San Jose Sharks Player Grades: Who Lived Up to Expectations in 2011-12?

Simon Cherin-GordonContributor IIIApril 28, 2012

San Jose Sharks Player Grades: Who Lived Up to Expectations in 2011-12?

0 of 21

    The San Jose Sharks entered the 2011-12 season looking like a Stanley Cup favorite in the eyes of many.

    After two straight seasons as the NHL's third-best team, San Jose strengthened their blue line, added playoff savvy to their top-six, rejuvenated their bottom six and expected growth from their younger players.

    There were also some question marks regarding this year's edition of the Sharks. The team lost goal-scoring up front, depth on the back-end, physicality among the depth forwards and several key players faced potential decline.

    As is usually the case, many of the improvements were actually positives and some were just the opposite. Many of the question marks hurt the team, while some didn't come into play.

    Ultimately, San Jose fell short of expectations this season. Their offense dropped off and their defense didn't improve much. The Sharks won five fewer games and finished with nine fewer points than last season. They finished five spots lower in the standings and were eliminated two rounds earlier in the playoffs.

    Much will be written in the coming weeks about who is to blame and who will not return next season. But before the offseason insanity kicks off for San Jose, let's take a final look at how each player performed during the 2011-12 season in relation to what was expected of them.

    Note: I will only be evaluating skaters who played in over 25 games for San Jose and goalies who made at least 10 appearances. I will also exclude players who did not end the season with San Jose.

Dan Boyle

1 of 21

    Stats

    81 GP, 9 G, 39 A, 48 P, plus-10, 57 PIM, 25:34 TOI/G


    Positive Impact

    After recovering from a foot injury in late November, Boyle was, as always, an elite offensive defenseman. During his final 59 games, Boyle scored eight goals, tallied 30 assists and was a plus-eight. His ability to keep the puck in the attacking zone and skate through the neutral zone made him an absolute force on the power play, which ended the season second-best in the NHL. 


    Negative Impact
     

    Boyle is counted on to carry the Sharks through first-round playoff series. His leadership and tendency to raise his game have made him an invaluable key to San Jose's playoff success. But after an excellent Game 1, Boyle disappeared against St. Louis, getting outplayed by the Blues' top blue-liners five-on-five, and giving San Jose very little on the power play.


    Expectations

    Almost met

Justin Braun

2 of 21

    Stats

    66 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 P, minus-2, 113 SOG


    Positive Impact

    Braun's numbers may not have been impressive—he had the same number of goals and points as last year despite 38 more games this year—but his play certainly was. Braun led an efficient breakout and mightily improved his defensive game, This combined with his hard shot from the point and offensive aggression eventually earned him the No. 5 defenseman spot, overtaking Jason Demers, Jim Vandermeer and Colin White.


    Negative Impact

    Braun was a non-factor on the power play and was unable to crack the top two units. This made it hard for San Jose to scratch Jason Demers, who is effective on the PP but not the stay-at-home guy Braun should be playing with.


    Expectations

    Exceeded

Brent Burns

3 of 21

    Stats

    81 GP, 11 G, 26 A, 37 P, plus-8, 75 GvA, 101 MsS


    Positive Impact

    Burns' 11 goals led all Sharks' d-men, his long reach made him tough defensively and his smooth skating made him excellent on the breakout. He was truly a positive factor in all three zones five-on-five and on the power play, and gave San Jose the two-way top four defenseman they desperately needed.


    Negative Impact

    San Jose gave up a lot of offense—Devin Setoguchi and two forward prospects—to get Brent Burns. This meant that they were expecting Burns to make up for the loss up front by being a dominant offensive threat on the blueline. His offensive numbers were good but nowhere near dominant, thus resulting in an overall drop-off offensively for San Jose this season.


    Expectations

    Almost met

Ryane Clowe

4 of 21

    Stats

    76 GP, 17 G, 28 A, 45 P, minus-5, 97 PIM, 109 hits


    Positive Impact

    Clowe's ability to produce offensively like a top-six forward while playing physically and nasty like a checking-line forward makes him a tough player for the opposition to neutralize. His play really picked up in the season's final month, when his five goals in the Sharks' final 11 games helped secure a playoff spot.


    Negative Impact

    Clowe did not prove to be the front-of-the-net force that Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan hoped he could become (in Dany Heatley's absence), quickly losing PP ice-time. Meanwhile, Clowe's hits dropped off from 153 to 109 and his plus/minus dropped from plus-13 to minus-five. He even became one of the guy's disappearing when the team struggled rather than the guy pushing the slackers through adversity.


