Sharks GM Wilson confirms shoulder surgery for Joel Ward


Sharks GM Wilson confirms shoulder surgery for Joel Ward

Sharks forward Joel Ward recently had surgery on his shoulder, general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement on Friday.

"Joel was dealing with a minor shoulder injury last season and, once the season ended, had a choice to either rehab the injury or to have a surgical procedure,” Wilson said. “Joel opted to proceed with the surgical procedure, which was completed successfully, and he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2017 season."

Ward was seen at the Oakland A’s game on Thursday night with his right arm in a sling.

In 78 games last season, Ward had 29 points (10g, 19a). He added one goal and three assists in six games in the playoffs.

The 36-year-old has one year remaining on his contract with San Jose, carrying a $3.275 million salary cap hit.

Sharks' latest four-game win streak due in part to fourth line success

Sharks' latest four-game win streak due in part to fourth line success

The Sharks have long expressed their desire to be a four-line team -- a squad that can roll out any forward combination and has success. As they’ve turned a corner over the last stretch of games, the forward depth is really starting to show. That is, in part, thanks to the recent surge from the fourth offensive line.

“Throughout a season, you can’t be a successful team unless you have all four lines going at different points of the year,” Logan Couture relayed to the media after the Sharks' 7-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday evening.

A game where the Sharks were down early in a two-goal hole and the fourth line started the come-from-behind dig out of it.

There’s been an ever-revolving turnstile of fourth-line centers for the first few months of the Sharks’ season – in part because of lineup changes due to injury, and in part, because that line simply hadn’t found chemistry yet.

San Jose’s forward assault opened up when Joe Thornton was moved to third-line center and found chemistry with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc. The move prompted some to question whether it made sense to number the lines at all. Nevertheless, it was difficult to throw away the idea of numbering the lines when that fourth combo still hadn’t found its footing.

Until a few games back, when Sharks’ bench boss Peter DeBoer moved winger Barclay Goodrow to the center position, placing Melker Karlsson and Lukas Radil on his wings. Ever since the move, the fourth line has been solidifying an identity. And the Sharks are better off because of it.

[RELATED: Erik Karlsson's offensive improvement]

“We want to come in every night and have an effect on the game,” Goodrow told the media after Sunday’s victory. “The fourth line’s pivotal.”

Both Goodrow and Karlsson found the back of the net during that game, with Radil setting up Karlsson for San Jose’s first goal on the evening. Safe to say that line had an effect on the game – and a positive one at that.

“That’s the kind of contributions we need from our fourth line,” DeBoer said. “That type of momentum, whether it’s a goal like it was tonight, but that kind of momentum. Momentum-type shifts.”

That momentum potentially comes from the fourth line playing a heavier game than they have earlier in the season. The addition of Radil – a 28-year-old rookie with KHL experience -- is a good compliment to Goodrow, who DeBoer calls “a big, strong guy” who’s “difficult to play against”. Karlsson rounds out the group nicely with his persistence and dependability.

“Melker consistently gives me the same game,” DeBoer added. “His production maybe isn’t there all the time, but you know what you’re getting from him every time he puts his uniform on.”

Consistency and grit are the additives this Sharks team needs to continue being successful. With the halfway point of the season in sight and competition in the Pacific Division the tightest it’s been all year, the team has to have the ability to roll out any line. If that line continues to play like it is right now, San Jose will be in good shape.

“It’s been a couple games,” DeBoer said of the fourth line’s success, “and we want to keep building it.”

Erik Karlsson's offensive improvement comes at perfect time for Sharks

Erik Karlsson's offensive improvement comes at perfect time for Sharks

Erik Karlsson is in the middle of his best offensive stretch with the Sharks. The defenseman extended the longest point streak of his San Jose career (so far) to five games with an assist in Sunday's win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Karlsson's strong production actually dates back a bit further.

His assist Sunday was his 15th point since Nov. 13, the night he ended a seven-game pointless streak. Those 15 points in a litte over a month is good for third-most on the Sharks, and third-most among all NHL defensemen, entering Monday.

