Sharks

Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks biggest news of week in Bay Area sports

Patrick Marleau leaving Sharks biggest news of week in Bay Area sports

The biggest news of the week – and here we emphasize “news” in its classic sense, as an event outside our current expectations or a new development on an old subject – was not the Warriors’ crazed money-burning, or the Giants’ sudden application of proper baseball techniques to a recognizable end.
 
It was Patrick Marleau leaving San Jose for, of all places, Toronto. It violated every assumption we made of the man and his market while on a secondary level making perfect sense.

[RELATED: Iguodala shares 'a gem' when it comes to gaining free-agent leverage]
 
Andre Iguodala got a new deal, which was one million dollars per annum and one year longer than we thought the Warriors would be comfortable giving. Stephen Curry signed for the most money a fellow in his position could receive (though not nearly as much as he is worth, both to his organization and to the NBA as a whole). Kevin Durant agreed to defer his humongous payday for a bit, by a bit.
 
And the Giants caught a foundering Colorado team and a very Pittsburgh’y Pirate team at the right moment for their fading self-esteem, while making a lot of little roster moves that suggest a surreptitious rebuild that nobody believes the management would ever stand.
 
But it is Marleau, who did 18 years as a Shark, going to Toronto for three years and $18.75 million that was the biggest surprise – especially after his bosom mate, Joe Thornton, agreed to a one-year deal to stay.
 
And nobody saw that coming.
 
Marleau was a peculiarly great player in that he never seemed to fully satisfy. His skills were hailed but his consistency in exhibiting them was sometimes in doubt. He was, in that way, a bit like talented centers in the NBA, who are always judged by what we think they should always be able to do and what they actually end up doing.
 
His numbers are Hall of Fame quality, especially now that Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the HOF, but he lacks the signature moment or moments that define the word of mouth that helps make such a career. To this day, he befuddles people who learn that he scored 40 goals only once and achieved 90 points no times at all. He finished in the top three for a postseason award only once (the 2006 Lady Byng for being no trouble to anyone) and played in only three All-Star Games, and yet his numbers when compared to his fellow players puts him a group of second-level Hall of Famers with Ron Francis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Frank Mahovlich and Gilbert Perreault.
 
It also does not help him that he played for a franchise that is defined in part by its postseason underachievements. Nor, for that matter, that he was always the guy who avoided the limelight or attention on a team that needed all the sparks it could get in a crowded entertainment field. He was very good at being “there” while being virtually undetectable.
 
And his new destination is the hockey media capital of the universe, where nothing he does (or does not do) will go undissected, and the privacy he and his family so cherished in California will be a thing of the past. He will not be under a microscope as much as under a magnifying class as wielded by a bully who likes burning things, especially when you consider that he will be a 40-year-old when his contract enters its final year.
 
In other words, he went to the place where the radar doesn’t let anything fly beneath it. He is taking center stage after decades of having been used to working in the wings, at a time when most players appreciate less notice rather than more.
 
So in all these ways and probably dozens more only he knows, Marleau the Leaf is an amazing development, and at only one-third the Iguodala price and one-tenth that of Curry.
 
In other words, sometimes the biggest news comes at a bargain. Not always, but for Patrick Marleau, that seems to be the one thing that does make sense about this seemingly nonsensical bit of real news.

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.