Sharks Mailbag: How will McLellan fix power play?

Sharks Mailbag: How will McLellan fix power play?
February 10, 2013, 2:00 pm

Ryane Clowe (above) and Joe Thornton have shown some pretty good chemistry on the same line the past few games, especially against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Answering a few mailbag questions on a four-hour flight from San Jose to Columbus, where I hear it's lovely this time of year.

Recall Irwin now that Petrecki cleared waivers? Murray continues as a healthy scratch?
Sharon Barkwill ‏@FinsAreIt

It crossed my mind that the Sharks might recall Matt Irwin after Nick Petrecki cleared on Sunday morning, but as much as Irwin impressed while he was here, there’s no room for him. Irwin would be much better served continuing to play in the AHL on a regular basis instead of watching from the press box, so that he’s not rusty when he returns – and I expect he will reappear on the Sharks’ roster in the near future. He’s clearly first on the list if one of the seven healthy defensemen gets hurt, which is inevitable at some point.

As for Murray, I do think he’s going to continue to be the odd man out on most nights. The Sharks’ six-man unit of Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Brad Stuart, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers and Justin Braun is off to a good start, at least defensively, as evidenced by the shutout against Phoenix on Saturday. I can’t imagine Todd McLellan will tinker with that group for Monday’s game in Columbus.

Finally, since you bring up Petrecki…I think it's just about time to put him in the “first round bust” category. I have yet to talk with anyone outside the organization, including NHL scouts or people who know much more about how to play defense in the NHL than I do, that think Petrecki has any kind of pro potential. The Sharks may have brought him into camp on a last ditch effort to work with Larry Robinson, and the fact that he cleared waivers today is a good indication of what other NHL teams think about him.

There are other defensemen in the system like Matt Tennyson, Taylor Doherty and Sena Acolatse, who have more potential than Petrecki, who I don't expect to see again this season.

Why doesn't Todd put Logan or Pavs on the 2nd unit power play? To many top forwards on one unit. Need to spread the talent now that Burns is back.
Matt Perez

It sounds like MeLellan is going to do just that, Matt. When asked about the power play after Saturday’s game, he said the Sharks would have to look at "moving some people around" now that they are a dismal 1-for-25 in the last six games.

[RELATED: Smith, Coyotes spoil Burns' return]

Burns, of course, helps, and is an instant upgrade over Justin Braun on that second unit. Here’s one suggestion – Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton have shown some pretty good chemistry on the same line the past few games, especially against Phoenix. Perhaps they can put Clowe up on that top unit in place of Marleau, who has been a bit invisible lately after his hot start.

What is the main difference between the sharks of the first 7 games and the sharks of the last 4 games?
Bobby Stein ‏@hockeyboybobby

The Sharks have lost four straight, but they really haven’t played poorly during the losing streak. In my opinion, their worst game so far was the home game against Anaheim on Jan. 29 in which they won in a shootout, 3-2, while dressing Petrecki and Murray as a painfully slow pair on defense most of the night.

Any of the four losses could have gone the other way with a break or two in the Sharks' favor. Shootout losses to Nashville and Phoenix are coin flips. The loss in Anaheim came when the Ducks tied it on a terribly unfortunate bounce in the third period. On Tuesday against Chicago, the Sharks should have been on a four-minute power play when Patrick Kane scored the game-winner.

The Sharks took advantage of their familiarity with one another early in the season, and the fact they had almost a dozen players who found work elsewhere to keep in shape during the lockout. Other teams have caught up in terms of conditioning and implementing their systems. Get used to tight games from here through April.

It sounds like Todd McLellan has a shorter fuse this season, which is good. Due to a short season? Hot seat? Irritable from that cold he's had?
Crispy ‏@cjbarresi75

Aren’t we all irritable from the colds we’ve had? I’m not sure I sense that Todd has a shorter fuse, as the team has played generally well, but there’s certainly a sense of urgency for the obvious reason of the shorter season. If something isn’t working for two or three games in a row, changes have to be made. That’s why we’ll probably see a new look on the power play units against the Blue Jackets.

As for being on the hot seat, and the Sharks may very well have to win at least a playoff round or two for him to keep his job, I really believe it’s not something he thinks about. NHL coaches know they have a lifespan when they take the job, and it’s probably not even worth talking about until the season concludes, so long as San Jose remains in a top-eight position.