Every once in a while I leave the diamond for the ice, and as we get ready to flip the old page on the calendar once again, I thought now would be a great time to review how my hometown team San Jose Sharks, are doing so far in 2009.
Overall, the Sharks are leading the Pacific Division with 47 points, the second best total in the Western Conference (the Blackhawks lead the way with 49 points). However, the club is just 4-3-3 in their last 10 games as they have struggled to win at home for the first time since Todd McLellan took over the club at the start of last season (they have still lost only two of 16 home games in regulation going 9-2-5 despite the recent rough stretch).
Now on to the player report cards.
Joe Thornton – Grade A: Leads the NHL with 39 assists and 48 points. He could shoot the puck more frequently, but why quibble with greatness?
Dany Heatley – A: Tied for fourth in the NHL with 21 goals, he is second with 10 on the power-play in his first season in SJ.
Patrick Marleau – A: Stripped of the captaincy, he has lit it up this season with 21 goals (tied with Dany H.) leading to 37 points in 35 games
Dan Boyle – A: A fiery leader, Boyle has been beat up all year but still has 29 points in 35 contests.
Scott Nichol – A: A putrid fantasy performer with only four points and a (-7), his effort has brought the right amount of spunk to a team in need of energy. He is also dynamic in the face-off circle with a 61.9 percent mark, the second best total in the league.
Ryane Clowe – B: Started out very slowly but rounding into shape nicely with 19 points in his last 21 games.
Evgeni Nabokov – B: The .920 save percentage is great, and the 2.35 GAA isn’t too shabby, but his 17-5-7 record could improve if he limited the cheap goals a bit more.
Joe Pavelski – B: Limited due to injury, “Little Joe” is death to goalies in the shootout and not to bad during the regular game either with 15 points and a +7 in 20 contests.
Manny Malhotra – B: Not much offense to speak of (13 points) but he was signed for his two-way play and face-off prowess.
Jason Demurs – B: An undrafted rookie, he has spent some time in the minors but he brings a nice right-handed shot to the power-play (13 points, six with the man advantage, in 28 games).
Douglass Murray – B: Seven points, +7 and 37 PIM. Those numbers don’t come close to striking the fear in opponent’s hearts like his thundering checks do.
Rob Blake – C: Hard to judge his first year effort at Sharks’ captain given injury, but his on ice production is down (2g, 6a, +2 in 24 games).
Devin Setoguchi – C: With nine goals in 23 games his scoring pace is that of a30-goal man over the course of a full season, but the young scoring star has only one goal in his last 11 games.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – C: Rarely makes a mistake or gets caught of position while playing big minutes.
Kent Huskins – C: You don’t usually recognize that he has played, not necessarily a bad thing for a mostly stay at home defenseman.
Jed Ortmeyer -C: One of those grinders every successful teams need, Jed has chipped in four goals and four assists for the club.
No matter what the grade is for any of the players that I’ve mentioned, the only thing that matters in San Jose this year is getting a chance to win the cup. If the club fails to advance in the playoffs it won’t matter if every guy on this list ends the regular season with an “A” next to his name. This team will be judged by the number 16 – the total number of victories needed to hoist the cup.
By Ray Flowers