of two seasons ago.
Thornton: 23-71-94 – As I mentioned, much of Thornton's defensive responsibilities will be relieved due to the presence of Pavelski on the top line. Thornton has not scored more than 90 points since the 2007-08, but I believe this year he will once again reach that marker, especially since there will be more emphasis on he and Marleau to produce now that Heatley has left.
Marleau: 46-38-84 – With Thornton racking up the points, that can only be good new for Marleau next season; as Thornton goes, so goes Marleau. If Joe doesn't step it up and return to form, then Marleau will likely not improve either. But if Thornton can increase his productivity like I think he will, then Marleau will once again score over 40 goals.
Joe Pavelski: 27-44-71 – Coming with first line ice-time will almost certainly be a career high in points for Pavelski. After setting a career high of 66 points last season playing on the third line for part of the second half, I can only envision Pavelski increasing upon those numbers. Little Joe will receive much of his line's defensive work to relieve the pressure of the aforementioned two players, but I believe Pavelski has the ability to shoulder that responsibility while also putting up the points.
Line Two: Clowe-Couture-Havlat
The newly acquired Martin Havlat will provide a new dynamic to this second that Heatley could not. While Dany may be one of the best snipers in the league, it wasn't hard to tell by watching him that his skating left something to be desired and his backcheck wasn't always top-notch. With Havlat, the Sharks' got a speedy two-way forward to who knows how to score. Playing along the other wing will be Ryane Clowe, one of the NHL's best young power forwards who can be downright dominant along the boards. And centering the two will be rookie sensation Logan Couture who will look to avoid a sophomore slump that too often claims the second year of a youngster's career.
Couture: 30-33-63 – While Couture was known for putting the puck in the net last season, he is mostly regarded as a two-way playmaking center and it will be hard for him to keep up the 12.6 shooting percentage from last season. But playing alongside Havlat, who will hopefully play better than Heatley did last season, Couture's assist totals will probably rise. Even if Couture does experience somewhat of a slump next season and doesn't score the points I think he will next season, he will still be a valuable two-way center for the second line due to his aggressive style and ability to retrieve and maintain possession of the puck. But for the Shark's sake, Couture needs to at least replicate last season's numbers to make up for some of this offseason's lost offense.
Clowe: 31-35-66 – Call me crazy, but I believe Clowe can join the 30 goal scorers' club this season playing alongside two natural playmakers in Couture and Havlat. Clowe really came into his own the last couple of seasons and other teams and players in the league started to take note. When Clowe gets ahold of the puck along the boards, there is no taking it from him, unless your name is Zdeno Chara. Clowe will experience a modest bump in productivity now that he and Couture with Havlat now on the line to help with some of the defensive workload.
Havlat: 24-45-69 – Playing on the far superior offense of the Sharks will almost certainly help Havlat increase upon his 2010-11 campaign. The only thing keeping Havlat from playing on San Jose's top line this upcoming season is Todd McClellan's idea of having speed on both lines: Marleau on the first, Havlat on the second. But Havlat will still get his fair share of powerplay time and hopefully be a better fit for this second line than Heatley was last year.
Some of you may think I'm crazy (or a homer) for suggesting that every player on the Sharks' top two lines will increase his point output from the previous season, but it is actually simple logic. The Sharks will no longer have the luxury of three prevalent scoring line like they did last year (unless for some unforeseen reason the third line plays far above their talent level) so the top six will be playing more minutes and and be counted upon to score at a higher pace than last year. These numbers are simply what I feel the players have to potential to score and the number that I think they need to score to remain elite.
Coming Up: In my next post, I will highlight the Sharks' bottom six, which will definitely be harder than their top six was to predict.
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