WorSharks hit the quarter pole needing more offense

By Darryl Hunt - Last updated: Friday, December 9, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment


As the first quarter comes to an end–technically with the new 76 game regular season it passed after Saturday’s game–we take our usual look at what’s transpired so far with the Worcester Sharks through the opening part of their season. Taking a peek at the standings it appears like the WorSharks, who sit in third place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, are having a decent campaign so far. But looks can be deceiving, and this is certainly one of those cases.

After 20 games the WorSharks record is 8-6-3-3 for 22 points. Because of several games in hand they sit pretty low in the conference standing, but by using winning percentage (.550) they rank ninth. The AHL is using a conference playoff system this season, so ninth wouldn’t good enough to make the post season. Their winning percentage is also misleading because of three point games due to overtime/shootout losses. The WorSharks have really won just 40% of their games, and in no league is that good enough for the post season.

OFFENSE
The WorSharks biggest issue is scoring. They’ve scored four or more goals in a game just four times so far this season, and rank 25th in the AHL in goals per game (2.55). They also own the AHL’s worst shooting percentage at just 7.2%. And, as shocking as it sounds, both those stats would be a lot worse were it not for Worcester’s hot offensive start to begin the season. In Worcester’s first 5 games they scored 20 goals and went 4-0-0-1. In their next 15 games the WorSharks scored just 31 times with a pedestrian record of 4-6-3-2.

Injures have played a small role in the low goal output with puck moving defenseman Sean Sullivan and point-per-game rookie Mike Connolly both missing at least a quarter of the season so far, but two other injured players were both below their average scoring pace before getting hurt. The WorSharks will need to step up their goal scoring to have any chance at the post season.

Grade: D

DEFENSE
One would think injuries to Sullivan and Mike Moore and with Justin Brian spending more time in the NHL than the AHL that the WorSharks defense would be suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth as rookies Sena Acolatse and Taylor Doherty have stepped right into the line-up and played like veterans. Nick Petrecki and Matt Irwin have both stepped up their play from last season. Irwin leads the WorSharks in goals and points, and leads all AHL defensemen in power play goals. Petrecki, who isn’t expected to add much in the way of offense, has finally begun to show why he was a first round draft pick as he has matured into a very good stay at home defenseman and should make a strong run at the San Jose roster next season.

The defense was supposed to be the strength of this team, and so far that’s been true. It’s also where the greatest depth is, so one has to wonder if San Jose pulls the trigger on a deal to bolster the big club will some of these defensive prospects get dealt.

Grade: A-

GOALTENDING
If someone was to have predicted at the beginning of the season Tyson Sexsmith having a goals against average under two and a save percentage well over 90% at the quarter pole they likely would have been laughed at. But finally healthy after two injury shortened seasons and having dropped 25 pounds over the summer Sexsmith is showing he’s still in the deep goaltending fold in the San Jose organization. Because of a lack of scoring in front of him his record isn’t that stellar, but his play has more often than not kept then in games they had no business being in.

Rookie Harri Sateri has looked decent in his transition from the Olympic sized ice surface to the North American game but still has a ways to go before he’s anywhere near NHL ready. Should either get injured or recalled waiting in the wings in Thomas Heemskerk, who is having a decent season so far in Stockton (ECHL)

Grade: A-

HOCKEY OPS
Worcester’s top three goal scorers from last season, Jonathan Cheechoo, Dan DaSilva, and TJ Trevelyan, were all not re-signed. Unfortunately for WorSharks fans those players were not replaced with anyone with offensive abilities even close to those three. Also missing, for the second year in a row, is a true play making center.

The lack of legitimate veteran forwards is now causing issues in SJ as their bottom two lines are under performing and there’s no one in Worcester to step in and potentially fill those roles. Lots of NHL teams are a top six injury away from not being competitive, but San Jose is actually a bottom six injury away from having significant issues.

The WorSharks have also played a game with less than the usual 18 skaters. There is simply no excuse for that to happen, especially in a home game.

Grade: F

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