Can Larry Robinson help the San Jose Sharks' anemic penalty kill?
More players change teams in the first two weeks of July than the other 50 weeks combined. Yet the San Jose Sharks have lost and signed anew just one player to a one-way contract.
In other words, just two players have to move in or out of San Jose so far next season. Since it would make no sense to keep intact the roster that had the worst season in general manager Doug Wilson's tenure, his inactivity is very telling, as outlined on San Jose Sharks Examiner.
But while he is not even pursuing all the trade options he has, that does not mean he is doing nothing. It was reported Sunday (via Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, h/t nhl.com) that Larry Robinson would be joining the coaching staff.
Robinson has been in and out of the New Jersey Devils' coaching ranks since before they won their first Stanley Cup in 1995. He was their head coach when they won it in 2000.
The No. 1 problem with last year's Sharks was the penalty kill. They have good PK personnel. Most of the players have succeeded elsewhere or even in San Jose before the last season and a half that saw a once-special unit become almost historically bad.
By contrast, Peter DeBoer's Devils were historically good. They had the best penalty-kill percentage in the NHL, allowing just 27 goals while still being able to counterattack—they produced an NHL-best 15 shorthanded goals.
That is right: New Jersey gave up just 12 more goals over 82 games than it scored while shorthanded. San Jose gave up six more than it scored in five playoff games—over eight times the rate.
In the regular season, the Sharks were minus-49—more than four times worse than Jersey—despite having 34 fewer times on the PK. Since the only difference between the teams on the season scoreboard was one extra goal the Sharks gave up, they were obviously better everywhere else.
What will Larry Robinson's lasting influence be on the San Jose Sharks?
Had San Jose's PK been as good as Jersey's, the Sharks would have scored 12 more goals and given up 25 fewer. They would have been eighth rather than tied for 11th in scoring, and third instead of tied for 10th in goals allowed. Only Pittsburgh and Boston would have finished better than San Jose's plus-55.
While it is clearly not so easy as to say that a coach can recapture his previous team's PK success, it is hard to argue that it cannot be improved enough to make a difference. Even an average PK would have meant a few close games going the Sharks' way, and that had to make a difference in some of the 22 one-goal losses.
The Sharks were one win away from finishing the season right where Phoenix did. They could very well have knocked the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Kings out of the playoffs entirely to get it, with four one-goal games among the six they played.
If Robinson can make the PK mediocre, the Sharks could go from being on the decline to elite once more. If...