The Hockey News 2010-11 Yearbook not hot on Sharks, THN 2010-11 Fantasy Pool Guide disagrees

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - Save & Share - One Comment

The Hockey News 2010-11 NHL Yearbook

The Hockey News 2010-11 NHL Yearbook is out, and somewhat expectedly the San Jose Sharks stock individually and collectively dropped slightly in the eyes of hockey’s illuminati. Given THN’s penchant for not taking the Sharks seriously in the playoffs until the Conference Finals, predictions and assessments for 2010-11 were going to be more critical. Without an AP or a coaches preseason NHL poll, a little more weight is placed on THN anointing the Vancouver Canucks to finish first in the Western Conference. The Sharks were picked to finish second, the Red Wings third, and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (what is left of them) fourth.

According to THN, the Canucks will finish first on the back of Hart and Art Ross Trophy winning Henrik Sedin, gold medal winning Roberto Luongo, offseason blueline additions Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard, and a collection of two-way forwards among other reasons. Hamhuis and Ballard are key acquisitions, and should play a little more in to the predictions than even THN might be aware of. For three years, Keith Ballard was one of the reasons the Sharks circled Pacific Division rival Phoenix on the calender, and Hamhuis is a veteran of two brutal first round playoff losses to SJ with Nashville. Both stiffen a defensive corps that was too porous in the past.

Over the last three seasons the Canucks have been dominated by San Jose in head-to-head play. In 12 opportunities, Vancouver has earned only 2 wins and even fewer morale victories. The Sharks second to last regular season game was a penalty filled statement game. Down 4-0 after two periods, the Canucks tried to take a pound of flesh in defeat. The Sharks admittedly lost a bit of compsure, and took a season’s worth of criticism out on the Canucks. Both teams combined for nearly 100 PIMs, and at one point 6 Sharks were seated/standing/stuffed into the penalty box.

Teams can struggle with individual opponents and still win the Western Conference, as the Sharks did last season despite lackluster performances against Detroit and Chicago, but it deserves a little more weighted consideration when predicting the top teams. The Hockey News also took a look at post-lockout trends in the half decade since the NHL went dark. A few notable statistics: Detroit lead the league with a 51.4 win average, SJ second 49.6, New Jersey third 48 — Most points: Ovechkin 529, Thornton 510, Crosby 506, Heatley 444 — average power play percentage: 18.2, average age: 27.04, fights per game: 0.578, average total save percentage: .911, average goals per game: 5.53. There are many more stats averaged out over the last 5 years included in the Yearbook.

The list of Top 50 players is where a few of the major questions can be raised. The top 3 players — Crosby, Ovechkin, Miller — hard to find a problem with. The Sharks top players are located furthur down in the rankings, possibly too far. Joe Thornton was listed at #25 (“reputation has taken quite a beating”), Dan Boyle was listed at #34 (“can beat Evgeni Nabokov from a bad angle”), Dany Heatley was listed at #38 (“two goals in playoffs doesn’t cut it for a player paid handsomely to score”), and Patrick Marleau was listed at #42 (“go-to scorer”, and “stripped of captaincy”).

Harsh is the first word that comes to mind, but there are a couple of problems. It should be noted that Vancouver is the only team with 5 players in the Top 50, and the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks each have 4. That being said, the best San Jose Sharks player may have been listed last in Patrick Marleau. Instead of being stripped of the “C”, the change in captaincy to Blake was a mutual decision that benefited both the team and player. Confident in the situation in San Jose, Marleau did not go the Ilya Kovalchuk soap opera free agent route and instead signed a 4-year contract extension along with center Joe Pavelski.

Philadelphia’s Mike Richards (ranked #23) may be one of the best defensive/two-way forward in the Eastern Conference, but is he really 19 spots ahead of Patrick Marleau? A player who scored 19 more points last season, and one who scored 9 SHG to Richards’ 8 SHG over the last two years? Quality of competition (.109 to .041) favors Richards, GF/60 favored Marleau (3.52 to 2.34), GA/60 was comparable (2.41 to 2.34), Marleau was more effective on zone starts won in the offensive (55% to 50.7%) and defensive zones (57.6% to 48.7%), neutral zone averages were comparable. Individually, Mike Richards finished 14th in the league with a 50.7% faceoff percentage (696-677), but after moving to left wing alongside Thornton, Marleau finished with a 51.4% (316-299). Add in the speed, and the size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds vs 6-foot-2, 220-pounds) differential, and it is easy to make a case that Marleau is one of the most underrated defensive/2-way players in the game.

