Scott Hannan was one of three off-season signings that did not fit with general manager Doug Wilson's statements about a rebuilt team being turned over to its youth. CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz continued his outlook series across the roster with the 35-year old veteran Tuesday, Sept. 2.
There are five better options for the Sharks than Hannan on most nights of the 2014-15 NHL season, and they are pictured with caption summaries as well as examined further below. Before focusing on the negatives, it is important to acknowledge the assets he brings to the table.
One Wilson made note of on the article carried on San Jose's website about the re-signing. He said Hannan "understands and accepts his role based on the needs of our team and will be a great mentor for many of the younger players on our roster." If scratched, the veteran of over 1000 NHL games could see his unit from the press box and offer good feedback.
Hannan can definitely work with blue-line prospects about reading the play and defending the zone. Getting the puck out of the zone? Not so much, but they have Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson that move almost as well to this day as the 23rd pick of the 1997 NHL draft to show them that.
Hannan can also be competing against those players in practice, and that will be helpful. He will even be a better option when one of the Sharks below is playing on a sprained ankle, ill or even played a lot of minutes the night before. He knows the game well enough to not get rusty by not being played; in fact, it may help his play not to wear down as it did in the 2013-14 NHL season.
If he plays more often than occasionally, San Jose is in trouble. It either means there are many blue-line injuries, the young players were not ready and/or coach Todd McLellan is continuing to stick with veterans on a team that is supposedly in a youth movement.
Is a player that should play less than half the 2014-15 NHL season worth $1 million? Not in most cases, but team chemistry is part of Wilson's focus and perhaps someone had that offer on the table? The point is the Sharks have the salary cap room, so why not?
So after losing Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart, San Jose moved Brent Burns back to the blue line. That leaves the other five defensemen to play in the 2013-14 NHL season for the other five roles.
Only this season, there are prospects vying for that last spot, and one of them must find a way to send Hannan to the press box each night. If they are even close to him, how much of a difference is that going to make? Let them hone their craft and they will be better by the Stanley Cup playoffs; play the veteran and he will be older by the postseason.
The best thing for the Sharks would be for Mirco Mueller to play his way onto the roster for the entire 2014-15 NHL season. He is almost certain to be on the ice for the nine games they have to decide whether he returns to juniors or stays on the active roster.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic was so flawless in his preview that Wilson and then-coach Ron Wilson could not let him go. Mueller might not have to play quite as well, but his focus on making the game simple will allow him to rely on his natural talent.
If Mueller can also provide some scoring to an offensively-challenged blue line, he would almost certainly stick around for the rest of the 2014-15 NHL season. If McLellan cannot already trust him to be in the lineup for every game of a Stanley Cup playoff-bound team, Wilson will send him to juniors to complete his development and he will stick next fall.
Since there is a good chance he will be sent down, that leaves a shot for Matt Tennyson. He almost certainly starts the 2014-15 NHL season while San Jose previews Mueller, but played well on both ends of the ice (two assists, plus-2) in four games there during the lockout-condensed 2013 season.
Tennyson knows the team, the system and the game at this level even though it is not second nature yet. That has to give him an advantage, and it seems unlikely he cannot be as good as Hannan by the end of a season in which he can play 60 games.
Tennyson got those chances because Taylor Doherty was hurt when the Sharks were the most shorthanded on the blue line in 2013. The younger, much bigger (6 ft., 7 in. and 235 lbs.) defenseman was the franchise's top blue-line for two years before Mueller was drafted in 2013.
Doherty will add nothing more offensively than Hannan, but his size allows him to be more physical without surrendering anything in the skating department. His instincts in his own end will not be as honed but he is already a reliable defender.
The hope is all three would be better options than Hannan, but if not there is always a chance Taylor Fedun could be the answer. He scored two goals in his first four NHL games with the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers, but will have to adapt to new teammates, coaches and a system to be a better option.
If even he fails to provide the Sharks a better sixth defenseman than Hannan, perhaps Robinson could suit up. The Hall of Fame defenseman probably skates and moves the puck better to this day than the 14-year veteran.
The sad thing is that might not be as much a joke as the truth. That is why unless some other fast-tracking prospects emerge, the last real option is for Wilson to find someone via trade or free agency. If McLellan has to start Hannan, it neither is good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup now nor sowing into a future when it can.