Will Todd McLellan get the pink slip? And if so, how would it affect fantasy hockey?
There have been infinite discussions regarding what the San Jose Sharks will do next season including some conversations in our very own forums. Will they blow it up? Will the team remain status quo? Will Todd McLellan get shown the door?
There has been a lot of talk that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will never lead the team to a championship and it is difficult to argue with that statement. There is no question that they would both survive offensively on another team if they waived the no trade clauses that came with their newly signed three year deals, but it is also safe to assume that they would not be as productive on another team. Neither would Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Matt Nieto, or Tomas Hertl for that matter. It is even debatable whether or not Logan Couture would increase his production even though he would get more opportunity if one of the big guns left. For the sake of their fantasy owners, hopefully the team remains status quo, as the forwards make each other more valuable as demonstrated by San Jose’s 249 goals this year which is good for fifth in the league. Besides, the team obviously believed enough in Thornton and Marleau earlier this year to sign them to three year extensions despite their past playoff failures. This year’s playoff disaster won’t stop them from retiring as Sharks, especially when they have the final say with their no movement clauses.
The real problem in San Jose during the playoffs was not their forwards. The real concern this summer should be addressing their goaltending and their offensive contributions from the blue line. Despite his Stanley Cup ring, Doug Wilson clearly needs to evaluate whether or not Antti Niemi is the answer in goal. Niemi’s save percentage in last year’s playoffs was a stellar .930. This year he posted a .894. Overall Niemi’s career regular season save percentage is .916 while his consistency in the playoffs drops to .907. His GAA plunge is even worse as he has a career 2.39 in the regular season compared to 2.74 in the post season.
Besides their evaluation of Niemi, the Sharks also needs to find a more reliable offensive blue liner and should desperately seek a replacement for Dan Boyle. They may re-sign him at a discount over the summer, but Boyle’s 50 point days are behind him. Boyle lost a step this season and excluding the lockout shortened season, he posted his career worst point per game total (.48) since being a member of the Florida Panthers from 1998-2001. Not all of the blame can fall on Boyle in the playoffs though. In my opinion the turning point in the Los Angeles series was the game five loss of Marc-Edouard Vlasic who plays a ton of minutes and provides stability on the back end. In many of the discussions regarding San Jose’s failure this post season it has been overlooked how much they missed the Olympic gold medalist during the last three games. Vlasic plays almost 21 minutes each night and was plus-31 this season which was good enough for ninth overall in the league. In fact, Vlasic’s plus/minus rating topped all defensemen in the West and was only bested by Matt Niskanen’s plus-35 in terms of blue liners. That is a huge hole to fill as Vlasic brings reliability that is almost impossible to replace, especially in an emotional playoff series. Barring a Vlasic injury, perhaps the Sharks would have found a way to wrap things up in game six or seven.
To put it in perspective their defense and goaltending is underrated. San Jose only allowed 200 goals this year. The only other teams to allow less scoring were the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and yes - those pesky Los Angeles Kings.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
Let’s take a quick look at the point per game numbers for some key Sharks players:
Patrick Marleau: .75/game (Regular Season) .70/game (Playoffs)
Joe Thornton: .99/game (Regular Season) .76/game (Playoffs)
Joe Pavelski: .74/game (Regular Season) .69/game (Playoffs)
Logan Couture: .74/game (Regular Season) .64/game (Playoffs)
Dan Boyle: .59/game (Regular Season) .65/game (Playoffs)
Every forward has struggled in the clutch while Boyle seems to thrive in the playoffs, although part of Boyle’s totals can be attributed to his time in Tampa Bay.
The Sharks are fantasy gold, but avoid all Sharks in playoff pools…………….for the rest of your life.
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