Looking at the San Jose comments you also have to leave out the fact that Dany Heatley skated with a torn groin in the postseason, an injury after which one ESPN analyst described Heatley as looking like he skated on one leg. News of the injury only came out after the end of the playoffs. Marleau suffered a similar fate one year earlier after the first round exit to Anaheim. A number of east coast and Canadian analysts failed to mention he played against the Ducks with the first major knee injury of his career.

San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak previewed the 2010-11 season for the San Jose Sharks in The Hockey News Yearbook. Pollak touched on the unrestricted free agency situation facing the team with Marleau and Nabokov, the return of the “Team Canada” line and the productive second line of Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi, and predicted increased roles for Logan Couture and Jason Demers. San Jose Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson compared new goaltender Antero Niittymaki to Antti Niemi and Craig Anderson, two goaltenders the Sharks faced in the postseason.

Head coach Todd McLellan commented on whether or not Joe Pavelski or Dan Boyle were favorites to become the next captain of the Sharks. “Until you’re in the locker room and you see how certain individuals react, you can’t just assume, based on his on-ice performance, that someone is the innate captain,” McLellan told Pollak.

The Sharks top 10 prospect ranking was also a pretty hearty miss. Logan Couture, Nick Petrecki and Charlie Coyle were listed as the top three. Worcester Sharks goaltender Tyson Sexsmith (13GP, 4-6-1, .860SV%, 3.94GAA, 1SO) was ranked over fellow W-Shark Alex Stalock (61GP, 39-19-2, .908SV%, 2.63GAA, 4SO), who should have been at or near the top after his record performance in the AHL. In fact, Stalock was not even listed in the top 10. Two other ranked prospects, #6 Patrik Zackrisson and #10 Julien Demers, are no longer part of the Sharks organization. Hard hitting defenseman Nick Petrecki took a couple of steps back in 2009-10, but after only one year of professional hockey he has more than enough time to develop at the AHL level.

The Yearbook went to press before the addition checking line winger Jamal Mayers, but one look at the depth chart shows why Doug Wilson may have pulled the trigger on the move. Frazer McLaren and Brandon Mashinter on the left wing, and Cam MacIntyre and Benn Ferriero on the right, all four will have one less position to fight for in training camp with Mayers in the fold. Like the defense, the Sharks hockey staff favors experience and grit up front. Mayers will bring that in a fourth line role alongside Scott Nichol, and he could contribute on the penalty kill and from the faceoff circle as well.

The Hockey News 2010-11 NHL Fantasy Pool Guide

Not a whole lot to mention from the 2010-11 edition of The Hockey News Fantasy Pool Guide. If you are going to participate in fantasy hockey, it should be at the top of your list at draft time. The fantasy player mock draft results were oddly divergent from the top 50 player rankings in the Yearbook. Patrick Marleau was taken at #23 (with a projected 80 point season), Dany Heatley at #26 (with a projected 89 point season), and Joe Thornton was the 6th overall pick (with a projected 96 point season). Pavelski (#54) and Boyle (#81) were also taken in the top 100.

The Fantasy Pool Guide mock draft skewed a little more towards how the players should actually be ranked than the Yearbook. Thornton, while being taken in the top 10, was not completely let off the hook by the Pool Guide. “Questions about his leadership capabilities wil continue until he wins a Cup”. Two years ago after a first round loss to Anaheim, this blog asked him if he learned what he needed to do in order to be successful in the postseason. He responded with an emphatic yes. The first year after that bitter first round playoff exit, the Sharks made it to the Conference Final. With Thornton in a contract year, he could push the team even farther in 2010-11.

[Update] Fantasy Hockey Top 300 rankings – ESPN.

7 Dany Heatley, LW SJ F7 $24
26 Joe Thornton, C SJ F20 $18
29 Patrick Marleau, C SJ F22 $18
39 Dan Boyle, D SJ D6 $16
135 Devin Setoguchi, RW SJ F93 $6
165 Joe Pavelski, C SJ F110 $4
179 Antero Niittymaki, G SJ G20 $3
185 Ryane Clowe, LW SJ F119 $2
202 Jason Demers, D SJ D54 $1
240 Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D SJ D68 $0

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One Response to “The Hockey News 2010-11 Yearbook not hot on Sharks, THN 2010-11 Fantasy Pool Guide disagrees”

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Time August 25, 2010 at 1:31 PM

[...] from this post, Vancouver had 5 players listed in TheHockeyNews Top 50, San Jose and Chicago each had [...]