Whether as a general manager, columnist, or fan, it makes sense to prioritise the players who are facing free agency when examining the players on the 2009-10 San Jose Sharks roster.
The first step is always to assess their play during the season, as well as in the playoffs that serve as a final exam of sorts. Since about half the teams do not have a good enough regular season to make the playoffs, it seems right to give it weight equal to half the entire regular season.
This will be done one player at a time on Bleacher Report, with their production being factored against the salary (source: HockeyBuzz ) and other assets (or liabilities) they bring to the table—in other words, with Scotty Nichol taking up one-tenth the cap room of Joe Thornton, expectations for him must be lower.
For each assessment on the season that has ended, there will be an accompanying piece on Shark-Infested Blogger to determine if he is the type of player the Sharks will need going forth. We start this with the unrestricted free agent player who was most important in 2009-10 because he plays the most important position…
G Evgeni Nabokov—Regular season: 44-16-10 (.700), .922 save pct., 2.43 GAA; Post-season: 8-7 (.533), .907, 2.56
Nabokov handled the load again this season for the Sharks. Among goalies with over 45 games played (over 55 percent of the season), Nabby finished at the top of the league in record, second in wins and saves, fourth in save percentage, and seventh in GAA. With an average of six goalies per grade, sixth-best would earn an A-, and that is the minimum his production earns.
While his playoff numbers are more average (still good for fifth in GAA and seventh in save pct.), he was a gamer: Nabby won every game in which he got three or more goals of support during the playoffs.
Think about it: He never once blew an offensive performance that was even adequate (average scoring in the Western Conference playoffs is 3.03 goals per game). The same cannot be said of any other goaltender in the conference but Antti Niemi.
In fact, while Nabokov gave up five percent more scoring in the playoffs than the regular season, that was still second-best in the conference.
The problem was the Sharks scoring dropped 13 percent instead of going up 25 percent like the conference average (which includes their own drop-off). Nevertheless, Nabby won two of five games in which the Sharks scored two goals. Goaltenders just do not win games 1-0 in the playoffs post-lockout, so winning 2-1 is stealing a game.
Of course, any worthwhile starting goalie can steal one of these games, just as any worthwhile offence can steal a game for their goalie as the Sharks did in Game Two against Colorado. Heroic efforts can make half of such games into wins.
So Nabby falls in the good but not great category. By winning every game he should have and stealing one more game than his goal-support did, he may well be the least to blame for the franchise’s failure to achieve its best postseason yet. He even deserves primary credit for the first-round series win.
But he was not exceptional enough to grade higher than a B-. Two A- grades and one B- average to a B+: click here to see what Nabby’s future with the team should be.