    Expectations

    Not met

Logan Couture

5 of 21

    Stats

    80 GP, 31 G, 34 A, 65 P, plus-2, 16 PIM, 11 PPG, 36 GvA, 61 TkA, 51.4 FO%


    Positive Impact

    Logan's 31 goals, career high 65 points, amazing giveaway/takeaway ratio and minuscule PIM made him a guy that San Jose called a "non-starter" when Columbus brought his name up during Rick Nash talks. His ability to contribute in every zone and in every situation made him—like Joe Pavelski—a guy who was rarely hurting the Sharks when on the ice.


    Negative Impact

    Couture did struggle to match the intensity he displayed during his rookie season. He won less battles to loose pucks, was less dominant on draws, and was less of an offensive force in big games and big situations than last season. It's why he went from plus-18 to plus-2, and the Sharks felt it.


    Expectations

    Met

Jason Demers

6 of 21

    Stats

    57 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 P, minus-8


    Positive Impact

    Due to the struggles of Colin White defensively and Justin Braun on the power play, Demers was able to find himself a spot as the Sharks' No. 6 defenseman. Demers proved to be a consistent contributor to the power play, collapsing the defense and displaying good patience.


    Negative Impact

    Demers' offensive game took a step back in 2011-12. He scored four goals yet again, but his nine assists were by far a career low. More to the point, Demers' defensive progress from last season disappeared, and then some. Demers went from plus-19 to minus-eight (a team low), dropped off to 60 hits and only came up with 11 takeaways. His five-on-five incompetence was a hindrance on Justin Braun's ability to produce.


    Expectations

    Not met

Andrew Desjardins

7 of 21

    Stats

    76 GP, 4 G, 13 A, 17 P, plus-4, 53 FO%, 93 hits, 25 GvA, 37 TkA


    Positive Impact

    Desjardins was the most consistent fourth-liner for San Jose this season, playing physically but smart, forechecking hard and winning faceoffs. Despite minimal offensive numbers, he scored a big playoff goal for the second straight season. He also centered the Sharks' most effective checking-line combination of the season with Daniel Winnik and fellow rookie Tommy Wingels on the wings.


    Negative Impact
     

    On opening night, Andrew Desjardins scored two goals, took five shots and was a plus-two. He didn't register another point until November 17, and he didn't double his season goal-total until March 26. While he did do so many other things well, his lack of consistent offensive production stopped him from becoming the third-line center San Jose needed in light of Michal Handzus' struggles.


    Expectations

    Exceeded

Benn Ferriero

8 of 21

    Stats

    35 GP, 7 G, 1 A, 8 P, plus-0, 4 GWG, 43 hits, 3 GvA, 9 TkA


    Positive Impact

    Ferriero ended the season fourth on the Sharks in goals per minute—just barely behind the team's three 30-goal scorers. He was third on the team in GWG, one behind Couture. He had more hits per minute than Brad Winchester, Torrey Mitchell or Dominic Moore. He also had three giveaways in 35 games. Ferriero looked like the difference-maker that San Jose needed on the fourth line.


    Negative Impact

    Ferriero's only negative impact was that he didn't play enough. If he was bigger or faster, McLellan would have likely dressed him more. Joe Pavelski isn't big or fast, but McLellan believes in him because he produces. Ferriero needs to figure out some way to make the staff believe in him, because he impacted the game offensively all season long.


    Expectations

    Exceeded

Thomas Greiss

9 of 21

    Stats

    19 GP, 9-7-1 record, 2.30 GAA, .915 sv. %, 0 SO


    Positive Impact

    Greiss was an excellent backup goalie after a year in Sweden. He did what a good backup does—came in for the injured Antero Niittymaki and then the injured Antti Niemi, starting the season out with four strong starts. Throughout the season, he provided Niemi with rest when called upon, putting up an essentially identical winning pct. and save pct, while averaging fewer goals against than the starter.


    Negative Impact

    Greiss should have been even better in his limited role. Because although he was good, he wasn't good enough to get any playing time from Todd McLellan down the stretch. As a result, Antti Niemi became overworked. The Sharks suffered on back-to-backs and in the playoffs because of their tired netminder. While Greiss proved to be good enough to play in big games, he must have been doing something wrong in the coach's eyes


    Expectations

    Met

Michal Handzus

10 of 21

    Stats

    67 GP, 7 G, 17 A, 24 P, minus-6, 59 BkS, 50.7 FO%


    Positive Impact

    After struggling to do much besides win faceoffs for the first two months of the season, Handzus hit an offensive groove in December. He developed chemistry with Jamie McGinn, and the Sharks third line was effective for about two months.