Fifteen points (two goals, 13 assists) in 16 games isn’t surprising for someone who averaged 0.83 per game entering this season, but is far more than the mere seven Karlsson scored in his first 18 games in Teal. 

So what exactly is behind his offensive turnaround? You can point to regression to the mean, but it’s arguably even simpler than that: Karlsson just did what he does best. 

Let's get luck out of the way first, though. Karlsson has been luckier in his last 16 games than his first 18. The chart below notes the Sharks’ shooting percentages with Karlsson in 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 situations during each stretch, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Situation First 18 Games Last 16 Games
5v5 6.15% 8.21%
5v4 10.87% 19.57%

The power-play increase in particular is eye-popping, but neither of those percentages alone explain his improvement. Karlsson’s underlying numbers, however, fill in a lot of gaps. 

Karlsson has been a much more prolific shooter over his last 16 games. He's scored twice on the power play, and upped his shot/attempt rates at even strength -- as the table below shows.

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Stat First 18 Last 16
5v5 iCF/60 19.12 19.66
5v5 iFF/60 11.11 13.51
5v5 iSF/60 7.1 10.03
5v4 iCF/60 22.62 27.95
5v4 iFF/60 11.31 26.62
5v4 iSF/60 8.22 13.31

Karlsson has not only shot more over the last month, but he's also gotten more shots through. Nearly 75 percent of his shot attempts across all situations in the last 16 games were unblocked, compared to only 55 percent in his first 18 games. 

That has made a big difference on the power play, and should eventually pay dividends at even strength. On the season, Karlsson is generating 5-on-5 scoring chances at the fourth-highest rate of his career. Given his shot rate over the last 16 games would be the highest of his career, his first 5-on-5 goal may not be far away.

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' comeback win over Blackhawks]

As Karlsson gets more shots on net, so have the Sharks when he's been on the ice -- especially at even strength. Although San Jose has attempted about three fewer shots per hour when Karlsson played 5-on-5 in the last 16 games compared to the first 18, nearly four-and-a-half more were on frame. The Sharks have also generated an additional three-and-a-half scoring chances per hour in this timeframe. 

Relative to when he's been off the ice in 5-on-5 situations, Karlsson’s recent impact has been particularly evident. 

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
Stat First 18 Last 16
5v5 CF/60 REL +4.6 +13.8
5v5 CF% REL +4.42 +9.3
5v5 FF/60 REL -0.03 +12.49
5v5 FF% REL 2.06 +8.99
5v5 SF/60 REL -0.01 +11.38
5v5 SF% REL -0.58 +8.14

Those are staggering numbers. In the last 16 games, the Sharks have attempted nearly 14 more shots with Karlsson on the ice than when he wasn't. They also controlled 58.1 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts, up from 48.8 percent. 

With Karlsson on the ice over the last month, the Sharks have swam. When he wasn't, they have treaded water.

In fact, over a full season, the relative 5-on-5 numbers from Karlsson’s last 16 games would be better than any of his previous nine seasons. That near-decade includes two seasons in which he won a Norris Trophy, two more when he was a runner-up, and four as a first-team All-Star. 

[RELATED: Sharks top prospect Ryan Merkley traded to Peterborough Petes of OHL]

That impact has translated to goals for the Sharks, if not Karlsson himself. With Karlsson on the ice, the Sharks have scored an additional half-a-goal per hour of 5-on-5 play during that time. That was the sixth-highest rate on the team, despite Karlsson’s on-ice shooting percentage ranking only 13th. 

The sample size is much smaller, but it is still worth noting that the Sharks have attempted more 5-on-4 shots -- and more scoring chances -- with Karlsson on the ice in the last month. His impact hasn't been as pronounced as in 5-on-5 situations, but he's still been much better on the power play than in his first 18 games.  

Karlsson wasn’t bad in those first batch of games, but he wasn’t himself, either. The last month was a real step forward, as he's begun to look like the player who ratcheted the Sharks’ preseason expectations sky high. 

San Jose surely won’t mind if he sticks around.