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Why Bonino Move to Wing Is Worrisome + Subscriber Giveaway

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AP Photo/Josie Lepe

Nick Bonino doesn’t have a point through 11 games, but that’s not my biggest concern with him.

In fact, I’d bet that he’s getting on the scoresheet soon: He’s been a solid net front presence on the San Jose Sharks power play all season.

“I’m not scoring from there without him,” Jonathan Dahlen said after the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Getting to play with Logan Couture and Jonathan Dahlen should also help Bonino produce – he skated on Couture’s left side tonight.

“Nick is an experienced player. How [Lindy Ruff] ran his lines, he ran his top two lines quite a bit. Nick could definitely handle that,” acting head coach John MacLean said. “He’s a smart, smart overall player, both defensively and offensively, to be able to think the game as quick as Logan and Dahlen do.”

Here’s a little play where the veteran’s grace under fire helped:

Obviously, Dahlen’s one-touch pass is the highlight here, and deservedly so – but Dahlen (76) doesn’t make that pass without Bonino (13) getting the puck to him despite two Devils converging.

I can actually see Bonino flourishing on the wing. You can hide his declining foot speed there, which will help his other smarts and skills shine.

But here’s the problem with that: Who’s the San Jose Sharks’ third-line center then? It was supposed to be Bonino, but we’re starting to see why the Minnesota Wild moved the 33-year-old to wing last year.

“Bonino was playing mostly wing [in Minnesota]. It’s mostly because of his lack of speed,” an NHL scout told San Jose Hockey Now over the summer. “I don’t think he’s a great center option anymore. Just because of that speed.”

Scouts Talk Bonino, Cogliano, Reimer, Pederson | SJHN+

Last night, Jasper Weatherby took on the 3C role, but long-term, that’s a big ask of a rookie. Lane Pederson, Joel Kellman, Sasha Chmelevski, Noah Gregor – speaking of other center options in the organization – also have no business with that much NHL responsibility.

In short, the San Jose Sharks don’t have the center depth to handle a permanent Bonino move to wing – but the jury is out as to whether or not Bonino can still be an solid third-line center. The Sharks moving Bonino to wing, even it’s just for one night, could be an admission that they also recognize the player’s decline.

Between Couture and Tomas Hertl, San Jose was a two-center squad last year — that’s not a formula for success.

“Overall, he did a great job, but that was for tonight. We’ll see what the next two days brings before Calgary,” MacLean said, before smiling. “I know you guys don’t like it, but we are still day to day here.”

Widen Your Attack

Hockey tactics guru Jack Han recently made insightful observations about the importance of having width on the rush.

What does that mean? It means to not focus, if possible, an offensive rush on just one side of the ice. When you do that, your opponent can more easily clog up that one side of the ice. Instead, use the full width of ice to find the open man and sow confusion.

That’s exactly what the San Jose Sharks accomplished on the Rudolfs Balcers goal:

Balcers (94) found the open man on the weak side, Mario Ferraro (38), then New Jersey forgot about Balcers.

“[Balcers] made a good play. Really good job delaying. Using his speed and cutting back. Causing their D to kind of back off a little bit and their forwards to overbackcheck. It opened me up,” Ferraro recognized. “Then he made his way to the backdoor. Really good, complete play by him.”

Hockey Tactics 2021 Giveaway

You can purchase Han’s latest book Hockey Tactics 2021 here — for $5 off your purchase, use the SHENG5 code.

Also, if you want to win a free copy of the book, just comment below! Jack was generous enough to offer up a free copy of his book when I saw him in Montreal.

This contest is for SJHN subscribers only — once again, just comment below! I’ll then randomly draw the winner.

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zachg

Good stuff, Sheng. I actually thought Pederson looked much better at the pivot than on the wing, but he probably isn’t a bona fide NHL option at this stage.

oldgoalie

Jack Han was a great interview. You can put him on every week!

Icehawk2006

It’s definitely disheartening to see Bonino not really turning out. Always a risk at this stage of a career. Wonder if there is a way to package up a pick and a prospect for a 3C? Anyways, would enjoy Han’s book. Always looking to learn more.

They're All Gonna Laugh at Me!

what’s equally concerning is their inability to win faceoffs. None of their top 4Cs are even close to 50%. It’s been a problem for the past few years. Time to hire Oates!!!

They're All Gonna Laugh at Me!

my bad, should’ve provided the reference and a little clarity: 5-5 FO% from natural stattrick

I may have filtered incorrectly, but it looks like they’re all underwater.

They're All Gonna Laugh at Me!

woo! Thanks for vetting that out as the eye test seemed like the were at least even and better than the past few years. Thank you Sheng!

Gary To

Was bonino’s move due to his speed or cause the sharks had no other option for top6 wing at the moment?

dilligaff4444

2 line team, shacky forecheck and 20-30 goals per season short on team stats…not offering alot of hope here… I think a trade might help

Zach Ritter

Commenting for the drawing! (Also, saw you on the concourse in second intermission but you were talking to people and didn’t know if it’s weird to say hi)

Nick H.

I didn’t think they’d manage two wins with the covid-depleted lineup, and I suspect we might not see another win until the veterans return.

Mike Crellin

As always great stuff!

offthecrossbar

While Bonino was 100% on the 2nd line because of COVID absences, it is really concerning that by the eye test and xG numbers, he’s not having a whole lot of success at the 3c spot. If he’s not the answer, I really don’t care for the sharks giving up assets before a deep draft to go try and make a playoff run. Great stuff as always Sheng!

Jakub Pudelek

While Bonino lack of scoring is a bit of concern I think he’s doing good enough job doing what he presumably was hired to do: defending and being PP net front. I’d expect Bonino back on 3C when Meier is back.

skreeg

Maybe we can find a Barracuda 3C and pair him with Cogs and Bonino so it’s still a line with experience, unlike in past years where we’ve had an entire 3rd line of youngsters and they got exposed

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