Best Attribute of Each 2013-14 San Jose Sharks Star
The San Jose Sharks have maintained a star-studded core for years. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture and Antti Niemi have all been mainstays for at least three seasons.
Marleau and Thornton have been the longest-standing constants on a team that has won only three games after the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in its 21-year history. This has led to a perception among NHL fans that they are to blame.
This only shows how much the average fan watches a team that plays most of its games after most of the hockey-viewing world has turned in for the night. In reality, the veterans are usually the best playoff performers San Jose has.
Last season, the Sharks only had one player outside of the aforementioned core who scored even a point per two games (Brent Burns). The five core skaters were the only ones to get more than four points in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Meanwhile, they rode Niemi's netminding to victory in the regular season and playoffs. That may make San Jose's stars the most important to their team throughout the entire NHL.
True stars usually do not have holes in their game and do one or more things great. Here are the best attributes that make each one of the top Sharks a star.
Patrick Marleau is the first player that would come to anyone's mind when thinking about the San Jose Sharks. He is the only player left from before Doug Wilson's tenure as general manager.
He was the highest draft pick in franchise history and has played nowhere else. That easily allows him to be the leader in almost every statistic in team history, even though he most likely has more than five seasons left in the NHL.
He is more physical than most people think, both hitting more than any other scoring-line San Jose forward in the past two seasons and scoring many goals around the crease. He passes well and has one of the best shots on the team.
But there is only one reason Marleau is a star, and only one reason he will remain effective for years to come. Patty is one of the best skaters in the world, combining acceleration, speed, agility and endurance.
Joe Thornton is the best player to spend most of his career with the San Jose Sharks. He is captain not just because he has more than 1,000 games played and 1,000 points scored at the highest level of hockey, but because he is an effective all-around player.
Thornton is an average skater, but he is a possession machine. Aside from being among the best at faceoffs, he uses his reach to defend so well that he is among the top-five NHL players in takeaways over the last three seasons.
He plays keep-away well, using his ample frame and reach to protect the puck from defenders both behind the net and along the half boards.
Still, everyone knows his greatest attribute is his passing. With nearly 800 assists, he has already cracked the top-40 all time. His skill is a major factor in the Sharks having the single best power-play line in the league.
Joe Pavelski is the most likely of any the San Jose Sharks players to play in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, in part because Team USA is weak down the middle, but more so because he is a great all-around player.
The Big Pavelski acquired his nickname for being clutch, leading the Sharks in scoring in both the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Being at his best when it matters most is not his best attribute itself, but rather a result of it.
He is a great defender, because he has a good stick and blocks shots. His faceoff skill (55.9 percent over the last four seasons) also helps him in both ends. He can even throw a hit here and there.
These skills are a function of his incredible hockey IQ, as he reads plays well in both ends to compensate for barely above-average skating and size. This allows him to be one of the most effective Sharks near the net and explains why he was second on the team in ice time in each of the last two seasons.
Identifying the best attribute of Dan Boyle is tough. He has defined the San Jose Sharks since they acquired him in 2008.
He has been the best player on their blue line each season he's been with the Sharks. He has also been indispensable in implementing coach Todd McLellan's attacking scheme.
On a basic level, Boyle's skating is instrumental in advancing the puck out of the defensive end. His shot-blocking (top-50 in each of the last four seasons) is instrumental in having the opportunity to move the puck out quickly without having to retrieve the puck.
Still, the thing he obviously does best is score. He has more points over those five seasons than any other player on an NHL blue line. Amazingly, he has been a second-team All-Star just once in that span, probably because his defensive ability is overlooked.
Logan Couture is another player whose defensive skills are underrated. In 2013, Ryan Callahan was the only NHL forward with more blocked shots than Couture. He was in the top-five on San Jose in takeaways. He even averaged about one hit per game on a team that is not very physical.
Couture has the propensity for big goals: 19 of his 89 career goals have been game-winners, and that 21.3 percent rate increases to 23.5 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Most impressively, two out of every three goals he's scored have been at even strength when he is not on the ice with the top-scoring Sharks. Despite often being the defensive focus of the opposition, his best attribute is to be able to still lead the team in goals each of the last two seasons over scorers like Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski.
Oh yeah, and he is just 24. Under contract for five years, $30 million through the 2018-19 season, he is going to be the future face of the franchise—if not the Western Conference.
Antti Niemi has only played about 200 NHL games and is nearly 30 years old. However, he is unequivocally the most important player on the San Jose Sharks.
A star of the game in half of his starts last season, he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. He moves the puck well—even garnering an assist in the 2013 playoffs—and battles through screens. He is also outstanding in shootouts, making playing for them a very high-percentage option that helps in the standings.
He rises to the occasion in big games, winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He also had a 1.87 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 11 Stanley Cup playoffs games in 2013.
Yet what he does better than anything is position himself well. Because of San Jose's prolific shot-blocking, he often has to recover on more than just rebounds to make a save from a new angle.
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