San Jose Sharks stars have impressive individual accomplishments
The San Jose Sharks entered this summer at a crossroads.
Three of the four leaders in minutes for their positions will play the entire 2013-14 season after their 34th birthdays. All are entering the last years of their contracts.
The Sharks have made it clear that Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski (fourth and second among forwards in minutes in 2013, respectively) are part of their future. They signed the youngest first before matching it for the one American Olympian shortly after his 29th birthday.
San Jose made similar commitments to Marc-Edouard Vlasic (second in blue-line minutes) and Brent Burns (a top player in either position) in the previous two summers. Their extensions, which were signed almost exactly one year before their previous deals expired, came in at five years and over $21 million but under market value.
The new core is in place through the 2017 fiscal year. It will be tough for the team to sign any new big contracts because of the cap hits of that core even with the salary cap expected to go up and the Sharks being able to dump the $5 million they pay for Martin Havlat.
That may mean someone from the core will not be retained. Deciding who that will be means taking feedback from a lot of different sources.
Doug Wilson was not only a very good player (mostly in the 1980s) but also a team captain for the Sharks before becoming their general manager. He has his own insights from being around and watching his team closely.
He also clearly trusts his coaching staff, which includes a former Stanley Cup champion as a player, scout and coach. His head coach has won a championship in the minor leagues, a Presidents' Trophy in the NHL and guided the franchise to three of its four best playoff runs.
The problem is that people have their biases. For instance, Wilson is inclined to move prospects and picks for depth veterans at the trade deadline or over the summer. He had to adjust that approach over the past two years because it has not worked.
Even with their biases, the insights of people that know the game are better than making decisions by statistics that tell half the story: A bad plus/minus may come from playing someone in the toughest defensive situations, big hitters may often miss their targets leading to odd-man rushes, points may be scored because of the support of linemates...
But they are objective and have value insofar as they either corroborate or contradict those insights. In the analysis of the numbers Wilson has no doubt already done, he must have come upon some very impressive statistics. Here are those for each of the biggest stars on the team:
The captain of the San Jose Sharks is the best player to ever don the teal sweater. Naturally, he has a lot of incredible stats: 787 assists, 1,118 points, 1,125 games...
The 2006 Hart Trophy-winning offensive player has also transformed himself into a defensive stud. He had 210 takeaways in the last two full NHL seasons and has won 3,022 of 5,457 faceoffs (55.4 percent) since the 2008-09 season.
But the biggest stat of his 598-game career (missing just five games since his first in teal) as a Shark is still scoring: 502 assists moreso than the 162 goals that includes six 20-goal seasons.
No player represents the San Jose Sharks more than Patrick Marleau. From his first training camp right after his 18th birthday, the No. 2 overall pick (right after Joe Thornton was selected by the Boston Bruins) of the 1997 NHL entry draft was pegged as a franchise player and was its captain for years.
He has been that, amassing some very impressive stats along the way: 404 goals and 457 assists in 1,165 games and an even more impressive 57 goals and 36 assists in 140 Stanley Cup playoff games. Almost one-fifth of his regular-season and one-fourth of his playoff goals are game-winners.
Yet the most impressive stat is that he has missed just 31 games over those 15 seasons. Perhaps having missed none since the Sharks wrapped up the 2009 Presidents' Trophy is even more impressive.
If he avoided contact that would be one thing. But many of Marleau's goals came near the net, he is always targeted (Dion Phaneuf in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs, anyone?) as the team's star and he leads the top line in hits every season.
As the only finalist for a regular-season award on the team, Vezina Trophy nominee Antti Niemi officially became a San Jose Sharks star last season. He was their life support when they were tanking in February and their backbone in seven playoff wins.
There are few active finalists who have also won a Stanley Cup, as he did with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. That makes the soon-to-be 30-year-old a bargain at $3.8 million over the next two years.
Nemo may never have carried a team for a full season, but he has had two intense stretches with San Jose.
He played 36 of 37 games in a stretch late in 2011 but followed it with his two worst playoff series (first and third rounds) of his career. After playing 24 straight games in 2013, he was outstanding in the postseason en route to playing 54 of 59 games.
That led to his most incredible stats: 1,127 saves in the regular season (which ranks third overall) and 1,404 saves total when you include the 11 playoff games he competed in. But even more impressive is that he led the NHL in regular-season minutes (2580:46).
