San Jose Sharks: Martin Havlat 2011-12 Report Card
Martin Havlat was involved in the second-biggest trade of the summer, going from the Minnesota Wild to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for sniper Dany Heatley (the only bigger one also involved those two teams).
The thought was that Havlat brought more speed and was better defensively, making him a better match in San Jose. Moreover, the $2.5 million saved in the trade would be used to sign more depth via free agency for a team in desperate need of cap relief.
When the Sharks did not use that room, many fans were calling for it to be saved for a major move at the deadline. That shows a lack of understanding of the business of the NHL.
Carrying $4 million in cap room would only be needed if the team was going to take on $12 million in additional talent with a third of the season left. Not only did the Sharks lack the draft picks and prospects to entice that kind of talent to the Bay Area, but teams in need of that much help are not winning anything.
When it became clear that San Jose was not going to use the space, Havlat was still being talked about as the difference-maker in their playoff push. In the end, Marty could not extend the Sharks' season but one game.
Ultimately, there are few players whose presence or absence makes as much of a difference as followers of the Sharks were attributing to Havlat.
Individual players need to be judged on the good things they bring to the table and the bad baggage that comes with it to arrive at the truth of their value to the team. Often, this cold-blooded analysis can get ugly.
Martin Havlat is a skilled forward who can skate with the best players in the world and has playoff experience.
There was a noticeable difference in the potency of the San Jose Sharks forwards when he was out.
One could make the case that Havlat was the team's best forward upon his return.
He had five goals and seven assists with a plus-2 rating in those final 13 games. He followed it up with two goals and an assist through three playoff games, including the only game-winner.
His speed and skill allow him to take over games, as he did in the only Sharks win. He handles the puck well, with nearly as many takeaways (19) and assists (20) as giveaways (25). He also seemed to develop chemistry with Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture.
Martin Havlat only played in 39 games in his first regular season with the San Jose Sharks.
He lost the first four games to a preexisting injury, then struggled against opponents who were an entire offseason ahead of him in preparation.
He had just 15 points when he went down on a fluke play on December 17, 2011.
Instead of coming back in eight weeks as the team had hoped, Havlat had a couple of setbacks and then infamously mentioned not wanting to be pushed back into action even as the Sharks were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Havlat has had his heart and grit questioned before. Could this be why his stay has been shorter in each new destination (five years in Ottawa, three in Chicago, two in Minnesota and now he has come up short in the Bay Area)?
Plus, while the injury may have been freakish, the fact that Havlat was injured was not. He had not missed 10 games in any of the past three seasons, but he missed anywhere from 26 to 64 games in the previous three.
Because of his limited playing time, he did not score well on the Offensive Quotient (24.15—defined at the link). But with a ridiculously low six hits and just 14 blocked shots, his Defensive Quotient (also explained at the above link) was a pathetic 8.8. He also lost all seven faceoffs he took.
The Ugly Truth
There are any number of players who would be better alternatives than the unreliable Martin Havlat for about the same money.
He has three years left on a contract that has a $5 million per year cap hit.
It is unlikely teams will want to part with a top-six forward for him, especially one making less.
Because he is over 30, the teams that will want him most will be those looking to win now.
Hence, the San Jose Sharks might as well have a Plan B in place in case he gets hurt. His speed and creativity make him a potential top line forward, but he is one more player lacking consistent intensity on a team loaded with them.
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