Sharks 2016-17 mid-season grades: Forwards
Still coming together
The Sharks offense is running a little better lately, after it was a real struggle through December to get consistent goal-scoring. San Jose has moved up to a much more respectable 17th in the NHL in goals-per game (2.66) after hovering in the mid-20s for some time. Here, we hand out grades for the team’s forwards that have played at least 20 games. Again, these are based on performance as well as expectations.
Mikkel Boedker – D
The Sharks certainly expected more than the 17 points Boedker has given them so far, as he’s struggled to fit in. Although the speedy winger has shown flashes of being effective, Boedker has already been scratched once, and has been benched late in games on multiple occasions. He’s been given plenty of chances to produce, too, often skating in a top six role and playing on the second power play unit. Half of Boedker’s goal output (six) came in one game in Edmonton on Jan. 10.
Logan Couture – C
In last year’s playoffs, it took Couture just 24 games to score 30 points. This season it took him 47 games to reach 30 points, and he sits on 33 at the break (17g, 16a). He’s also been miserable in the faceoff circle – among players that have taken at least 200 draws, he’s 132nd out of 133. While this grade may seem a little low, the expectations for Couture were higher this year as he should be in the prime of his career. He’ll need to be better in the second half and in the playoffs.
Joonas Donskoi – C-minus
Donskoi is much like Boedker in that the expectation was he would have more than the 15 points he’s posted in 44 games this season. He’s battled through some injuries along the way, so perhaps that has played a role, but Donskoi is on pace for fewer points than he had in his rookie season last year.
Micheal Haley – B-plus
Although he’s out with a lower body injury, and, frankly, Haley may not be needed much in the second half, the brawling winger has been effective in limited minutes. He has six assists and a team-leading 58 penalty minutes, and was playing particularly well on an effective fourth line before he came out of the lineup a week and a half ago.
Tomas Hertl – Incomplete
Hertl was just getting comfortable centering the third line when he suffered his latest right knee injury in mid-November. Coach Pete DeBoer has made it no secret that he’d like to get Hertl back in that role as soon as possible, although he had him on the left wing in Hertl’s first game back on Thursday. How he’s utilized will be something to monitor in the weeks coming out of the All-Star break.
Melker Karlsson – B
In his third NHL season, Karlsson has settled into a nice role for the Sharks. While he’s probably best suited as a fourth line energy guy, he has the ability to play higher in the lineup on a short-term basis if necessary. His six goals and 13 points is probably right on par with what was expected of him before the season began.
Kevin Labanc - A-minus
No doubt Kevin Labanc has hit a bit of a wall in his rookie year, not scoring a goal in his past 13 games. In fact, he’s not even on the roster at the All-Star break, getting reassigned to the Barracuda. He’ll undoubtedly be back at some point this season, though, and can build on what he’s accomplished with 14 points in his first 37 games. He’s already exceeded expectations, and it’s going to be fun to watch him develop over the next few years.
Patrick Marleau – B
The most encouraging aspect of Marleau’s goal production this season is that all but three of his 17 goals have been at even strength. Last season, 11 of his 25 were on the power play. Marleau has been moved all around the lineup, and lately has settled back onto the left wing with Couture. Perhaps that’s where he stays for a little while, because they looked to be having some chemistry together before the break.
Joe Pavelski – B
After getting 38 goals last season, it’s going to be a struggle for the captain to reach 30 this year, with 16 through 50 games. The 32-year-old was really struggling going into the All-Star break, with one goal in 10 games, and didn’t get to enjoy any time off, either, joining the festivities in Los Angeles. Thornton’s decline has probably hurt Pavelski, too, leading to speculation that it may be time to break the two of them up.
Joe Thornton – C-minus
His 37 years, the compacted schedule, and the amount of hockey he’s played lately are all likely to blame for Thornton having 31 points in 50 games – and a shocking zero goals in a manned net. Thornton just hasn’t looked like the player that surged in the second half last season and finished fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy. While the prediction here is he’ll have a better second half (the bye week in late February should help), it may be time to start reducing Thornton’s minutes – especially if Hertl ends up back in the middle – if he can’t get it going.
Chris Tierney – C
Tierney, like Donskoi, also hasn’t quite taken that leap in his game that looked like it might be coming after last season’s playoff run. It’s becoming more and more likely that Tierney’s ceiling is that of a fourth line center, which is where he was playing before Tomas Hertl got hurt. It’s fair to wonder if Ryan Carpenter, who has been solid since getting recalled, is pushing for Tierney’s spot on that fourth line, though, whenever Hertl moves back to the middle of the third line.
Joel Ward – C
After not looking like himself through the first few weeks, resulting in his removal as a healthy scratch for two games in mid-December, Ward has been a whole lot better lately. He had just nine points in his first 31 games when he was scratched on Dec. 20, but since then, Ward has nine points in his last 17 games. Still, with just five goals, he’s well off of his pace of 21 in 79 games last season.