    Negative Impact

    Above all else, Handzus was brought into San Jose to kill penalties. He struggled on the PK almost all year long, eventually losing his role with the top unit. Secondly, he was brought in to add some offensive skill to the third line, but finished with the second-lowest goal total and third-lowest point total of his career.


    Expectations

    Not met

Martin Havlat

11 of 21

    Stats

    39 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 27 P, plus-10, 6 hits


    Positive Impact

    After returning from a three-month absence, Havlat played like the explosive play-making winger he's capable of being for the Sharks' final 13 games. His five goals and seven assists during that stretch sparked a 9-4-0 run that led San Jose into the playoffs. Overall, the Sharks were 25-11-3 with Havlat, and only 18-18-7 without him. He also scored twice in the Sharks' only playoff win.


    Negative Impact

    Havlat's propensity to get hurt cost the Sharks. San Jose went 43 games without Havlat, a guy who they gave up the always-healthy Dany Heatley for. Havlat also struggled to produce during his 26 games before his injury, and never fully engaged in the game physically. Even in half a season, the Sharks expected more than seven goals, and way more than six hits.


    Expectations

    Almost met

Patrick Marleau

12 of 21

    Stats

    82 GP, 30 G, 34 A, 64 P, plus-10, 10 PPG, 8 GWG, 52.0 FO%, 84 hits


    Positive Impact

    Any time a player scores 30 goals, wins draws, scores on the power play, finishes checks and finishes as a plus-player, they're helping their team win a lot of games. Marleau was particularly good coming out of the All-Star break, when he tallied nine goals in the first 14 games of the second half.


    Negative Impact

    Any time a team's highest paid winger and most talented goal-scorer goes on six scoring droughts—three of five games, two of six games, one of seven and one of eight—its hard for that team to consistently win. Marleau's worst drought came down the stretch, when he scored two goals in 20 games. He then failed to so much as register a point in the playoffs. Invisibility at the most important times defined Marleau's season despite his solid numbers.


    Expectations

    Not met

Torrey Mitchell

13 of 21

    Stats

    76 GP, 9 G, 10 A, 19 P, minus-6, 10 PPG, 8 GWG, 52.0 FO%, 84 hits


    Positive Impact

    Mitchell provided a dimension of speed to San Jose's third line during the first half, allowing linemates Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn to trail on the forecheck and seal off the boards. During March—in the midst of a deadly team-wide scoring drought, Mitchell decided to start finding the net, scoring four goals.


    Negative Impact

    For the third straight season, Mitchell has been a model of inconsistency. He will go on mini-hot streaks here and there, but they never lead to anything. He's never scored more than 10 goals or 20 points, and his once-standout penalty killing became a weak spot for him this season. At this point, Mitchell offers little besides speed to San Jose.


    Expectations

    Not met

Douglas Murray

14 of 21

    Stats

    60 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 P, plus-3, 126 hits, 143 BkS, 33 GvA, 14 TkA


    Positive Impact

    As always, Murray's big body and strength allowed him to punish opposing forwards. Whether down low or at the blue line, Murray made strong plays all year long to move offensive players off of the puck. Murray is also willing to do whatever it takes to protect his net, blocking several shots this season that sent him to the dressing room.


    Negative Impact

    Bad offensive numbers are forgivable if you're a great stay-at-home defenseman. Zero goals and four assists though? That's pushing it with top four minutes. However, the real issues with Murray are the plus-3 rating and awful giveaway/takeaway differential: If a player is a liability to their team's offense, they simply must dominate the game defensively and limit their turnovers.


    Expectations

    Not met

Antti Niemi

15 of 21

    Stats

    68 GP, 34-22-9 record, 2.42 GAA, .915 sv. %, 6 SO


    Positive Impact

    Niemi had three awesome months this season: November, January and March. During those months, he played with confidence, aggression and poise. His save percentages of .935, .930 and .921 in those months led the Sharks to a 19-12-5 record, and his excellent play down the stretch carried the Sharks into the playoffs. Niemi was also strong during shootouts this season, stopping 40 of 49 shots while going 8-4.


    Negative Impact

    Niemi's other three months were as bad as his good months were good. His terrible February stood out, as he went 3-5-1 with an .882 save pct. and 3.42 GAA. His tendency to let in soft goals during the second half would zap the Sharks' momentum in many winnable games. After dominating game one in the playoffs, Niemi was outplayed by Brian Elliott in four straight games.


