The All-Star break provides a perfect opportunity to evaluate teams and players. In this second installment of the San Jose Sharks report card, we examine their supporting cast.
The three volumes of the All-Star break San Jose Sharks report card began Saturday, Jan. 28. The studs came first—the six players coach Peter DeBoer would put on the ice late in a tie game with everyone rested.
Next are San Jose’s buds…and not what you smell in the SAP Center parking lots before games. They are the supporting cast—the studs’ best buds, always there when they need help without getting in the way.
As with most contenders, the supporting cast is the main reason the Sharks are playing well in the 2016-17 NHL season. Hence, most of the team falls into this category.
As with the studs list, no one gets leniency based upon lower expectations but rather is graded on their total contribution. Statistics are a large component but must be taken into context. Finally, everyone is measured against the standard of an all-time great. Thus, A+ forward play is reminiscent of Gordie Howe, blue-line play of Bobby Orr or goaltending of Patrick Roy.
Justin Braun: B-
Despite Justin Braun scoring just two goals and five assists in 50 games, he remains an essential blue-line component in San Jose. He has 57 shots, 39 misses and 38 giveaways—the latter a great ratio vs. takeaways but poor vs. assists.
Braun is given the toughest defensive assignments and usually shuts them down. His defensive numbers reflect that prowess: 90 hits (third), 86 blocks (second) and 28 takeaways (fourth).
Patrick Marleau: B-
The all-time franchise player has been on a steady decline over the past three seasons. However, Patrick Marleau was hot the week before the All-Star game. Thus, he is tied for second on the Sharks with 17 goals and fifth with 26 points.
Moreover, Marleau takes pressure off defenders with his skating, puck possession and defensive abilities. He has 51 hits, 21 blocks, 31 giveaways and 29 takeaways—another poor ratio of giveaways vs. assists but good vs. takeaways.
Paul Martin: B-
The counterpart to Brent Burns is bound to score more than most stay-at-home defensemen. However, Paul Martin has exceeded offensive expectations with three goals and 13 assists.
Martin also remains a stout defensive presence. He has just 26 hits but 77 blocks and 16 takeaways to go with 37 giveaways—above-average ratios to assists and takeaways.
Chris Tierney: C+
San Jose’s system is predicated on rolling four lines. Chris Tierney has been able to handle a third-line role for most of the season. This has been crucial while Tomas Hertl has been down and Mikkel Boedker underperforming.
Tierney has a modest four goals and nine assists. He also has pedestrian defensive numbers: 24 hits, 30 blocks, 42 giveaways, 19 takeaways and 48.1 faceoff percentage. However, he has overcome constant line-mate changes and his defensive abilities exceed the above numbers.
Joel Ward: C
After a slow start, Joel Ward has picked up his game of late. Still, his five goals and 13 assists are disappointing.
That does not mean Ward is not contributing in all three zones. He throws around his big body, energy and experience as much as he can. He also has registered 40 hits, 32 blocks, 30 giveaways and 24 takeaways while winning 48.8 percent of draws.
Brenden Dillon: C-
There is no doubt Brenden Dillon is skating better than last season. He is also crucial because he provides blue-line physicality that is otherwise lacking: 115 hits leads the Sharks.
It is just that Dillon provides nothing offensively. He has no goals and five assists, scoring nothing at all between October 15 and December 14. He also has just five takeaways and his 47 blocks are a blue-line low for anyone playing more than 14 games.
Joonas Donskoi: C-
Being your team’s healthy scratch even once is not a good sign. There is no doubt Joonas Donskoi is having a sophomore slump. He has just six goals and nine assists in the 48 games he has played.
Still, Donskoi possesses the puck like no forward but Joe Thornton and is defensively responsible. He has only 19 hits and a modest 22 blocks but 26 giveaways and 27 takeaways.
David Schlemko: C-
No player on this list has held the healthy scratch label as often as David Schlemko. However, it has more to do with defensive pairings than performance.
Schlemko is fourth in blue-line scoring (two goals, eight assists) despite missing 12 games to injury or scratching. He has just 27 hits but 57 blocks. Finally, his 27 giveaways and 21 takeaways are great for a puck-handling defenseman.
Melker Karlsson: D+
Despite limited time on scoring lines, Melker Karlsson has just six goals and seven assists in 43 games. However, most of his time has been on the fourth line.
There is value in reliability for almost any role. He is also a good defender, with 43 hits, 38 blocks, 13 giveaways and eight takeaways.
Aaron Dell: B+
While Aaron Dell has been asked to do very little—few starts, weaker teams, etc.—he has done it very well. He is 6-2-0 with a .930 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average. No one playing just eight games is very important to the team’s record, nor could he receive an A. However, he has done everything he could to earn more ice time.