2011-12 San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski Report Card
A funny thing happened while fulfilling my assignment duties this week: I convinced myself that the San Jose Sharks core should stay intact.
That is right. The guy who has been the "pessimist" in this community wants to show faith in a core that has continually let the Bay Area down.
The reason is because the team has gone past the point of no return. The only members of its core (defined in the piece linked above) they are willing to part with are high-paid veterans. Teams shy away from them because they know they are going to have declining production in the coming years, but they do not know how rapid it will be.
Based on that, I could recommend only one core player who needs to be moved. They simply have to take the best trade they can get that Patrick Marleau is willing to take part in and get it done for reasons outlined in the previous link.
Having let the cat out of the bag that the rest of the Sharks core would not be offered up for trade unless it has a one-sided return, it makes the most sense to run through those players next. Easily the best player not yet covered is Joe Pavelski.
As per the rest of the report card series, I will point out the good, bad and ugly truth (harsh reality) of Llttle Joe's value to the franchise...
Joe Pavelski is one of the best two-way forwards in the game. He should be a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy given to the best defensive forward.
Defensively, he had 50 hits, 84 blocked shots (best among San Jose Sharks forwards), won 150 more faceoffs than he lost (third in the NHL) and had 73 takeaways (10th in the NHL) to 61 giveaways. That gives him a Defensive Quotient of 64.8. How does that compare to the three finalists and last year's winner?
Ryan Kesler (this season's numbers): 108 hits, 59 blocks, plus-97 in the faceoff circle and just 43 takeaways, but only 20 giveaways for a DQ of 56.9. Kesler may not be great at stealing the puck, but he can defend in all three zones and any situation. His numbers were hurt slightly by missing five games because the DQ factors in total numbers, giving weight to those who the team can rely on.
David Backes: 226 hits, 72 blocks and 50 takeaways to 22 giveaways but lost 37 more faceoffs than he won for a DQ of 51.4. His hits are huge in open ice, but they only stop one attacker and often may not get you the puck. In the defensive zone, Pavs will turn on a defensive possession into an offensive one.
Pavel Datsyuk: 76 hits, just 31 blocked shots but plus-115 in the circle with a league-leading 97 takeaways (one more than Joe Thornton) with only 40 giveaways (55 fewer than Thornton, but also 11 fewer assists) for a DQ of 64.9. The fact that he edged out Pavelski despite playing in a dozen fewer games tells you just how good he is.
Patrice Bergeron: 73 hits, 67 blocks, 25 giveaways and 55 takeaways with a whopping plus-305 in the faceoff circle easily gives him the crown at a DQ of 74.8. (Thank you to Ryan Goyer for commenting below that I had Kesler as a finalist this season instead of Bergeron.)
Of course, Pavelski is not just a defensive dynamo. He was tied for the team lead in goals (31), his 30 assists were fifth on the Sharks. Not surprisingly, his Offensive Quotient (also defined at the above link) was 48, a hair behind Dan Boyle for fifth in San Jose.
He is accountable, comes up in big situations and is tough: Pavelski struggled in the playoffs, but was battling thumb, foot and knee injuries.
He never went more than eight games without a goal or five without a point and was an elite defender. That is why he led all Sharks forwards in ice time.
Being one of the San Jose Sharks smallest players does put some limitations on Joe Pavelski.
His 50 hits were behind 16 players on one of the lightest-hitting teams in the NHL. Only Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton had fewer hits per minute on the ice.
He also commits too many giveaways, especially for the return in assists. Among the 13 forwards playing in at least 39 games for San Jose, his assist to giveaway ratio (.49) is only eighth; among the top-6 forwards who have the most opportunities for assists, it is dead last.
Finally—and surprisingly given his history of clutch goals—"The Big Pavelski" had just two game-winners last season. Maybe he had used many of them up in the first two rounds of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Ugly Truth
Joe Pavelski is very similar to 2010 Olympic teammate Ryan Kesler. Both are 27 years old, both are known for clutch goals and both are excellent defenders. But Kesler costs 25 percent more than Pavelski's $4 million per year through the next two seasons.
Pavs is a leader. He is clutch. He does the little things that do not show up in stats sheets kept for a fanbase that overemphasizes points, and he gets those, too.
When their contracts are up in two years, Pavelski and Logan Couture will get hefty raises in their new contracts. The same cannot be said about Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau—if they are not traded beforehand, they will not be able to land as big a contract as they currently have because they turn 35 before the next season.
That means Pavs is the Sharks future up front. Of course, general manager Doug Wilson could decide to sell the future for one more push with the present. If he does, Couture is even less indispensable than Pavelski. But he would be hard-pressed to get a better all-around player, especially for less than market value.