Dan Boyle is the oldest player on the San Jose Sharks at 37, but he remains a star and thus has many incredible statistics.
He has led the team in minutes and points from the blue line since he arrived in San Jose in 2008. He won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and was a key member of the gold medal-winning Team Canada in 2010. Those feats and his competitive fire make him a key leader on the team.
Perceived as an offensive-minded player, he has also finished in the top 50 in blocked shots in each of the last two seasons. Furthermore, his skating is crucial to the Sharks getting out of their own end.
Still, his most incredible stat has to be that he is the top-scoring blue-liner in the NHL over the last five seasons.
Logan Couture has become a star.
He made the All-Star team in 2012, the last time the NHL selected such a roster. He has led the team in goals in each of the last two seasons despite spending most of his time on the second line, away from Joe Thornton's playmaking skills.
Yet the most impressive thing is his defensive prowess. He has won 52.2 percent of faceoffs in his young career and blocked 204 shots in 232 games—about eight for every nine games. The most incredible stat among them was his 51 blocked shots in the condensed 2013 NHL season—second among all forwards in the league.
Joe Pavelski has never been a finalist for any regular-season award, never been to an All-Star game and never won a Stanley Cup or Olympic gold medal. But he has the kind of foundational game that helped him win a title in college and get locked up by the San Jose Sharks through the 2018-19 season (when he'll be 35).
He is often called the Big Pavelski thanks to the smallest Shark's big play at the biggest times. He led the team in scoring in both the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, with seven of his 24 postseason NHL goals being game-winners (29.2 percent)—even better than his 27 of 150 (18 percent) in the regular season.
Yet the most impressive thing for a player whose worst scoring rate for a season was the 40 points he had in 82 games in his first full season (2007-08) is how well he defends. His 255 blocked shots in the last 271 games (.94/game) are almost as incredible as his faceoff skill: 55.9 percent over the last four seasons.
Brent Burns was an All-Star on the blue line in 2011 with the Minnesota Wild. He finished that year with an incredible 15 goals and 28 assists as a member of the defensive-minded team. But after the San Jose Sharks had to accept that their current forward corps could not get the job done, they moved Burns up to the first line.
Anyone who can have that kind of impact is a star. That is why the Sharks locked him up for nearly $6 million per season during his first offseason with them.
Early returns suggested he contract may have seem too high. But Burns put up arguably the most incredible stat of his career last season to ease any concerns, scoring nine goals and 11 assists in his first 23 games as a forward at the NHL level.
Calling Marc-Edouard Vlasic a star may seem like going overboard, but anyone invited to join the deep skating talent of Team Canada (even if he will not make it) is among the world's 100 best players.
At just 26, the San Jose Sharks know the value of the seven-year veteran. That is why he has been second on the team in minutes in each of the last three seasons and why he signed a five-year extension in 2012, which will start paying him $4.25 annually this season.
Having 598 games of total NHL experience at such a young age is an incredible stat, yet he does not even rank first or second on his list. He also has only missed 21 games over those seven years (3.4 percent of his career), with 18 of those coming in 2009-10.
However, the most incredible stat is that he is plus-66 in the 356 games he has played since the beginning of the 2008-09 season despite being the team's first choice to defend the best players the opposition puts on the ice.
Martin Havlat is not even close to a star.
However, the enigmatic winger was billed as one when he came to the San Jose Sharks. A proven playoff performer for the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators, Cap Geek lists him with a star's contract: $30 million over six years (ending in 2014-15) with a no-trade clause.
He is included on this list to juxtapose the aforementioned statistical accomplishments with the utter failure that is Havlat. He has played in just 86 of a possible 146 games over his two years in San Jose, with just three playoff points. He has scored just 17 goals and 31 assists overall.
Yet none of those failings holds a candle to the impressively bad statistics that prove that he cannot avoid, fight through or return from injuries despite not putting himself on the line for his team: Havlat has just 12 hits and 27 blocked shots in two regular seasons in San Jose.
MJ Kasprzak is the original community leader for the Green Bay Packers and San Jose Sharks for Bleacher Report and is a professional columnist for Examiner.com on the Sharks and Bay Area Christian issues.