Feb 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) warms up against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The San Jose Sharks won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
By now, you’ve probably read plenty about how the San Jose Sharks struggled defensively during the 2014-15 season. Today, we conclude our season reviews of the Sharks blue line with a look at their best, most consistent player in Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
It’s crazy to think that Vlasic is already entering his 10th NHL season and he’s still just 28-years-old. He’s played some of his best hockey in recent years, although even he experienced a slight downturn in his play last season. There’s an argument to be made that Vlasic is the best defenseman the Sharks have ever developed.
Vlasic set a career-high in goals scored last season with nine, to go along with 14 assists. He tied with Joe Pavelski in plus/minus with a plus-12 rating, the second consecutive season in which Vlasic has led San Jose in that category. Also, he ranked second on the Sharks with an average ice time of 22:07, which was one minute and 24 seconds more than what he averaged the prior season.
Vlasic has never been known for his offensive exploits, but he’s starting to show signs that there’s more to his game than just his defensive positioning and abilities.
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Vlasic’s 2014-15 season wasn’t as good as his stellar 2013-14 season where he led the Sharks with a plus-31 rating to go along with a 58.1 Corsi For percentage, but he was the Sharks best defensemen once again. Vlasic’s Corsi For percentage dropped to 52.3 percent last season, which ranked behind Brent Burns, but he often found himself matched up with the other team’s top lines. Also, similar to his typical partner in Justin Braun, Vlasic battled some injuries last year that limited him to appear in only 70 games.
The one area where Vlasic could improve is on the power play, where he rarely sees any time because he hasn’t been able to consistently generate any offense. He played just over 1,200 minutes in 2014-15, but only spent more than 91 minutes with the man advantage.
Heading into next season, Vlasic will once again anchor the defensive corps which should be much improved. Adding a veteran in Paul Martin will help balance out the Sharks on the back end, and look for Vlasic to pair with Braun once more.
Also, I expect Vlasic will be one of the alternates new head coach Peter DeBoer chooses as he becomes a more vocal leader of the Sharks. Fans and media pundits alike see Vlasic as one of the top players in San Jose, and he will be relied upon heavily to get the Sharks back on track.
This season, Vlasic will pass Mike Rathje for most games played by a defenseman in franchise history, and it’s a fitting accomplishment as Vlasic has developed into one of the toughest players to play against in the NHL.
While the 2014-15 season didn’t go exactly as planned for Vlasic, look for a big season from him next year as he continues his growth as an all-around blue liner.