In an effort to spark a struggling offensive attack, the San Jose Sharks promoted their 2015 first-round pick, Timo Meier, to the big league team where it is expected he will make his NHL debut tonight, as was reported earlier today. Meier has appeared in 17 games for the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL and has tallied nine goals and 15 points in his first professional campaign. One consequence of inserting the rookie into the lineup, as Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes, is that it creates more competition and at least for tonight, respected veteran Joel Ward will be the odd-man out of the lineup.
Ward is off to a slow start this season with just two goals and nine points through 30 contests but is just one year removed from a 21-goal, 43-point campaign. He also adds value on the penalty kill, where the 10-year veteran ranks 4th among San Jose Sharks forwards in shorthanded ice time.
Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer admits it isn’t easy to make the decision to scratch Ward, saying “those aren’t easy conversations.” But as Kurz points out, the Sharks rank just 21st in the league in scoring and after qualifying for the Stanley Cup Final last season, the pressure is on to take the next step. In order to do so, it’s evident DeBoer wants to generate more offense and is willing to tinker with the lineup to accomplish that goal.
“We’re 30 games in,” DeBoer said after Friday’s morning skate at Bell Centre. “We were good last year. We had a great season, but we weren’t good enough. It’s clear the mandate here is to take another step this year.
“Guys build up equity on what they did last year to a certain point, and then…we have to see some results. We’ve got a lot of depth here, and a lot of young guys knocking on the door. That’s the message.”
Elsewhere in the Pacific:
- Defenseman Shea Theodore has been one of the Anaheim Ducks top prospects since the moment he was drafted in the first-round of the 2013 draft. He saw his first NHL action a season ago and registered three goals and eight points in 19 contests but saw his production and ice time dip in the playoffs. Nonetheless, he was expected to challenge for a regular role in training camp but after failing to do so, Theodore was reassigned to San Diego of the AHL to start the season. However, the 21-year-old blue liner has earned another opportunity, and as Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register reports, Theodore is working hard to take advantage of it. Theodore has appeared in nine straight games and 11 of the last 12 for the Ducks. Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle is a “no-nonsense type,” and it can be difficult for young players to earn his trust, as Stephens notes. But, Cam Fowler earned his stripes as a 19-year-old blue liner while playing under Carlyle and it’s feasible Theodore is able to do the same. Stephens adds that because both Clayton Stoner and Simon Despres remain out, the latter expected to be on the shelf long term with concussion-related symptoms, Theodore is likely to stick in the lineup for the immediate future.
- Forward Sam Gagner burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old fresh out of junior hockey, scoring 49 points in 76 games as a rookie for the Edmonton Oilers during the 2007-08 season. But in the eight full seasons since his flashy debut, Gagner failed to improve upon his rookie performance and bounced around from Edmonton to Arizona and then on to Philadelphia – although he did register at least 37 points in each campaign through 2014-15. Last season was a disaster, however, as he recorded just eight goals and 16 points in 53 games with the Flyers and found himself skating in the AHL at one point. In large part because of that disappointing performance, Gagner received little interest as a free agent this offseason, but ultimately landed on his feet, signing a one-year deal with Columbus. As Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun argues, the match between the former Oiler and the Blue Jackets couldn’t have worked out any better for the two parties. Gagner already has 12 goals and 21 points in just 26 games and is a key contributor to the Jackets #1 ranked power play unit. The 27-year-old forward is thoroughly enjoying his time in Columbus: “I’ve gotten a great opportunity to play some important minutes. I’m out there at important times of the games and I really relish that opportunity. And it’s a winning team, we’re all playing well. That’s something that’s been really fun for me.” If Gagner continues to produce at his current pace, he’ll finish with 30+ goals and around 60 points. That would prove to be an excellent return on Columbus’ minimal investment.