If you solely looked at the San Jose Sharks’ scoring totals, you’d think they were much improved over last season.
After 39 games, they’ve scored 10 more goals this season (107) than they did last year (97). That translates to about 0.25 goals per game, which looks like substantial progress on its own.
Of course, that ignores league-wide context. At this time last season, the Sharks were tied-for 19th in goals for, when they’re tied-for 27th entering Sunday.
That’s because scoring is up, league-wide. As ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski noted in November, more goals are being scored for a litany of reasons, including the league’s crackdown on slashing and the Vegas Golden Knights’ entry into the league.
Teams are, on average, averaging 2.95 goals per game, the highest average since 2006-07. That’s 0.18 more per game than last season.
San Jose’s opponent on Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets, are among the teams to most benefit from the scoring boom. In 42 games, they’ve scored 139 goals, 25 more than last year after the same number of games, and 0.4 more per game.
Given where the two teams stood entering the season, this makes perfect sense.
Winnipeg didn’t lose any significant players this offseason, and as the league’s fifth-youngest team according to NHL Numbers, benefit from another year under their belts. Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and (now-injured) Mark Scheifele form one of the league’s most prolific young cores.
San Jose, meanwhile, lost Patrick Marleau, their third-leading goal-scorer, and did nothing to replace his production. The Sharks have their own promising group of young forwards emerging, but they’re still the league’s fifth-oldest team, and that emergence has been much more muted than Winnipeg’s.
The NHL’s scoring boom is a rising tide that’s lifted all boats, but has not lifted all boats equally. Apologies for the mixed metaphor, but those notions will be on full display during Sunday’s matinee between the Sharks and Jets.
Winnipeg was one of the best offensive teams last year, and they’re even better this season, compared to the rest of the league. San Jose was not, and they’re even worse compared to the rest of the league.
You can take solace in the Sharks' offensive “improvement.” but you must do so at your own risk. The rest of the league has, on average, also improved, and teams like Winnipeg have improved far more.
All together, that’s rendered San Jose's own increase largely meaningless.