Mailbag: Is It Time to Change the Sharks’ Power Play Units?

[CSNBY] Mailbag: Is it time to change the Sharks' power play units?
Kevin Kurz

A few trade deadline related questions in our mailbag today, ahead of March 1…

Do you think [Nikolay] Goldobin's call-up has anything to do with showcasing him for a potential trade? Or was it just his time to be called? (Adam Smith @kickback408)

It's fair to wonder if this is a showcase situation. It's telling that there were six other Barracuda forwards recalled this season before Goldobin, and although some of them like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier were clearly more deserving earlier in the year, and others like Ryan Carpenter and Danny O'Regan are centers rather than wingers, Goldobin seems to have been pushed down the organizational depth chart.

To be fair, though, Pete DeBoer said that Goldobin was the Barracuda's best player on Tuesday, as evidenced by the youngster's one goal and two assists in that game. According to the coach, recalls have been made purely on merit this season, including this one.

I asked DeBoer on Friday morning – what took so long for Goldobin to get a recall?

"Well, you would have to ask Doug [Wilson] and Roy [Sommer]. When we need a player, my policy with Doug is, give us a guy that deserves to be up here that's earned it on merit. I think for the most part every decision we've made [has] been on merit so far this year that I'm aware of. 

"I don't think that's a testament that [Goldobin] was playing poorly, but there were some guys down there that have had some exceptional years."

Still, if the Sharks are going to try and make an upgrade to their roster before the deadline – either for a scoring winger or a backup goalie – they're going to have to part with some combination of draft picks and/or prospects. They already surrendered their first round pick last season due to the Martin Jones trade, so they may not want to deal this year's first rounder, too. Their organizational depth right now is at wing, and Goldobin possesses elite level skill. He could be an attractive target for another organization, and the Sharks would still have other wingers in the system.

Thoughts on looking for a possible third line center at the deadline, and then moving [Tomas] Hertl back to the first line? #SJSharks (Brett Itatani @Brett_T_Itatani)

I don't see that happening, just because it's harder and more costly to find a center, and then integrate him into the team's system so late in the year. DeBoer has mentioned dozens of times that he likes the team's strength down the middle with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Hertl and Chris Tierney, and that's unlikely to change. Hertl is the third line center for the foreseeable future.

That said it's still an audition on the left wing of the Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, as far as I'm concerned. Labanc has done some nice things there lately, but the jury is out as to whether he can play there on an every game basis. I thought at the start of the year that Meier would be the most likely player to take over that spot, but he's now back in the minors and maybe hasn't had the kind of effect on the team that the front office and coaching staff had hoped he would.

It could make sense for the Sharks to look around for a veteran scorer to plug in on the left side of the top line, if they can make the numbers work.

Play armchair coach, what should both power plays look like if it was your choice? The current ones just don't gel. (Cameron Halbert @CameronHalbert)

I can understand why DeBoer has been patient with the Sharks' top power play unit. After all, they're only one season removed from helping the club to a 22.5 percent success rate, third in the NHL, last season. But if these guys don't get it going coming out of the bye week, something has to change. I was recently chatting with a former player that watches the Sharks on a regular basis, and he thinks it's overdue that they alter the units. 

The guy I'll be watching – again, coming out of the bye week – will be Thornton. A well respected Eastern Conference scout told me last week that he thinks Thornton's hands are starting to go a bit, which is only natural for a 37-year-old. That's been most evident on the power play. It would be an eye-opening move, but perhaps it's time to give Hertl a chance on that top unit in place of Thornton for at least a game or two, just to see how it looks. The team will need more from the power play in the postseason than it's shown so far.

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