The San Jose Sharks are a team that can rightly be considered soft, but they have multiple enforcers battling for ice time in for the 2014-15 NHL season. CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz followed his Tuesday outlook on Mike Brown with another on tough guy Adam Burish Wednesday, Aug. 27.
They lead the pictured list of San Jose tough guys that are at least agitators willing to fight if not actual enforcers. (No hockey player is as despicable as an agitator that will not stand up for himself, even if it is somewhat mitigated because a guy like Corey Perry is too talented to spend time in the box.) Cases for the listed predictions are further examined below, with Brown, Burish and John Scott likely frequent scratches if the team is healthy at forward.
None of those three offer much to the Sharks other than edge. Players like teammates that have their backs and have to scrap to get into the NHL because they do not have the gifts other players do. That does not always make those teammates assets.
Brown is not a good possession player and is clearly overpaid at $1.2 million. He also does not have a lot of offensive production—three goals and six assists in 54 games with the Sharks including the Stanley Cup playoffs last season is his best ratio ever, and he may already be peaking at age 29.
However, Brown is a legitimate NHL player and will easily get over 40 games because of the injury to Raffi Torres. He is another good skater who defends well when his team does not have the puck. He was effective enough to warrant his ice time for San Jose in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, and may just be fitting in with his new team.
The same cannot be said about Scott—easily the worst player on the list. In fact, he is easily the worst player on a one-way contract with San Jose. Thus, it is a bad sign if he plays more than about 20 games.
Scott has a little diversity playing wing or on the blue line, but that means little when one does neither well. He is big and offers shot-blocking skill as well as brutal hits that are frightening because of his size, propensity to cross the line and ability to dust almost anyone in a fight. However, he is too much of an offensive liability (six points in 240 NHL games including the Stanley Cup playoffs) to play against most teams, and thus not worth even the lowest contract on the roster.
Burish is by far the highest-paid of those three Sharks fighting with the likes of Freddie Hamilton and Eriah Hayes for the last active spot if the team is healthy. Kurz suggested he might not make the roster because of his salary, age and competition. Still, the team has cap room, he is younger than Scott who he is definitely better than and not that much older than Brown he is probably better than.
He has shown he knows how to win with a Stanley Cup (2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks) and NCAA championship (2006 with the Wisconsin Badgers). He can play center or wing, skates and defends well, wins faceoffs and can battle around the net.
His style does get him hurt: Burish has missed 69 of 130 regular-season games and 12 of 18 in the postseason since joining San Jose two summers ago. He has only had one season of more than 66 games in his NHL career, and it was in 2007-08. Part of the reason is a lack of offensive skill that also gets him scratched: 26 goals and 31 assists in 348 regular-season games and just five points in 38 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Still, he should play most of the 2014-15 NHL season because Torres could be out until January according to San Jose Mercury News columnist David Pollak. Even next spring, Burish should beat the other reserves out for ice time most often.
Meanwhile, Torres is easily the best of the list of tough-guy Sharks, and when healthy is easily third-line material capable of even filling in on a scoring line because he possesses some offensive skill. He skates and hits hard, defends and can even win faceoffs.
He has a tendency to cross the line, so penalties and suspensions are a risk. However, those things also make other teams more concerned about crossing the line against San Jose like former teammate and friend Jarret Stoll did in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs to knock Marc-Edouard Vlasic out of the series.
That edge and his skill make Torres sure to be in the lineup every game he is healthy, and will mean more whatever time he plays than the other three on this list—maybe combined. Nevertheless, he will have nowhere near the impact in half a season that Andrew Desjardins will have playing an entire season for the Sharks.
Despite his gritty, defensive style primarily putting him on the fourth line and penalty kill, "Desi" has played in 222 of 235 games since becoming a regular for San Jose. That role makes his 12 goals and 32 assists in 242 career NHL games including the Stanley Cup playoffs adequate.
Add that Desjardins wins faceoffs and can protect teammates and is not yet at his prime and the only Sharks he will battle with for ice time are those on the top three lines. Look for him to increase his role for the 2014-15 NHL season as he nears the peak of his career.