Sharks

Marleau wore 'out a few carpets' making decision to leave Sharks

Marleau wore 'out a few carpets' making decision to leave Sharks

Patrick Marleau’s decision to leave San Jose for Toronto was, naturally, an arduous one.

“I think I’ve worn out a few carpets pacing around the house trying to make this decision over the last couple days,” said Marleau, who signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Maple Leafs on Sunday, ending his 19-year run in San Jose. 

“But, I’m extremely excited and happy to be a part of the Maple Leafs organization. It’s definitely an honor to be able to call myself a Maple Leaf, obviously being a Canadian-born player. This decision took me quite awhile to come to, but I’ve made it, and I’m happy with it. I can’t wait to get started.”

It’s certain that the Maple Leafs’ contract offer, which reportedly includes a full no-movement clause and is front-loaded with a salary of $8.5 million in the first season, was much better than what the Sharks were offering. The most recent report had a two-year contract offer from San Jose, and a source recently told NBC Sports California that other teams were willing to put significantly more money on the table than were the Sharks. The Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars were also thought to be in the running for Marleau’s services.

Toronto, though, won out. Head coach Mike Babcock has always been a Marleau fan, coaching the forward in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics as Team Canada captured back-to-back gold medals, and his presence behind the bench played a role.

“Having known [Babcock in the Olympics]…the work he’s done over his career speaks for itself,” Marleau said. “Knowing what he’s doing there with the team he has, and knowing what I can contribute, is extremely exciting for me.”
 
The Maple Leafs are among the league’s young teams on the rise, with Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews and forward Mitch Marner leading the way. They made the playoffs in 2016-17 for the first time in four seasons, losing to top-seeded Washington in the first round in a tightly contested six-game series in which five games went to overtime. 

Marleau, who is as durable a player as there is in the NHL and takes tremendous care of his body, will surely be counted on to show the youngsters how to act like a pro.

A reunion with the Sharks will come early, as Maple Leafs visit SAP Center on Oct. 30. San Jose appears at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 4, and Marleau and his family should be settled in by then.

Pondering that move across the continent is why Marleau’s decision dragged into the second day of NHL free agency, after most high profile players – including Joe Thornton, who has committed to return to the Sharks on a one-year deal – had made up their minds.

“The [Sharks] owners, Hasso Plattner and all the other owners here, the organization has been first class to me over the 19 years that I’ve been here. My wife and four boys, it was extremely tough to finally pull the trigger and have them move to a new country across, you know, from one coast to the other. 

“But everybody here in our house is extremely excited to be a part of the Maple Leafs and where they’re going. I’m ecstatic to be a part of that.”

Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

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Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

The Sharks witnessed firsthand the emergence of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native Nathan Mackinnon as a legitimate superstar in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Naturally, their reward is to face the NHL's first superstar from the area on Saturday. 

And of course, much like Mackinnon, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is playing some of the best hockey of his career. 

In 2018, no player has scored more points than the three-time Stanley Cup champion (15). In fact, three of the top five scorers in the new year skate in the Steel City: Evgeni Malkin is tied for third with 13 points, and Phil Kessel is right behind him in a tie for fifth with 12 points. 

The trio has powered the Penguins to a three-point lead on the Eastern Conference's final Wild Card spot. As recently as New Year's Eve, though, the Penguins were seventh place in the loaded Metropolitan Division, and three points back of the postseason. 

It was always a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' Pittsburgh would turn it on. Fatigue was always a possibility, as the back-to-back champions have played at least 13 more postseason games (49) than any other team in the league over the last two seasons, but any concerns seem firmly in the rearview mirror at the moment. 

The same cannot necessarily be said about the Sharks, whom the Penguins dispatched in six games in San Jose's first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Yes, they've won three out of four since the bye week, but haven't played all that well in the process.

Two of those wins came against the lowly Coyotes, and San Jose has barely out-possesed their opponents (50.74 five-on-five corsi-for percentage; 51.22 fenwick-for percentage, according to Corsica Hockey). They're scoring nearly a goal more per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.69) than before the bye (1.85), but are allowing nearly one-and-a-quarter more goals (3.58 five-on-five GA/60) than before the bye week (2.24).

The latter is, at least in part, because Martin Jones is not playing well. The Conn Smythe-like form that kept the Sharks in it against the Penguins two Junes ago has largely eluded him this season, and injury may have played a part. 

Jones is day-to-day with a minor injury, according to the Bay Area News Group's Paul Gackle, and the team recalled goaltender Troy Grosenick from the San Jose Barracuda on Friday as a result. That leaves Aaron Dell in net as the last line of defense against the Penguins. 

With Pittsburgh looking a lot like the team that celebrated a Stanley Cup win on San Jose's home ice two postseasons ago, stopping them will be a tall task. 

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.