SAN JOSE The success or failure of a teams power play unit is not one mans responsibility. Lets get that out of the way first.
But a closer look at team captain Joe Thorntons production, or lack thereof this season, provides a window into that Sharks recent trouble with a man advantage.
The Sharks are now just 10-for-82 on the power play since Nov. 26 (12.2 percent), a span of 25 games. To put that in perspective, the Montreal Canadiens own the leagues worst power play at 12.3 percent.
Thornton has just one power play goal and two power play assists over that same time frame.
Thornton has thrived in his career on the power play, as the chart below shows. This year its been the opposite. He has just seven points (1g, 6a), placing him in a tie for 137th in the league in power play points after he finished in the Top 10 in four of his previous six seasons in San Jose (including 2005-06, when he came over mid-season from Boston).
Weve put him in a different position on the breakout, which is one, and weve talked about returning him back there, Todd McLellan said on Thursday. Secondly, that group, or that five-some, just hasnt produced as much. You can look at some of the opportunities, and Jumbo in particular, where hes had open nets. We can refer back to a few games, and he either hasnt beared down or the goaltender has made one heck of a save."
Sometimes it goes really good and sometimes it just doesnt, Thornton said. I think right now, for whatever reason, its just not going in the back of the net. Weve still got a lot of time, and theres always parts of your game that you guys (the media) are asking like how come your 5-on-5 is not good, or your penalty kill? Its one of those things where hopefully it can get going.
The Sharks power play has dropped to 19th in the NHL (16.9 percent), after finishing second last season (23.5 percent).
Im still concerned with our power play, McLellan said, before his team went 0-for-3 in Thursday nights loss to Ottawa. I think it can be much better. Is that number 19s responsibility? Partly, but theres four other players that are on the ice at that given time.
The band only works when its all playing in unison. Its not one guy strumming away, its all five guys playing at the same time.
Even so, if the power play is going to start producing, Thornton is certainly going to have to play a major role.
I think Jumbo would like to have more production there, and hes the focal point. Its his power play; it runs through him, McLellan said.
Theres other pieces in the mix, and they have to be productive, and when were short staffed or lose some key offensive players, thats the time to make hay is the power play. On this three game road trip, well need a productive power play to have success.
Joe Thonton's power play numbers through the years: