Midseason grades for Sharks forwards
Grades at the halfway point
The Sharks are 26-18-4 midway through the 2015-16 NHL season, and sit at second place in the Pacific Division. How have their forwards fared up until this point?
Joe Pavelski – A-plus
It’s just another season for Pavelski as one of the NHL’s premier goal-scorers. The 31-year-old is first on the Sharks and tied for fourth in the league with 25 scores, and his 49 points is tops on the team. There hasn’t been a single NHL player more clutch than Pavelski, either, as his eight game-winning goals leads the league, and his four go-ahead goals in the third period are tied for the league lead.
Dainius Zubrus – C
A mid-season addition, Zubrus has two points (1g, 1a) in 18 games since he was brought in by coach Pete DeBoer, who had the veteran in New Jersey. Zubrus wasn’t added to light up the score sheet; rather, he is expected to act as a role model for the depth forwards. In that sense, it’s difficult to judge Zubrus’ impact, as he was recently injured for nine games. He’s versatile and can kill penalties, though, so he’s still a good guy to have around.
Patrick Marleau – B
Marleau’s strong play at center while Logan Couture was out allowed the Sharks to keep their heads above water, and his 15 goals and 32 points puts him on pace to have a better season than last year when he wasn’t very good by his standards. Marleau loses points due his team-worst minus-13 rating, and that he has no goals in a manned net in his last 13 games.
Mike Brown – C
Brown has managed to stay in the lineup for 42 of 48 games, so he’s obviously doing something right in coach Pete DeBoer’s eyes, even though he is averaging just 7:10 of ice time. It’s worth noting, too, that the Sharks’ two worst games of the season – Dec. 8 in Calgary and Jan. 2 vs. Winnipeg – were games in which Brown did not suit up. Brown has one goal and two assists to go along with his team-high 59 penalty minutes.
Joe Thornton – A
While Pavelski is probably the mid-season favorite for team MVP, Thornton has been the Sharks’ best player during their 10-game point streak. Had he registered a point on Jan. 7 against Detroit, the 36-year-old veteran would be riding an incredible 19-game point streak. As it stands, his 25 points since Dec. 15 is second only to Patrick Kane over that span. Thornton is third on the Sharks with 41 points and is tied with Pavelski with a team-high plus-18 rating.
Joonas Donskoi – B
Clearly trending in the right direction, Donskoi saw a five-game point streak snapped on Tuesday but seems to be gaining confidence as the year goes on. He’s seemingly found some real chemistry with Logan Couture since those two were put on a line together recently. With 7 goals and 21 points in his first 42 NHL games, the hard-working 23-year-old will be a player to watch in the season’s second half.
Logan Couture – I (Incomplete)
Couture has contributed a respectable 10 points in 17 games, interrupted twice by a pair of significant injuries that he’s still likely recovering from. The Sharks are 12-3-3 with Couture in the lineup, suggesting he’s one of a handful of indispensable players on the roster that San Jose simply needs to remain healthy to contend for a playoff spot.
Joel Ward – A
Ward has exceeded expectations in his first season in San Jose, and with 15 goals and 32 points, he’s on pace for new career highs in both. The 35-year-old contributes in other areas, too, killing penalties and using his big body to win battles along the wall and wear down opponents. He should continue to be a key contributor in the second half.
Tomas Hertl – B
Just like Donskoi, Hertl is trending in the right direction now that he’s been reunited with Thornton on the Sharks’ top line. The 22-year-old has 11 points in his last 10 games (6g, 5a) after potting just two goals in his previous 34 games before Pete DeBoer moved him from the center position to the top line wing. Still a young player, Hertl’s game tends to ebb and flow based on his confidence, and he should be plenty confident headed into the second half.
Chris Tierney – C-plus
Tierney was among the Sharks’ more disappointing players before he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda for two games at the start of the month. Since then, he has eight points (3g, 5a) during the Sharks’ 10-game point streak, and his fourth line is giving the team good minutes. He’ll have to keep it up, otherwise, as Pete DeBoer has already suggested, another trip to the Barracuda could be in his future.
Tommy Wingels – C
When it comes to point production, Wingels’ four goals and 13 assists in 47 games is hugely disappointing. Considering the minutes he plays and his linemates, the 27-year-old should be at a point in his career where 15-20 goals and 40 points is expected. While that hasn’t happened, and isn’t likely to this year, Wingels is still among the Sharks’ more physical players and draws more penalties than anyone else on the team.
Melker Karlsson – C-minus
The Sharks’ rookie of the year last year got off to a rough start when an injury forced him to miss training camp and the first 14 games. Upon his return he was labeled as a “legitimate top six forward” by Pete DeBoer, but recent results suggest that’s just not the case, as Karlsson has just 10 points in 33 games. At one point, he had one goal and no assists in an 18-game span. He can be better.
Matt Nieto – D
The ship may have sailed on Nieto, a former second round pick, becoming a legitimate top nine NHL forward. He has 6 goals and 11 points in 44 games to go with a minus-8 rating, and was mishandled by Sharks management, who should have kept him in the minor leagues for a full season at the very least. He's a good candidate to get moved at some point if the Sharks are involved in anything leading up to the trade deadline.