Sharks

The trade the Sharks and Coyotes should have made

chayka-dw-ap-usatsi.jpg
AP/USATSI

The trade the Sharks and Coyotes should have made

The San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes both had their CBA-mandated ‘bye week’ this past week, but the Desert Dogs were far busier during their time off.

On Thursday, the Coyotes acquired winger Richard Panik and defenseman Laurent Dauphin from Chicago. Leaving Arizona were 22-year-old forward Anthony Duclair, as well as minor-league defenseman minor league defenseman Adam Clendening.

Duclair’s departure from the Pacific division, not Panik’s presence in it, most affects the Sharks. That’s not because he’s been particularly successful against San Jose, since Duclair has not scored a single point in nine career games as a Sharks opponent.

Instead, San Jose should lament the Duclair deal as one they did not get done.

He would have fit well on a team desperately needing speed and youth as the league trends in each direction. San Jose will never be mistaken for the league’s fastest group, and they’re already the fifth-oldest, according to The Athletic.

Only Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier are younger than Duclair, who could have given the Sharks another (baby) face in their emerging youth movement. The same cannot be said of the other players San Jose’s been linked to.

Evander Kane, for example, is 26, and half-a-season away from unrestricted free agency. Meanwhile, Duclair will become a restricted free agent this summer, and is (at the earliest) three seasons away from becoming an unrestricted one.

That kind of cost certainty will become increasingly important to the Sharks, and soon. Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic will see their new deals kick in next season, while Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are eligible to sign new contract extensions.

Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney are restricted free agents this summer, while Labanc and Meier will need new deals after next season. San Jose should still have space to spend, but that’s a sizeable commitment as is.

In other words, a pending free agent like Kane will be hard to retain. Meanwhile, acquiring a player with term on their deal, such as Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, means the Sharks would not only give up more trade assets, but future flexibility.

For good reason, it didn’t take as much for Chicago to acquire Duclair as it would have to trade for those other players. He’s coming off of a 15-point season, and has only scored 20 goals once so far in his career.

Plus, there are concerns about what drove Duclair to request a trade in the first place. Duclair told Chicago reporters that he “felt like [he] needed a change of scenery” and that he “didn’t have the leash others had” in the desert.

Arizona general manager John Chayka, for his part, told AZ Central “the team wasn’t particularly happy with the player and the player wasn’t particularly happy with the team.” Given San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer’s shorter leash for young players at times, it’s fair to wonder how Duclair would have handled a similar situation with the Sharks.

But his upside is difficult to deny, and San Jose will be hard-pressed to find another available player at the trade deadline that young and that skilled. The Sharks could’ve used Duclair this season and beyond, but now will have to turn their attention to older, pricer options.

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

sharks-jones-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

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. 

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

sharks-avalanche-us.jpg
USATSI

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought?