Brenden Dillon’s inconsistent first full year as a San Jose Shark leaves questions as to if they gave up too much last summer to acquire the 26 year-old defenseman.
This is our fifth Sharks player review of the 2015-16 season. Be sure to check out our previous reviews:
On paper, the Stars won the deal as Dillon is no better than Demers was, plus Dallas received a third-round pick. However looking into it more, the Sharks would have owed Demers nearly $4 million this season – which he’s not worth – and is now a free agent so the Sharks saved about $2 million this season in the deal.
It doesn’t look like one of GM Doug Wilson’s better moves, but looking back one could at least see his reasoning behind it.
Dillon’s season was interesting to say the least. He shuffled between the second-pairing and third-pairing on the blue-line throughout the season due to trades and injuries, and he generally failed to perform up to par. He completed the regular season with a minuscule 11 points in 76 games in a reasonable 16:41 average time on ice, taking too many penalties along the way, finishing the regular season with 61 minutes in the box.
He also was just fifth among defensemen on the team in blocked shots, and despite leading the group in hits in the regular season with 154, that number isn’t totally overwhelming.
To put it lightly, Dillon was not much of a factor at all this year offensively. He failed to notch more than three points in any month of the season, and was outscored this year by the grinder and total defensive-defenseman, Roman Polak, who scored 16 points.
But when Dillon did score, the Sharks used the bonus offense to their advantage and were nearly unbeatable this season. They were 8-1-0 this year in games where Dillon notched a point.
He also was finally able to cut back on the minor penalties toward the end of the season as he was sent to the box just two times in the team’s final 18 regular-season contests.
Sharks fans may have collectively cringed when seeing Dillon near the puck in his defensive zone this season, and rightfully so. He gave away the puck 42 times on the year according to hockey-reference.com, a high number for not being on the ice a whole lot.
His struggles became more apparent in the playoffs on the bigger stage. He failed to score in the team’s first 21 games of the postseason until he notched a helper in Game 4. He added another assist in Game 5 to seal his playoffs with a dreadful zero goals and two assists, but those two apples didn’t make up for a lackluster playoff where he and Polak were often seen just trying to keep up with the play and out of position. That really showed in the St. Louis series and throughout the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh.
Check out this horrible turnover first by Polak, and then Dillon who was also taken off the puck too easily in his own zone leading to an easy Penguins goal in Game 2:
Dillon committed an even more inexcusable turnover in Game 5 which led to another Penguins goal.
Those may have been two of the more obvious defensive displays, or lack there of, from Dillon and Sharks fans couldn’t be too surprised with them as the third-pairing’s sloppy play eventually came back to haunt them with these goals basically handed to Pittsburgh on a silver platter.
Like almost all Sharks, Dillon had his moments, playing a little better at times in Games 3 and 4 of the Finals and doing the job against the Kings, but his individual season was disappointing. Very few teams in the league have six capable defensemen they are happy with, and Dillon and Polak at least were formidable enough to help get their team to the Stanley Cup Final. You obviously can’t ask third-pairing defensemen to consistently perform at a high level on both ends of the ice.
With Dylan DeMelo showing promise this year, youngster Mirco Mueller trying to crack the Sharks roster for good and the Sharks top four defensemen playing fantastic hockey this season, Dillon must improve in the summer to be guaranteed more minutes next year.