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Why Bonino Move to Wing Is Worrisome + Subscriber Giveaway



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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