Sharks -- All-Star break comparison: 2012 vs. 2011

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Sharks -- All-Star break comparison: 2012 vs. 2011

At the NHL All-Star break last season, the Sharks had played 50 games, sported a record of 25-19-6 for 56 points, sat in fourth place in the Pacific Division, and were tied for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.

This year, the Sharks enter the All-Star break having played 47 games, boast a record of 27-14-6 for 60 points, lead the Pacific Division, and sit in third place.

What's different about this year? Let's take a deeper look at the stats.
Amazingly enough, through 50 contests a season ago the Sharks averaged both 2.72 goals per game, and 2.72 goals allowed per game. Those figures ranked 15th and 18th in the NHL, respectively.

This year the Sharks' scoring output has slipped marginally to 2.66 goals per game, which is good for 13th among the 30 teams.

If the Sharks have four more points at the All-Star break this year compared to last year, and have played three fewer games, it must mean that Antti Niemi and the defense have improved, right?

Ding ding ding.

The Sharks are currently sixth in the NHL, allowing just 2.28 goals per game.

In 37 starts, Niemi is 21-10-5 (he was pulled early once) with a 2.30 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage.

Last season, he didn't fare so well before the All-Star break, compiling a 13-3-3 record, with a 2.69 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage in just 29 games (Remember -- the season prior Niemi helped lead the Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and aside from the fact was learning a new system in San Jose, he was probably a little worn out with the title run extending into June).

Niemi's backup, Thomas Greiss, has arguably been even better. In 11 games, he is 6-4-1 with a 1.98 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage.

It's no wonder the Sharks reportedly placed Antero Niittymaki on waivers earlier today.

But what about the key guys who score the goals and play defense?

- Joe Thornton: 8 goals, 30 assists, 38 points (44)
- Patrick Marleau: 17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points (36)
- Logan Couture: 21 goals, 15 assists, 36 points, All-Star (33)
- Joe Pavelski: 17 goals, 17 assists, 34 points (31)
- Dan Boyle: 4 goals, 25 assists, 29 points (32)
- Ryane Clowe: 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points (38)
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (10)
- Brent Burns: 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points (31 -- with Minnesota)
- Michal Handzus: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (19)
- Jamie McGinn: 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points (6 points)
- Martin Havlat: 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points, missed 21 games (44 -- with Minnesota)
(points at All-Star break last season)

From a pure numbers standpoint, the Sharks' two big acquisitions in the offseason, Burns and Havlat, have clearly underperformed.

Ryane Clowe is also well below his scoring pace from a season ago, but has missed the past five games with a facial fracture.

Dan Boyle is pretty much status quo, and something tells me his numbers would be better had he not been using sticks that were an inch longer than last year's for the first 24 games of the season, or if he hadn't been playing on a broken foot the first 15-20 games.

Patrick Marleau is ahead of last year's numbers, as is Joe Pavelski. Joe Thornton and Michal Handzus are slightly below, but Jamie McGinn and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have improved significantly.

Then there's Logan Couture. The Calder Trophy runner-up from a season ago leads the Sharks with 21 goals and is the lone member who will not use the All-Star "break" as its name insinuates. Instead, he will be in Ottawa making his first All-Star appearance.

The Sharks are in a good position right now. Their first four games following the break are against teams who would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

However, after the Blackhawks come to town on Feb. 10, the Sharks embark on a nine-game road trip spanning 14 days.

We will know a lot about this team on Feb. 26.

But for now, get your rest guys. You're going to need it.

Except you, Logan.

Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

* * *

Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

CHICAGO – The glass-half-full observer looks at Sharks’ recent draft record and sees some late round picks that could be on the cusp of making the NHL on a full time basis. 

Defenseman Joakim Ryan (7th round, 2012), center Danny O’Regan (5th round, 2012) and forward Kevin Labanc (6th round, 2014) have all exceeded expectations so far. Dylan DeMelo (6th round, 2011) could also be included in that group.

The glass-half-empty observer, though, sees that the Sharks have traded away a pair of recent first rounders that didn’t pan out. Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall, 2014) was dealt to Vancouver in late February for Jannik Hansen and a fourth round pick, while Mirco Mueller (18th overall, 2013) is off to New Jersey for a pair of picks in this year’s draft.

It’s all part of the uncertainty of selecting what are mostly teenagers in the annual NHL Entry Draft, which takes place at Chicago’s United Center this weekend. The Sharks’ first pick during Friday night’s first round sits at 19th overall, and they have seven more selections on Saturday when rounds two-through-seven take place.

Doug Wilson is used to picking in the mid-to-late first round, as the Sharks have missed the playoffs just once under his 14-year watch.

“I think we always take the best player available,” he said. “I think it’s a good draft. … We feel pretty comfortable at 19 we’ll get a pretty good player.”

The Sharks have never selected 19th, and Wilson left open the possibility that they could move up or down.

“People move up and down all the time. We’ve got a history of doing that so teams do reach out to us,” he said.

The Sharks moved up to pick Mueller in 2013, sending a second round pick to Detroit to jump ahead two places in a deal that now looks regrettable. The next year, they moved down seven spots before selecting Goldobin.

Less than a week ago, the Sharks didn’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds. But in dealing Mueller (and a fifth rounder this year) to the Devils, they acquired second and fourth round picks from New Jersey (49 and 123 overall). They also have a pair of sixth round picks and three in the seventh round.

While this year’s draft isn’t thought to be especially strong, Wilson still expects there to be some good players available after the first round. Getting some assets in exchange for Mueller, who had been passed over in the organization, was critical.

“I think it was important for us to fill in the grid like we did. I think it’s a good draft,” Wilson said. “Realistically, it’s probably not a Connor McDavid-Auston Matthews type draft, but there are some very good players in this draft that will go on and have very good careers.”

As for losing Mueller and Goldobin recently, the general manager seemed to say that that those are the breaks when you’re a team doesn’t make one of the first few selections.

“First of all, you’ve got to clarify where we pick and have picked. You’re not talking about top five picks or lottery picks, so often – and this is not to take away from Mirco and Goldie, because they’re really good players and good kids – you move players when you’re trying to win or trying to make things happen,” he said. 

“Historically, our scouts have done an outstanding job, one of the best records for a scouting staff in the league, since 2003 in particular. But, you can’t be afraid to be bold and move things.”

* * *

Although the Sharks have never made a pick in the 19th overall spot, they’ve been around it. Players include Tomas Hertl (17th overall, 2012), Marcel Goc (20th overall, 2001) and Marco Sturm (21st overall, 1996). 

Some notable players around the league taken 19th overall include Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay, 2012), Oscar Klefbom (Edmonton, 2011), Nick Bjugstad (Florida, 2010), Chris Kreider (Rangers, 2009), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim, 2003) and Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990).

* * *

The Sharks will hold their annual development camp from July 3-7 at their practice facility. It includes a scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday, July 6.