Thornton's power play numbers tumble


Thornton's power play numbers tumble

SAN JOSE The success or failure of a teams power play unit is not one mans responsibility. Lets get that out of the way first.

But a closer look at team captain Joe Thorntons production, or lack thereof this season, provides a window into that Sharks recent trouble with a man advantage.

The Sharks are now just 10-for-82 on the power play since Nov. 26 (12.2 percent), a span of 25 games. To put that in perspective, the Montreal Canadiens own the leagues worst power play at 12.3 percent.

Thornton has just one power play goal and two power play assists over that same time frame.

Thornton has thrived in his career on the power play, as the chart below shows. This year its been the opposite. He has just seven points (1g, 6a), placing him in a tie for 137th in the league in power play points after he finished in the Top 10 in four of his previous six seasons in San Jose (including 2005-06, when he came over mid-season from Boston).

Whats wrong?

Weve put him in a different position on the breakout, which is one, and weve talked about returning him back there, Todd McLellan said on Thursday. Secondly, that group, or that five-some, just hasnt produced as much. You can look at some of the opportunities, and Jumbo in particular, where hes had open nets. We can refer back to a few games, and he either hasnt beared down or the goaltender has made one heck of a save."

Sometimes it goes really good and sometimes it just doesnt, Thornton said. I think right now, for whatever reason, its just not going in the back of the net. Weve still got a lot of time, and theres always parts of your game that you guys (the media) are asking like how come your 5-on-5 is not good, or your penalty kill? Its one of those things where hopefully it can get going.

The Sharks power play has dropped to 19th in the NHL (16.9 percent), after finishing second last season (23.5 percent).

Im still concerned with our power play, McLellan said, before his team went 0-for-3 in Thursday nights loss to Ottawa. I think it can be much better. Is that number 19s responsibility? Partly, but theres four other players that are on the ice at that given time.

The band only works when its all playing in unison. Its not one guy strumming away, its all five guys playing at the same time.

Even so, if the power play is going to start producing, Thornton is certainly going to have to play a major role.

I think Jumbo would like to have more production there, and hes the focal point. Its his power play; it runs through him, McLellan said.

Theres other pieces in the mix, and they have to be productive, and when were short staffed or lose some key offensive players, thats the time to make hay is the power play. On this three game road trip, well need a productive power play to have success.

Joe Thonton's power play numbers through the years:

NHL Rank

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”