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Marleau: Contract rules would hinder GMs

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Marleau: Contract rules would hinder GMs

SAN JOSE There are myriad reasons why the NHL and players association havent been able to reach a collective bargaining agreement yet, as the lockout surpassed the two-month mark on Friday.

The latest point of contention that is seemingly keeping the two sides at odds is player contract rights. Since their first proposal back in July, the owners have insisted on a five-year maximum length for all future deals, as well as no more than a five-percent variance on money from year-to-year. Essentially, the leagues owners want to prevent the kind of front loaded, salary cap circumventing deals that have become commonplace for the most sought after free agents (see Parise, Zach; Suter, Ryan).

Despite making progress on economic issues like revenue sharing and paying out the current deals in full, the owners have not moved off of their contract demands since their opening offer. In fact, its been reported that Gary Bettman said, were past the point of give-and-take in the previous bargaining session nearly a week ago. The two sides are set to resume negotiations on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Sharks center Patrick Marleau said on Friday that those contract demands from the league, should they be implemented, would adversely affect the way league general managers do business.
RELATED: Boyle worried about long-term NHL damage

I think it would be tough for any team to work under those conditions, Marleau said. The salary cap already kind of hindered GMs and what they could do, so you would just be handcuffing them that much more.

That could be true for some teams, but others - likely the majority - would welcome the new rules. And the Sharks are probably at the top of that list.

Its true that some clubs, specifically the big spenders, would have to re-evaluate the way they do business. Only a select few are willing to sign players to decade-long, nine-figure contracts, and it wasnt difficult to figure out which teams would be in play for the best free agent talent each summer. Evening out the playing field with new contracting rules would give many more clubs the opportunity to at least explore adding top-level talent in the open market.

In fact, Marleau plays for a club that may be the absolute best example of why new contracting restrictions might be welcomed.

The Sharks have avoided the kind of deals that the league is trying to outlaw while remaining competitive for many years, making the playoffs for eight straight seasons, including three trips to the Western Conference Finals. There is no Rick DiPietroWade ReddenIlya Bryzgalov contract here, casting a large shadow over the organization's future.

The Sharks have just seven players signed after the 2013-14 season, and four of those will be in the last year of their current deal in 2014-15 (Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Adam Burish are the only players signed after that). A logical case can be made that San Jose is one of the teams pushing for more restrictive contracting rules in order to be more competitive in the free agent market, although an NHL gag order prohibits the team from discussing anything related to the lockout.

Already known as one of the more desirable destinations in the league, the Sharks could become much more active players in free agency than they have been in recent years.

Marleau, incidentally, has two years remaining on his contract with the Sharks that would have paid him 6.9 million this season, making him the second highest paid player on the team. He stated a couple weeks ago that he was exploring options in Europe, but gave the impression on Friday that hes not close to committing to anything overseas at the moment.

Dan Boyle told CSNCalifornia.com on Friday that he was concerned about the damage the lockout might have on the sport that has treated him so well over the years.

Marleau, too, is worried that there may be fan backlash whenever the lockout ends. In fact, it may have happened already.

Yeah, definitely. I think theres already been damage and youre going to lose fans, he said. From where we were at, weve taken steps backwards. I think the game was going this way, up and up and up, and where it goes from heretheres going to be a lot of things that need fixing once we do get back to playing.

Joe Pavelski is currently on KHL Minsks injury report, but it doesnt appear to be anything too severe.

In a text message to CSNCalifornia.com, Pavelskis agent said his client banged up his knee a bit, but its nothing serious.

In seven games with Minsk, Pavelski has just one assist, six penalty minutes and is a minus-4.

The San Francisco Bulls are down to a single NHL player, and he still has no plans to suit up for the first-year ECHL club.

Defenseman Theo Peckham requested his release from the Bulls this week, as originally reported by CHEDs Dan Tencer, after going scoreless in four games with 11 penalty minutes. Peckham is in the last year of his deal with the Edmonton Oilers and will be a restricted free agent next summer.

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe continues to practice with the Bulls, but its unlikely hell play in a game at this point.

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now. 

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought?