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Preview/Lines #31: How Much Responsibility Do You Give a Player? There’s a Balance



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

DENVER – On one hand, as a coach, you don’t want to say a player can’t do this or that, basically cap a player’s ceiling.

Sometimes, you discover something new about a player. Fabian Zetterlund, who’s gone from fourth to first line, is a good example of this.

On the other hand, you don’t want to overextend your players either, expect them to do more than what they’re good at. Sometimes, that begins to affect what a particular player is actually good at.

This has been a popular topic of conversation with the San Jose Sharks this season, related to the likes of newly-acquired Jake Studnicka, Luke Kunin, Filip Zadina, Kyle Burroughs, Henry Thrun, and more.

I’m reminded of this with the Sharks’ trade for center Studnicka, just when center Nico Sturm was placed on IR.

Head coach David Quinn made no bones about it, after Sturm’s injury, along with Logan Couture and Ryan Carpenter’s continued absences, forced him to use wingers-first Luke Kunin and Filip Zadina up the middle on Friday night, a 1-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

“Having another center would certainly help,” he said. “Obviously, two guys playing out of position.”

Sharks Locker Room: Quinn Talks Studnicka, Doesn’t Blame Disallowed Goals for Loss

Enter Studnicka. It doesn’t hurt that his acquisition cost was cheap and he’s 24, so he might have some upside.

We saw a similar trade earlier in the season, when the Sharks acquired Calen Addison, 23, from the Minnesota Wild for a 2026 fifth-round pick and Adam Raska. San Jose needed a power play quarterback, and Addison fit the bill, in terms of being a PP specialist and low acquisition cost and having some upside.

One of the guys that Addison replaced on the power play was Kyle Burroughs, a 28-year-old stay-at-home defenseman who made his name as a physical penalty killer and certainly not as a No. 1 PP quarterback.

Burroughs struggled with “too much on his plate” in the beginning of the season.

“Part of his issues over the last few weeks were, we were putting too much on his plate. That wasn’t his fault. It was the circumstances we were in,” Quinn said in mid-November. “We’ve toned it down a little bit for him and put him in a better position of success.”

Preview/Lines #18: Quinn Admits Sharks ‘Were Putting Too Much’ on Burroughs’s Plate

That’s what it’s about, right? Putting players in a position to succeed. Sometimes, that’s with a bigger role than they’re used to a la Zetterlund. Sometimes, that’s with the role that they’re more accustomed to a la Burroughs.

And that’s what Quinn said about Thrun last week.

The 22-year-old defenseman had quarterbacked the Sharks power play with success in the pre-season, but the organization wisely didn’t overburden him with that job at the NHL level, choosing to send him down early in the season, and call him up when they had a little more stability in their line-up.

The top San Jose prospect doesn’t project as an offense-first blueliner at the NHL level.

“The responsibility of playing on a power play to me, a young player, can be too much. We didn’t throw that responsibility on him,” Quinn said of Thrun. “I think that allows him to focus on the other areas of his game that in all probability is going to allow him to be a successful NHL player.”

Burroughs himself attributed some of the San Jose Sharks’ recent success – they’re 9-8-2 after a 0-10-1 start to the campaign – to this.

“Anytime that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, your focus kind of strays from what makes you successful,” he said yesterday. “I think that’s what we needed to be a good team and to win hockey games is everybody needs to be in their role and bringing what they can bring to the team.”

San Jose Sharks (9-18-3)

Quinn Explains Why Duclair a Healthy Scratch Tonight

Colorado Avalanche (18-10-2)

Where To Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche is 5 PM PT at Ball Arena. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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