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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OGA SPR: The San Jose Sharks - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the San Jose Sharks - the 25th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The San Jose Sharks as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The San Jose Sharks consistently start their seasons with more winning than losing. Having lost in the second round to the Dallas Stars in the 07-08 Stanley Cup playoffs the previous year, and with a new coach at the helm, last year's eventual President Trophy winners started the 2008-09 season at a pace that baffled the league and put up points that would carry them through the ups and downs of their campaign.

They won 25 of their first 30 games. But by Game 10, OGA saw the Sharks meet several key demarcations along the PQC, enabling us to correctly call the San Jose Sharks 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) on October 28th, 2008!

The Sharks would finish the season with a remarkable 5.85 PQC rating, continuing the pattern of upping their own PQC average score as they have done each season since the lockout.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: In the 2008-09 NHL season the San Jose Sharks bucked several previously consistent trends as had been established by their play when measured against the PQC. Sadly, they did not buck the trend of a premature exit from the playoffs.

In the four previous seasons (going back to the lockout), the Sharks had consistently improved their play and winning percentage from games 10-20, regardless of what they had done in the first ten. Their performance on the Curve then dips down in the three seasons before last year's campaign between games 20 and 30. But the 08-09 Sharks actually improved their winning percentage during this furlong.

Between games 30 and 40, again, the Sharks show remarkable consistency with a nosedive in wins and on their PQC rating. You may remember last season some folks had projected the Sharks to finish the regular season with some ridiculous point total in the 130s (or thereabouts) based on their incredible start to the season in the first few months.

Then came the losing.

The Sharks dropped a full 3 points on the Curve between games 30 and 40 and another 2.5 points between games 60 and 70. This last dip was another break from their trending as in the seasons previous, they had risen dramatically in their PQC rating during that time in preparation for the playoffs.

The Sharks' departure from the team trends last season may have meant their playoff push came a little too late. They won the winnable games, taking 7 of their last 12 but still appeared to slump into the playoffs, rather than attack. The uncharacteristic play as noted when compared to the PQC (and as noted when the Sharks won over COL in a 1-0 shootout then lost to Phoenix and Los Angeles to close out the 08-09 regular season) may have been incremental in their shocking first-round loss to the Anaheim(surprisinglymighty)Ducks.

Despite the ups and downs, the Sharks did manage, for the fourth season in a row, to raise their average PQC rating - now residing at a lofty 5.388. And although playoff expectations were not met again last season, the Sharks come into the 2009-10 campaign ready and hungry. And that, my friend is a bad thing if'ns you prefer one of the other 29 teams.

Hungry Sharks will eat and are to be avoided.

  • In the summer of discontent, where the fans and the media claimed big changes were needed to propel this regular-season wunderkind to the Finals, the San Jose Sharks changed very little. Some minor tweaks here, some chum there. But if there is anything the pre-season signing of Dany Heatley proves, it is the notion this club views the upcoming season as a chance for a good veteran squad, with opportunities of promotion for their prospects, to perform. And if they don't, they will make a move or three during the course of the season to complete the team and solve their conundrum.
  • And perhaps the biggest splashes of change in the Shark Tank will come during the season. Elite players will be viewed with a keen eye and we at OGA wouldn't be surprised if more big trades were offered up during the course of the season depending on, well, the course of the season. Pre-pre-season moves have cleared up some salary cap space for future considerations. Sharks fans simply cannot endure another superior regular season followed by a sub-par playoff run. As Fear the Fin put it, in their post with the best title ever (see the title to the entry dated April 27, 2009 10:38PM PDT by Mr. Plank),
"Stunned. Shocked. Numb. Disappointed that a season, a season that had so much promise, has been ripped away in a mere six games....This series will be recapped tomorrow. If you're expecting something more right now, go ahead and start your own blog."
  • To set the stage for the internal changes of operation, the team has stripped Patrick Marleu of his Captaincy and taken the 'A' away from Joe Thornton. The idea is to see who earns these leadership roles through the course of camp and the pre-season. For Wednesday night's game (09.23.09), the Sharks skated captain-less but with three 'A's - Marleau, Thornton, and Dan Boyle. Boyle is considered to be the fan-favorite as a fresh start for the Sharks' Captaincy - and a deserving player/person.
  • IN For the Swim: Dany Heatley! And then Joe Callahan, Dwight Helminen, Manny Malhotra (an excellent signing for what he will bring to the ice, the locker room, and the team-friendly, Jere Lehtinen-like discount hit to the cap), Scot Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, Daniel Rahimi, Patrick White.
  • Move Along, Nothing Left to See Here: Gone from San Jose are (some fairly big names from the roster): Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, traded to Ottawa in the Dany Heatley trade. Wingers Riley Armstrong, Travis Moen, Lukas Kaspar and Mike Grier, have moved to other towns along with defensemen Brad Lukowich, Christian Ehrhoff, Brett Westgarth and backup goalie Brian Boucher. Forward Marcel Goc is in Nashville and Jeremy Roenick and Claude Lemieux retired this summer.


