Marcus White

Erik Karlsson, Sharks can learn from P.K. Subban's first Predators season


Erik Karlsson, Sharks can learn from P.K. Subban's first Predators season

The Sharks are in a position that’s familiar to the Nashville Predators.

San Jose is 9-6-3 in 18 games after acquiring two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in a blockbuster trade. Two years ago, Nashville was 8-7-3 in 18 games after acquiring Norris winner P.K. Subban in a blockbuster trade. 

The parallels are obvious. They’re both right-handed, puck-moving defensemen with accomplished resumes who switched conferences. 

But the circumstances -- and the players themselves -- are not identical.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson on the eve of training camp, while the Predators landed Subban before the start of free agency two summers ago. Subban largely filled the role of the defenseman he was traded for (Shea Weber), while Karlsson’s arrival rearranged a depth chart that featured another Norris Trophy winner in Brent Burns. 

[RELATED: Where Sharks stand in Pacific]

What might be the biggest difference, however, is that Karlsson isn’t off to the same offensive start that Subban was.

Subban came out of the gates firing. He scored on his first shot on goal -- and second attempt -- with the Predators. In his first 18 games, Subban scored 13 points, including seven on the power play. 

Karlsson, meanwhile, still is searching for his first goal with the Sharks. He picked up seven assists in his first 11 games, but he was held off the scoresheet in each of his last seven games. That’s not for a lack of trying, though. 

In his first 18 games with the Sharks, Karlsson fired 52 pucks on net. Subban, meanwhile, had 42 shots through his first 18 games. Five-on-five, Karlsson actually is shooting at a higher rate at this point with the Sharks than Subban was with the Predators.

5v5 stats, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
  Karlsson (2018-19) Subban (2016-17)
Shots/60 7.1 4.55
CF/60 19.12 8.56
FF/60 11.11 6.19
SCF/60 3.46 1.28
HDCF/60 0.18 0.36

What’s been the biggest difference in their respective starts? Individual finishing. 

Subban scored on 8 percent of his five-on-five shots in his first 18 games with the Predators, while his teammates scored on 3.9 percent of theirs with him on the ice. Karlsson, so far, has the opposite problem. He didn’t score on any of his 39 five-on-five shots, and his teammates scored on 8.2 percent of theirs. 

Finishing made the difference on the power play, too. Although Karlsson didn’t shoot nearly as much as Subban on the man advantage through 18 games, he wasn’t as lucky, either. Subban scored on two of his 14 shots, while Karlsson scored on none of his eight. 

Subban and Karlsson's respective starts both show how volatile a small sample size can be. Karlsson scored on 6.8 percent of his shots in all situations entering this season, and already would have about three goals -- 3.6, to be exact, but we’ll round down -- if he converted at that rate. Subban, meanwhile, entered his first season in Nashville with a 5.8 percent career shooting percentage. Yet, he scored on 11.9 percent of his shots at the start of his Predators tenure. 

Ultimately, Subban finished the season shooting closer to what was his career average. He converted on 5.0 percent of his shots in his final 48 games, scoring as many goals (five) as he did in his first 18 appearances.

The best predictor of the rest of Subban’s first season in Nashville proved to be his own career. That doesn’t mean the same thing is guaranteed to happen to Karlsson in San Jose, but the Sharks surely wouldn’t mind to see it turn out that way.

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Bears' Anthony Miller in Week 11


Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Bears' Anthony Miller in Week 11

It's the make-or-break point of your fantasy-football season. Once Week 11 concludes, chances are you'll have only two weeks to seal your spot in the playoffs. 

There are slim pickings on the waiver wire this late in the season, but it's still possible to find some value to get you over the hump. With that in mind, here are four players to target on the waiver wire in Week 11, each of whom is owned in fewer than 55 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. 

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans RB (Owned in 52.3 percent of ESPN leagues, 48 percent in Yahoo leagues)

Welcome to fantasy relevance, Mr. Henry. The Alabama product found the end zone for the third straight week, scoring two touchdowns on 11 carries for 58 yards. 

Henry hasn’t exceeded 60 rushing yards in a game this season, but Sunday marked the third straight week the 24-year-old hit double digits in PPR formats. He has a very favorable matchup against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11, so don’t let his running-back timeshare with Dion Lewis deter you. 

Josh Doctson, Washington WR (Owned in 16.6 percent of ESPN leagues, 10 percent in Yahoo leagues)

Doctson caught four passes for 46 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and upped his fantasy production for the fourth consecutive week. He was only targeted four times, but did score for the second straight game. 

Paul Richardson’s season-ending injury should open up more opportunities for Doctson in Washington’s passing game, even when fellow wide receiver Jamison Crowder comes back. If you’ve got Josh Gordon or Julian Edelman on a bye next week, you could do worse than Doctson as a fill-in.

Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears WR (Owned in 13 percent of ESPN leagues, 13 percent in Yahoo leagues)

Miller’s Bears feasted on the Detroit Lions Sunday, and the rookie wide receiver made sure he ate, too. He caught five passes (on six targets) for 122 yards and a touchdown in the blowout at Soldier Field. 

Those yards were only 88 fewer than Miller accumulated in the previous eight games combined. For the second straight week, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky targeted Miller more than wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, despite Allen Robinson’s return. A tough matchup with the Minnesota Vikings is on the table in Week 11, but Miller will still have value down the stretch. 

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks RB (Owned in 11.8 percent of ESPN leagues, 13 percent in Yahoo leagues)

Penny split time with running back Mike Davis in Chris Carson’s absence, but still delivered his best performance of the season Sunday. He carried 12 times for 108 yards and a touchdown, and established season-highs in each category. 

His timeshare with Davis muddies the waters a bit, but a quick turnaround against the Green Bay Packers means he should still have a role if Carson is unable to play. At the very least, you should have Penny on your roster as a cuff if you’re already carrying Carson.

NHL goalies making adjustments to new controversial chest protector


NHL goalies making adjustments to new controversial chest protector

SAN JOSE -- Over the course of a 12-year career as an NHL goalie, Sharks goaltending coach Johan Hedberg said he only changed his chest protector twice. 

“The one when I retired, there was nothing left,” Hedberg said in a phone interview with NBC Sports California. “[It was] like a wet sweater pretty much.”

Were he still playing, Hedberg would wear his third this season. Goalies around the league are wearing new, streamlined chest protectors under an updated rule from the NHL and the NHLPA in an effort to increase scoring and enforce uniform standards among netminders. The chest protector is the latest piece of goalie equipment to be regulated, following the shrinking of the leg pads and pants. 

Specifically, the chest and arm pads “must be anatomically proportional and size-specific” based on the goalies’ bodies. The result is more form-fitting, with slimmed down arms and strict regulations for padding around the shoulders and collarbone.

“Everybody’s got the same, level playing field,” Hedberg said. “I see no [downside] on shrinking some of the stuff, and just making it smarter where you do have the protection, but you’re not covering anything but your body.”

Early in the season, some goalies have questioned whether or not there is still enough protection, specifically in the arms and shoulders. 

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky told the Columbus Dispatch last month he had bruised arms and elbows for the first time in his career, and called the changes “terrible.” Goalies Braden Holtby, Brian Elliott, and James Reimer, among others, have also shared safety concerns.

Greg Balloch, a writer for the goalie-centric publication InGoal Magazine, saw this coming to some degree. This summer, he watched AHL goalie Ken Appleby in the new chest protector take a routine shot from an NHL player in a drill, only to cut it short. He said he understands why the goalies worry, since they face so many shots in practice. 

“You want to be protected,” Balloch said in a phone interview. "You're playing in the best hockey league in the world and these guys seem to find spots that normal shooters don't. And you know if you're not well protected, then it can be dangerous.”

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones said last week he hasn’t had any problems adjusting to the new equipment, while backup Aaron Dell said he’s “only had a couple of issues.”

“I have kind of noticed on the outer shoulders I get a couple more stingers and things like that,” Dell said last week at the Sharks’ practice facility. “For the most part, it’s not too different.”

Dell said he’s used to the changes now, but he only started practicing with his new chest protector “a week or two” before training camp. Joonas Korpisalo, who is Bobrovsky’s backup, told NBC Sports California last week that his came in days before his first preseason game. 

That’s perhaps because the approval process is far more involved. The league now scans all the chest protectors for compliance with a 3D scanner, NHL goaltending supervisor Kay Whitmore told InGoal this summer. 

The season is barely a month old, but goal-scoring is up. Teams are averaging 3.10 goals per game, an increase of 0.13 over last season. Whether that holds, or is driven at all by the rule changes, is unclear. 

Despite it all, goalies are adjusting. Korpisalo said the manufacturer of his chest protector was very responsive to his initial feedback, as was the case with his peers. 

“I think there’s a lot of guys who have the same problems,” Korpisalo said last week when the Blue Jackets were in the Bay Area. “Even before Sergei said that, we knew there [were] a lot of goalies who agree. … A lot of goalies, it helped to change manufacturers, find [the right chest protector]. For me, it worked.”

It remains to be seen if the controversy surrounding the chest protectors will persist. Hedberg thought a lot of the shortcomings, particularly in the shoulders, can “easily be fixed” without making the pads bigger.

Despite the public backlash, many goalies are in favor of the idea behind the rule, if not the execution.  Dissatisfaction with the new rules is driven by safety concerns, not about their save percentages and goals against averages, according to Balloch.

“They want the talent to rise to the surface,” Balloch said. “They don't want somebody succeeding just because of the gear. … They trust in their ability and the fact that they’ll be able to adapt.”