Shark-Infested Blogger

September 21, 2010 1:09 PM

Sharks Hope Andreas Lilja Boosts Blueline

Last week, the San Jose Sharks signed a Sweedish Stanley Cup champion veteran to their blueline. Earlier in the year, they went hard after Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the only good thing about not getting him is that those writing on the team are less likely to get carpal tunnel because his long name will be typed less frequently.

Instead, they had to settle for the much easier to type but also easier to face Andreas Lilja. At 35, Lilja's best days are behind him and he will not have the immediate impact nor future growth of Hjalmarsson.4897943585_c13325a455_z.jpg

However, on defense he brings a presence and poise that is so important to a defence and could be an effective penalty killer who might allow the Sharks to provide a break for Dan Boyle when someone is in the box. His role will probably be limited to the third pair, as he will not provide any offense, having just 74 points in 478 games--an average of about 12 points in an 82-game season--in an offensive system.

Nevertheless, he does know the system and head coach Todd McLellan knows him as a player from his days as an assistant coach in Detroit. If he plays well enough in the tryout, he could provide the Sharks some cap flexibility to move Niclas Wallin's $2.5 million contract to injured reserve if he is not ready at the start of the season, or if he is to assign him to the minors if he clears waivers.

However, Wallin has begun to practice again and the team most likely made that commitment in the offseason to Wallin because they believe he will play an important role this season. Thus, expect them to give him every chance to validate that is my projected blueline:
  1. Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle
  2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Wallin
  3. Lilja and Jason Demers
That leaves Kent Huskins scratched or playing as a seventh defenceman, and Jay Leach and Derek Joslin assigned to the minors.

This would give the Sharks a deep unit with only one player who might be a liability at times (Demers), but also only one stud (Boyle) and just two other offensive threats (Demers and Vlasic). But an above average blueline combined with good goaltending and still one of the best group of forwards in the world makes the Sharks as good or better than anyone outside of Vancouver in the West.

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