- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage for the 2021-22 season. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at Sheng_Peng.
The Sharks brought free agent Nick Bonino in to solidify the third-line center role.
The 33-year-old was a smart bargain buy by the Sharks' front office to try to address their festering 3C problem. Signed for just two years and $4.1 million dollars ($2.05 million AAV), Bonino was a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the 2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins and was considered an ace third-line center as recently as his 2017-20 tenure with the Nashville Predators. From 2012-21, Bonino averaged a steady 0.48 Points Per Game and had earned a reputation for being a reliable defensive pivot.
Since Joe Thornton registered a robust 0.7 Points Per Game as San Jose’s 3C in 2018-19, the Sharks’ production up the middle from that hole had dried up. In 2019-20, a 40-year-old Thornton declined to 0.44 Points Per Game. The next year, an inexperienced Dylan Gambrell managed just 0.24 Points Per Game.
In much the same way, San Jose’s offense hit the skids. In 2018-19, the Sharks were second in the league in Goals Per Game. The next year, they were 28th, and in 2020-21, they were 25th.