Barracuda With High Expectations
Entering this season there was a lot of excitement about the rookie forward group that was going to make their debut with the San Jose Barracuda. Name’s like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Danny O’Regan, Rourke Chartier, Marcus Sorensen and Adam Helewka were all expected to have an impact on this team that already had players like Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, and Ryan Carpenter. Meanwhile, the Barracuda defense was generally panned by pundits including yours truly as mediocre at best and if anything would hold the team back from any reasonable success.
Fast forward to today, the Barracuda currently sit in 3rd place in the AHL’s Pacific Division with a record of 12-6-1-3 (Wins-Losses-OT Loss-SO Loss), 28 points and a winning percentage of .636. The winning percentage is important because it is the determining factor in playoff seeding in the AHL to compensate for the uneven schedule. The Barracuda trail the Stockton Heat (.680 win percentage) and Ontario Reign (.646) win percentage but have two or more games in hand on both teams. If they continue their hot play it would not be a shock to see them overtake both teams for the division lead.
The Straw That Stirs the Barracuda Offense
So far, for the most part, the Barracuda forwards have not disappointed. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier both currently find themselves on the San Jose Sharks in the NHL. Kevin Labanc being there as long as he has been (19 games played) exceeds all expectations he entered the season with. Timo Meier took a while to get up to NHL speed but has looked good in his two game sample size. Yet even without these two players, the Barracuda continue to thrive. Many will point to the outstanding play of O’Regan as the cause for this, however, I would argue that it’s Tim Heed that stirs the drink for the offense. So far this season Heed has scored an impressive 7 goals and 16 assists in 22 games. These numbers seem impressive on their own but if you break them down they get more interesting. Heed is tied for first in AHL defensive 5v5 scoring for primary points (Goals and Primary Assists) with ten, in fact, he has no secondary 5v5 assists.
These numbers seem impressive on their own but if you break them down they get more interesting. Heed is tied for first in AHL defensive 5v5 scoring for primary points (Goals and Primary Assists) with ten, in fact, he has no secondary 5v5 assists. In all situations, all but five of his 23 points are primary points. He has been big on the power play with his hard shot earning him four goals.
I tweet about him constantly, but Tim Heed with a PPG to make it 5-3. #HowitzerHeed with a wicked snap shot, Gillies with no chance
— Zachary DeVine (@zakkthebear) December 20, 2016
It is not just the point totals that are impressive about Tim Heed though. Heed is an excellent puck moving defenseman with excellent offensive instincts, this comes from the fact that Heed is a converted forward and did not always play his position from the blue line. This is one of the many comparisons he draws to Brent Burns the top paid defenseman of the San Jose Sharks. While Heeds game may lack the power moves and havoc that Burns can create with his large frame the way they carry the puck, pass and pound the puck from the point are nearly identical. As good as the forwards have been for the Barracuda I’d argue they would have a difficult time transitioning out of their own zone and thus limiting the offense of the Barracuda without Tim Heed. It is for that reason I think the Barracuda should feel fortunate that the Sharks have a log jam on defense because
It is for that reason I think the Barracuda should feel fortunate that the Sharks have a log jam on defense because it has been due to the strong transitional game of Tim Heed that the Barracuda have been able to lose the likes of Labanc, Meier and could withstand the loss of O’Regan should he be called up as well.