    Expectations

    Almost met

Joe Pavelski

16 of 21

    Stats

    82 GP, 31 G, 30 A, 61 P, plus-18, 84 BkS, 61 GvA, 73 TkA, 58.7 FO%


    Positive Impact

    Pavelski has always been a dangerous scorer in the slot due to his uncanny anticipation and ability to move off the puck. Pairing him with Joe Thornton this season allowed him to score a career-high 31 goals, but Pavelski impacted the game in all three zones. More impressive than his goals was his team-high plus-18 rating. He was the NHL's third-best faceoff man.


    Negative Impact

    Because of Pavelski's hockey IQ, defensive skill, consistent scoring and constant effort, he made no real negative impact during the regular season. However, Pavelski's zero points in the playoffs hurt San Jose in a big way, as they not only got no goals from two of their three big scorers (Pavelski and Marleau), but they got no goals from the guy who had carried the Sharks through the opening round during the previous two seasons.


    Expectations

    Exceeded

Joe Thornton

17 of 21

    Stats

    82 GP, 18 G, 59 A, 77 P, plus-17, 95 GvA, 96 TkA, 56.1 FO%


    Positive Impact

    Thornton's insane puck-possession ability, precision-passing skills and timing make him the Sharks' unquestioned offensive leader. He set up the vast majority of Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau's goals all season, while quarterbacking the NHL's second-best power play. He was absolutely dominant on the backcheck, finishing fourth in the league in takeaways. He was the best forward for either team in the Sharks-Blues series.


    Negative Impact

    Joe Thornton's Achilles heel has always been turnovers. This season, it may have been worse than ever. Thornton does have three statistics—a plus-17 rating, 59 assists and 96 takeaways—that should partially vindicate his high turnover numbers. However, a large percentage of Thornton's turnovers this season came due to lazy plays in the neutral zone. Cutting down on those would have only increased his plus/minus and assist total.


    Expectations

    Met

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

18 of 21

    Stats

    82 GP, 4 G, 19 A, 23 P, plus-11, 171 BkS, 23:09 TOI/G


    Positive Impact

    Vlasic's awesome play in his own zone did wonders for this team. Whether it be blocking shots, winning battles down low, sticking his man in coverage, getting his stick into passing lanes or stopping the puck high, Vlasic's versatile defensive play allowed for his partner (Boyle or Burns) to be aggressive offensively. He even made an offensive impact early, scoring 11 points in his first 21 games.


    Negative Impact

    Vlasic's dominance in his own end turned into shakiness in the second-half. He started making ill-advised decisions; turning the puck over and covering the wrong man in transition. He also played soft on the penalty kill. He was minus-six in February and March, and the team suffered tremendously.


    Expectations

    Met

Colin White

19 of 21

    Stats

    54 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, minus-5, 1 playoff goal


    Positive Impact

    White tallied two of his three assists and was a plus-five in December, helping San Jose survive a bad stretch in net. He also scored a playoff goal, contributing more to the offense than Patrick Marleau.


    Negative Impact

    White was simply dreadful in his first and almost certainly last season in San Jose. He consistently made glaringly bad plays in his own end, often leading to momentum-changing goals. These plays were magnified due to White's supposed role as a stable veteran and a third-pairing stay-at-home d-man.


    Expectations

    Not met

Brad Winchester

20 of 21

    Stats

    67 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 P, minus-5, 88 PIM, 78 hits


    Positive Impact

    Winchester was brought in to replace Ben Eager—a fourth-liner with size, speed, a hard shot and a mean streak—and he did just that. When he was in the lineup, Winchester's line was usually noticeable, and his rifle of a shot gave San Jose a checking-line threat to score.


    Negative Impact

    Also like Ben Eager, Winchester played defense sporadically and haphazardly. Because Winchester didn't hit enough or score enough to make up for his lack of defense, San Jose opted to scratch him often down the stretch, inserting better penalty killers and bigger hitters into Winchester's spot.


    Expectations

    Met

Tommy Wingels

21 of 21

    Stats

    33 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P, minus-1, 102 hits


    Positive Impact

    Wingels only played in nine games before mid-February, but after being inserted on Feb. 13, he was impossible to scratch. Wingels' speed, forechecking skill and physicality made Jamie McGinn expendable. In just 33 games, Wingels finished the season fourth on the Sharks in hits.


    Negative Impact

    Much like McGinn in years past, the rookie Wingels was very clumsy offensively. He was unable to get himself into positions to use his goal-scoring skills, and he struggled to participate in any effective cycles. Because of this, he was ineffective during his stint on the second line.


    Expectations

    Exceeded