Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet

San Jose Mercury News – Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet:

His illness was mentioned in passing after he was traded to the Sharks in February because the illness had forced him to miss his last nine games with the Montreal Canadiens.

But once he got to San Jose? Rivet played and the assumption was he had recovered.

Not so.

“I was never healthy, not in the slightest,” Rivet said. “As time went on, it just got a little worse and worse. The energy level and strength wasn’t there. It took a lot out of me.”

Rivet, a steadying influence on a young defense, still showed the Sharks enough to be rewarded with a four-year, $14 million contract. Now that he has finally gotten past the sickness, Rivet is eager to demonstrate his full capabilities.

“When I first got here, I jumped right into the fire and tried to do the best I could to help the team compete,” Rivet said. “But now I feel great and I’m looking forward to starting the season healthy.”

Rivet is a vocal, assertive presence on the ice – a good thing for the Sharks, who are still youthful on defense with
regulars such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle.

I seem to be the only person not worried about the Sharks blueline this year. Not taking anything away from Scott Hannan, but in the context of the Sharks, replacing him with Rivet is an upgrade.

No, Rivet is not as strong defensively but the Sharks weakness on the defense last season, and in past seasons, was the lack of offense from the blueline, to the point that Patrick Marleau spent power play time there last year.

I will happily give up some “stay at home” minutes for an upgraded power play, and that’s what we’ve done. Hannan and McLaren play very similar styles, solid shut-down guys. Given the rest of our talent on the blueline, we really didn’t need both; McLaren brings more size and physical play, but I won’t call him the “better” guy — very closely matched, actually.

Rivet should also be a useful advisor to the kids on how to grow their offensive potential — no offense to Robb Zettler or anyone else on the Sharks, but until you get to Doug Wilson himself, it’s hard to find someone in the organization who knows how to score from the blueline to coach the kids — and I think that’s shown in past season. Rivet is going to be a help for guys like Carle and Vlasic.

With Davison as the 6th defenseman, I think we’ll be fine. I can think of a lot of teams wishing they were worried about someone like Davison being their 6th Dman; as long as Vlasic and Carle play decently, we’ll be fine. If they don’t, Hannan wouldn’t be the solution anyway.

throw in Doug Murray as a 7th guy, and wild card Sandis “Sandis! No!” Ozolinsh — who knows what’s going to happen there, but make him your 8th guy and go for a ride.. That’s not a bad group to open the season with, and if Davison and Murray don’t prove up to the task the Sharks have cap space to go get someone to fill in the gap.

The big knock on both: foot speed, but Davison makes up for it with some ability to predict the play, and Murray makes up for it with an immense physical presence — don’t ever get near him with your head down, not even in a restaurant). Either one could be a 12 minute a night guy, and I noticed the Sharks working with Davison on penalty kill in pre-season. If the Sharks helped him gain half a step, he’ll be fine.

I know some fans argued the sharks needed to get someone in the off-season (I was a bit surprised they didn’t go for Souray, but then, lots of teams didn’t, and he signed later than expected, for less than expected, with an unexpected team, so something seems to have scared teams off that the press didn’t know about (wow. unprecedented). Maybe his agent had bad breath or something…). That goes against the general philosophy of the Sharks, though, which is to grow from within. Your prospects need to know they have a legitimate chance to make the team, and you don’t do that if you’re constantly going over them by bringing in outsiders to fill the roster.

So instead, if you have someone you think can do it — let them play, but maintain the ability to be flexible based on how things work out. Davison and Murray both have done the black aces thing, without complaint, without whining. Reward them and see what happens. If it works, great. If not, the Sharks have options — AND it means everyone down in Worchester hoping to make the team will feel they have a real chance to do so, and that makes them better, more motivated players. Compare that to a team like the Leafs, where prospects pretty much can guess their best shot at an NHL job is as part of a trade to another team…

So for me, I’m headed into the season very happy. Now, all the Sharks need to do is execute to potential and stay healthy…

update: I realize I wrote the above while completely forgetting about Alexei Semenov. He’s starting the season on the IR with a funky back, but that’s another piece to the depth puzzle that gives the Sharks more options.. (hat tip: Sharkspage)