Midseason grades for Sharks defensemen, goalies
Performance at the halfway point
The Sharks are midway through the 2015-16 NHL season, sitting at second place in the Pacific Division. How have their blueliners and netminders fared thus far?
Brenden Dillon – B-plus
No Sharks defenseman has made a bigger year-over-year improvement than Brenden Dillon, who has settled in as a steady third-pairing stay-at-home guy. Dillon has six points (1g, 5a), and his plus-8 rating is third among Sharks blueliners. Advanced stats show the Sharks score 2.60 goals-per-game per 60 minutes when Dillon is on the ice as opposed to 2.00 goals-against, the highest positive margin among Sharks defensemen.
Paul Martin – B-plus
Martin, signed as a free agent out of Pittsburgh, has come as advertised. The veteran plays a steady, responsible game while partnered with Brent Burns – not the easiest of assignments considering Burns’ tendency to get involved in the offense. His 11 points (2g, 9a) and plus-one rating won’t leap off of the stats page, but Martin’s significance to the blue line was revealed in late October when he missed three games – all of them convincing Sharks losses, when they gave up a combined 14 goals.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – A
Once again, the steady Vlasic is arguably the team’s most indispensable player. Not only is he tied with partner Justin Braun for the best plus-minus among defensemen (+11), Vlasic has contributed seven goals and 25 points – two more points than he had all of last season in 70 games. He’s only 11 points off of his career high of 36 points set in 2008-09. He’s the rock on defense.
Justin Braun – B-plus
Braun is having a nice rebound year, with 18 points (1g, 17a) and a plus-11 rating paired mostly with Vlasic. After looking a step behind on many nights last season, Braun looks like he took his off-ice training a little more seriously this summer and is playing at a high level again. His grade is lower than Vlasic’s in that he hasn’t been able to take advantage of some opportunities to produce on the second power play unit, and isn’t quite as effective without his regular mate.
Dylan DeMelo – B
It took some time, but the Sharks finally found a player to lock down that sixth defenseman spot as Dylan DeMelo earned it ahead of the Matt Tennyson and Mirco Mueller. It was probably unfair for him to play his off side in his first two NHL games in October, but after a minor league stint he was placed on Brenden Dillon’s right and has been steady, albeit with some common nervous rookie moments. The Sharks could do much worse than DeMelo as a sixth d-man.
Matt Tennyson – C-minus
Tennyson came into training camp hoping to prove he was an NHL-ready player after so many years in the minor leagues, but it just hasn’t happened. He got off to a decent enough start, but seemed to lose the trust of the coaching staff after about a month. The Sharks will surely need a seventh defenseman to play at some point, and when they do, there are no guarantees it will be Tennyson who gets back into the lineup. The window may have closed for the 25-year-old.
Brent Burns – B-plus
The Sharks’ third-ranked power play runs through the All-Star Burns, who is second on the Sharks in scoring with 43 points, 19 of which have come with a man advantage. His offensive skills are undeniable, including his uncanny ability to put the puck on net. Burns loses points with his minus-nine rating, or, if you’re not a plus/minus proponent, consider that at five-on-five the Sharks get outscored by 0.63 goals-per 60 minutes when Burns is on the ice – the worst mark among regular San Jose defensemen. The question remains – is he playing the right position?
Martin Jones – B
Martin Jones has had his highs and lows in his first season as an undisputed starter, but his 23-13-3 record, 2.39 GAA and .915 SP are respectable enough numbers. His play gradually declined month-over-month until he was part of the team’s January resurgence. He’s still a an unknown factor for the second half and the postseason if the Sharks are able to lock down a playoff spot, but the sense here is that the team is better off with Jones in net than it was with Antti Niemi, who tended to wear down.
Alex Stalock – D
Let’s face it. Stalock is probably playing out the last few months of his Sharks career, as he hasn’t been able to find his game after a poor 2014-15. His .900 even-strength save percentage places him in 58th out of 60 NHL goalies that have played at least 10 games. He hasn’t looked comfortable, has a tendency to let in downright strange goals, and if Jones suffers any kind of significant injury, the Sharks would have to scramble to find someone else.