Mar 10, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) makes a save as defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) looks on during the second period against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Pass or Fail: Sharks Defense

We all know in high school that you are graded on a scale of A-F, and that is exactly how I will be doing this. Now, normally this isn’t something that I would do, however, due to this past seasons shortcomings, I felt the need to give my team some grades.

Let’s break it down by player, shall we?

Brent Burns – Coming off a career year in all categories with the Minnesota Wild, Burns was expected to fill a role that was left by the departure of Rob Blake, who left in 2010. With his size (Burns stands at 6 feet 5 inches tall), Burns averaged 22:23 of ice time per game.  Playing in 81 games this season, his 201 shots on goal resulted in 11 goals for Burns this season, just six shy of his career total of 17. However, he missed a total of 101 shots he took on net as well. Not to mention leading the team in giveaways this season, Burns turned the puck over 75 times. Grade: D+

Dan Boyle – Ending his fourth season with the Sharks, Boyle has been on a steady decline since joining the team in 2008. In his first season with the Sharks, Boyle had 16 goals and 41 assists. Picking up just 9 goals this season, he tied his total from last year. Coming in behind Burns with 66 giveaways this season, Boyle also missed 98 shots taken on net. He did end up leading the Sharks in average power play time on ice (3:56/game), but dropped from the 4:17 per game he averaged last season.  Grade: C-

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – He started the season paired with Burns, but would eventually end the season playing side by side with Douglas Murray.  Not exactly knowing for his scoring prowess, Vlasic tallied 4 goals this season, landing him in fourth among Sharks d-men, tied with Jason Demers. A little angrier of a “pickle”, Vlasic took a jump from 18 penalty minutes in the 2010-11 season to 40 in 2011-12, of which zero were fighting majors. Vlasic has been able to use his skates and lead the team in average short handed time on ice per game (2:07 per game.) Grade:  B-

Douglas Murray – Known for being able to knock players off the puck or just throwing down some wicked crazy hits, Murray sure seemed to be lacking in hits this season. 126 compared to the 203 of last season, and 233 in the 2009-10 season. Maybe some of the tentativeness to lay down some bodies stems from the Feb 16th injury he sustained in Tampa Bay when a puck ramped up his stick and broke his Adam’s Apple, forcing him to miss the next eight games. Maybe some it came from not being paired with usual D partner, Dan Boyle.  Whatever it was that caused his shy nature to take names, Murray didn’t live up to the standards that he set in seasons past. Grade: C -

Jason Demers & Justin Braun – These two are getting clumped together for the simple reason they both proved that as young guns, they were able to step up together and fail together. Earning a combined -10 on the season, Braun and Demers became a worry when they stepped on the ice. Braun, the better of the two, tied his totals in goals and points last season, but stepped up when asked blocking 66 shots. Demers lacked in all aspects of his game, averaging only 16:50 of ice time per game, and ended the season with a -8 (worst among the defensemen.) Grade: C+

Colin White – Everyone wants to hate on White for this past season. Unfortunately for me, as I write this, I see he was not the worst of defensemen this year. White’s 25 giveaways this season landed him second to last, only ahead of Jim Vandermeer (7) and fifty short of Burns (75). Granted, when White stepped on the ice, it looked as if the puck was always going the opposite direction, he managed to snag the puck away 10 times, and even blocked 94 shots. Grade: B

Jim Vandermeer – Playing in only 25 games this season, Vandermeer averaged 10:24 of ice time. Not really enough to make an impact, as he isn’t really an impact player. Grade: C

The Sharks have always had a problem when it comes to defenseman. They’ve never found that “perfect” player (i.e. Nicklas Lidstrom) or a proven goal scorer with defensive capabilities (i.e. Shea Weber.) Instead, they’ve gone the younger route with players such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers and Justin Braun. That’s not to say that our guys haven’t done an outstanding job in the past. However, this team needs some consistency on the blueline. With well over 300 turnovers this season, only 121 takeaways and 796 blocked shots, the final grade I impose on this set of guys is a nice solid D+.


Stephanie Lee
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Tags: Brent Burns Colin White Dan Boyle Douglas Murray Jason Demers Jim Vandermeer Justin Braun Marc-Edouard Vlasic

  • anmlhaus

    As an #SJSharks fan, I have to say that this article was a tough albeit realistic read. The grades were spot on however I would have given my LinkedIn buddy, D. Murray, a D- for being so obviously checked out from the Sharks and life in general. Hammered by injury throughout the season didn’t help. He’s reached his pinnacle and is no longer performing. He’s just showing up for his pay check. Time for a trade IMHO. He’s an aging elitist player thats prime for a trade.

    Brent Burns would garner a B- from me. He was active, consistent and adds a playful engagement to an otherwise boring line up. Keep him. He’s like a built in cheerleader and keeps the other D’s on their game. He needs a little refining but will continue to improve given time. He needs to play for his size…big guy, big defense, it will come.

    Jason Demers has so much potential it’s unbelievable. TMc needs to find a good partner for Jason’s “kill em all and sort the bodies out later” defense logic. He’s ready and willing to step up given the chance. He’s young and has a solid hockey background. He’s a keeper and a currently a B grade player with potential to be an A with a little more aggressive physicality in his play. He’s down to earth and in touch with the world around him. He could very well become a fan

  • anmlhaus

    He could very easily become a fan favorite.

    What doesn’t this thing do paragraph breaks??? Argh, sorry for the tuff read but u get my point…

  • BleedingTeal

    I think the grades for Boyle and Burns are totally backwards. First, yes Burns was 2nd on the team in turnovers (behind big Joe) but he was really pushing all throughout the season. Early on it was with the system, and then it was trying to make something happen by being aggressive. I am totally ok with an inadvertent turn over from being aggressive at the right time, which I think Burns did better than almost anybody on the D this season. But Boyle was only 9 turnovers behind Burns, which for the top Dman and a 4 year veteran of the system is not good. Then combine the fact that Boyle for about 2 years now has tried to over stickhandle and made horrible decisions and tried to force the puck where the situation doesn’t work is bad. Also considering the fact that Boyle had 50 more shots than Burns and only 11 more points playing with the top line and top PP line is unacceptable. Burns also had more goals than Boyle.
    Aside from that I think the grades are pretty spot on like anhlmaus said. However I would have to disagree with the physicality assessment of Demers as he definitely showed the ability to deliver big hits at times late in the season and in the playoffs. But I think if he can pick one or two more spots during the game to lay a guy out I think it will pay huge dividends overall. Murray I’d give a C+ purely for the fact that he came back from a broken throat which could have easily killed him and played like nothing happened. Pure. Badass.
    However White’s assessment is horribly off I believe. While his numbers don’t suggest it, he had some of the worst decision making of anybody on the ice this season. I’m not sure if that’s normal or just him forcing things but it was really bad. Almost as bad as Huskins last season. He did show a few stretches of really solid play and good decisions, but it was sporadic at best.
    Next season I’d like to see Burns with Vlasic and Demers/Braun with Murray. I think those 2 D line pairings will be money over the course of a season.