The Sure Thing: Joe Thornton (C). Many of the complaints from the anxious and the frustrated are in regards to big Joe's failure to propel the team deeper into the playoffs. It's debatable if one player can be singled out in such a fashion in a sport where team play is so vital to success, but nonetheless (andalwaysthemore), nobody every complains about Thornton's regular season prowess. And that's why he will be high on everybody's draft roster and should be on yours, as well. Last season, he posted 86 points (25/61) and will now likely be playing with Dany Heatley. Put them on the ice at the same time (hello, power play. you like nice this evening...) and Joe's assist-count is going up. He is also projected to crack 30 goals this season.

TrustyRusty: Dan Boyle (D). Not at all Rusty, but quickly becoming the Trusty in San Jose, the favored consideration for the new Captaincy of the Sharks' squad was fifth in team scoring last season posting 57 points (16/41) in 77 games. His minutes will go up, he's got a knack for offense and should be considered a top-10 choice for your d-doods. Plus, he's just a cool guy.

Up and Coming: Devin Setoguchi (RW). Last season, the Frozen Pill pointed out to a co-writer how good Setoguchi was playing early in the season...and how he just might be the hot hand coming out of the Shark Tank. In other words, Cheech-Who? Well, said co-writer listened well and went out snagged Devin from the free agent list before the Pill was done pontificating and debating and correlating and mad-scientisting away about the pick-up opportunity. Don't be last season's Pill. Get you some Setoguchi and you'll be better by morning.

Under the Radar: Joe Pavelski (C). Pavelski is coming into his own and will be one of the Sharks whose expectations will rise each season and his performance will increase in kind. Last season, he posted 59 points (25/34) in 80 games and will likely center the second line this season. He is only 25 and the 205th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is pegged as a future leader for this team. His steady rise in points the last couple of seasons is no fluke and neither are his 16 power play goals and 7 game-winning goals in the same time span.

The Watchful Eye: Patrick Marleau (C). Normally reserved for prospects or rookies, this time the Watchful Eye is gazed upon Patrick Marleau. How will he respond to his changing role on the team? Will Heatley's presence in the mix elevate his play? It very well could. He was second on the team in scoring last season with 71 points (38/33) but the Frozen Pill is wondering if Marleau's' season won't be a tale of two cities. Keep an eye on him to gauge whether he, A)gets the ice time he has been accustomed to in the past or B)becomes the lead unit in a package deal for a mid-season sweep of the house or C) plays more like he did in his 07-08 season where he produced only 19 goals and finished -19 on a good Sharks team.

The Crease: Evgeni Nabakov. Is Nabby your first or second choice for netminder?

Mad Scientist: Dany Heatley (LW). His off-season running commentary in Ottawa of 'get me out of here now' provided a lot of reason for fans and those in-the-know to say, 'hey, would you want sour grapes on your team?' But secretly, we all know about 29 teams had at least a passing, if not progressive, interest in finding out what it might take to bring the Heater into town. And we at OGA know, regardless of your opinions, you secretly want him on your fantasy roster. Remember, what happens off the ice, stays off the ice. What happens while on it will snag your fantasy team points as fast as Joe Thornton can pass the puck.


Will the San Jose Sharks swim straight for the kill and qualify for the post-season play yet again? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, another OGA Boy gets in on the action for Season Previews this week when the Colonel brings you a mind-bending analysis of the Renaissance Team, the St. Louis Blues. There is no spoon...

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