Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sharks split up top line

Well that didn't last long.

The experiment of placing Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau on an uber-stacked top line has officially been put on hold, as Ron Wilson is now utilizing the intriguing combination of Ryane Clowe, Thornton and Cheechoo on the team's No. 1 unit, with Marleau centering Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier for a familiar trio that dominated in the 2006 playoffs.

While splitting up the three is definitely part of the answer to the Sharks' problems in Denver Sunday night, the placement of Clowe alongside Thornton and Cheechoo doesn't make too much sense to me. While Clowe has tons of skill and is big and physical, it has been proven time and time again that a fast left winger works best with the Sharks' dynamic duo. That line needs a natural left wing (i.e., not Marleau) who can open up space for Thornton and Cheechoo. Michalek is obviously custom made for this role, but Wilson, for whatever reason, has yet to play the Czech forward on the big line.

Now Clowe could still be a palatable option if he uses his size to clear room for Thornton and Cheechoo to work their magic, and the trio was actually reasonably effective for a brief stretch last February following an injury to Marleau. According to the afore-linked Working the Corners blog, Joe Pavelski centered Torrey Mitchell and Mike Grier on the third line, while Jeremy Roenick was inexplicably placed at left wing on the fourth line alongside Marcel Goc and Curtis Brown, presumably making Pat Rissmiller the odd man out when the Sharks face Chicago tomorrow. Honestly, the early stage of the season is partially about trying different combinations, seeing what works and finding chemistry. And for that very reason, I would be much obliged if Wilson fulfilled my pipe dream by putting Mitchell on the second line with Marleau and Michalek, instantly giving the Sharks the fastest line in the NHL. Pretty please?

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