San Jose Sharks Season Review: Matt Irwin


Mar 28, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin (52) shoots the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. The Sharks won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Irwin has struggled to maintain his place within the San Jose Sharks lineup for the past couple of seasons despite posting some solid numbers. Irwin, who possesses a tremendous shot, has never been able to carve out his niche on the Sharks blue line and has remained as San Jose’s sixth or seventh best defenseman.

It’s puzzling that Irwin couldn’t solidify himself this past season as the Sharks incorporated many young players into their team. Irwin was consistently behind Scott Hannan who couldn’t provide the kind of offensive upside that Irwin could. In 153 career NHL games, Irwin has scored 16 goals and 34 assists while being a plus-seven and firing 319 shots on goal.

After not featuring in San Jose’s first two games of 2014-15, Irwin made an impact with two goals in a 6-5 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals. He would add an assist in the next game against the New York Islanders, but would fail to register another point until two assists against the Boston Bruins in early December.

Irwin appeared in just 16 games over the first half of the year, but would play the best hockey of his season when the Sharks struggled the most. He would score five goals and add six assists over the final two-plus months of the season while being a plus-11. For the second consecutive year, Irwin would score 19 points (eight goals and 11 assists) and he ranked third amongst Sharks blue-liners with those eight goals.

More from Editorials

However, despite his offensive production and shooting ability, Irwin appeared in only 53 games with San Jose, five fewer than Hannan who had a much worse season. After registering almost 19 minutes a game during the 2013-14 season, Irwin averaged 17:01 in ice time last season. For whatever reason, Irwin was seen as the seventh best defenseman and never saw much action on either special teams.

Irwin ranked 10th on the Sharks with a Corsi For percentage of 51.6 and Irwin registered 93 shots on goal. His shooting is by far his best attribute and his skating is average at best. He doesn’t offer much beyond third-pairing potential because of his lack of foot speed, but Irwin is a solid, serviceable defenseman who can offer a booming shot from the back end.

Heading into next season, Irwin is currently an unrestricted free agent who has yet to sign a new deal. He is probably looking for a raise, but it’s tough to gauge his interest considering he’s likely viewed as a third-pairing option. Irwin could return to San Jose, but his role wouldn’t be any difference than this past season as the Sharks have added Paul Martin. Also complicating things, San Jose only has more than $1M in cap space and fitting Irwin in at that number would be difficult unless they move some players out.

In short, Irwin is a serviceable defenseman who offers some offensive upside, but he couldn’t translate those offensive talents into more consistent performance and ice time in San Jose. He should’ve seen more time last season, and he will likely move on from the Sharks, although, it might not be for the dollars that he was hoping to sign for.

More from Blades of Teal