2013: The Best Sharks Ever?

SAN JOSE- From the day Scott Gomez joined the Sharks during this shortened season, yours truly has been a big fan of the San Jose roster. And for a good while now, I’ve been telling my twitter followers that I believe it is the best roster they have ever featured. However, a lot of my followers/readers gawked at that opinion. Today I figured why not explain my thought process in detail by breaking things down?

In this article I will compare and contrast the San Jose Sharks rosters of 2008-09 (President’s Trophy winners), 2009-10 (WCF appearance) and the current 2013 version.

Now why these two rosters compared with the current one? Well, if the 2013 Sharks roster isn’t the best they’ve ever featured, it almost certainly has to be either 08-09 or 09-10.

The break down will happen as follows:

Whichever of the three teams features the better forward line, defenseman or goaltender, they will receive three points. The second best team will get two points, and last place shall receive one point.

Without further ado, let’s start:

Top lines:

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi (2008-09)
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley (2009-10)
T. J. Galiardi-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns (2013)

For this comparison, you have to give the edge to the 2009-10 team, as that year they boasted three super duper stars on the top line. Second best would have to be the Setoguchi version of a year prior, leaving the current top line bringing up the rear.

Total count of points:

2009-10 (3)
2008-09 (2)
2013 (1)

Second lines:

Milan Michalek-Joe Pavelski-Ryane Clowe (2008-09)
Ryane Clowe-Joe Pavelski-Devin Setoguchi (2009-10)
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Martin Havlat (2013)

This comparison isn’t remotely close. Couture is a full fledged star, and Marleau is still really, really good. Throw in Havlat (who has a better skill set than either Clowe or Setoguchi) and you have a tremendous second line. One could argue the current sharks second line should get three points here and the other two should each get none. But I’ll give two points to the 08-09 line because I like Michalek as a player better than Setoguchi.

Updated point count:

2008-09 (4)
2009-10 (4)
2013 (4)

Third lines:

Torrey Mitchell-Jeremy Roenick-Jonathan Cheechoo (2008-09)
Logan Couture-Manny Malhotra-Torrey Mitchell (2009-10)
Raffi Torres-Joe Pavelski-Tommy Wingels (2013)

The 2010 playoff version of Logan Couture wasn’t anything close to what he has developed into now. Therefore while the third line with Malhotra and Mitchell looks good, that season on paper was not as good as the current third line is on paper. Pavelski brings more offense to the table than Malhotra with similar great defense, and Torres/Wingels are no worse than a wash with Couture/Mitchell. The 08-09 third line brings up the rear.

Updated point totals:

2013: (7)
2009-10: (6)
2008-09 (5)

Fourth lines:

Travis Moen-Marcel Goc-Mike Grier (2008-09)
Jamie McGinn-Scott Nichol–7th defenseman (2009-10)
Andrew Desjardins-Scott Gomez-Adam Burish (2013)

The best player in this group is far and away Scott Gomez. The 2009-10 version of McGinn was an interchangeable fourth line guy. None of them can hold a candle to the play-making abilities that Gomez brings to the table. Scott Nichol is a great grinder and pest but severely challenged offensively. Goc never blossomed with the Sharks. Gomez’s line is clearly the best in this group, followed by Goc’s line and then the 2010 team since their fourth line had zero identity (McLellan often went with seven defensemen in the lineup).

Updated totals:

2013 (10)
2008-09 (7)
2009-10 (7)

No. 1 defenseman

Dan Boyle (2008-09)
Dan Boyle (2009-10)
Dan Boyle (2013)

This is pretty easy, the younger he was, the better he was, albeit only slightly.

Updated Totals:

2013 (11)
2008-09 (10)
2009-10 (9)

No. 2 defenseman

Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2008-09)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2009-10)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2013)

MEV has been the definition of steady-eddie his whole career, “Pickles” as he has been called in the past actually prefers the nick-name “Eddie.” This is the one section where I simply won’t award any points, because age hasn’t been a factor.

Totals remain the same as above.

No. 3 defenseman

Rob Blake (2008-09)
Rob Blake (2009-10)
Brad Stuart (2013)

Future Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake played two seasons with the Sharks to cap off his career. His first season he was tremendous. The second season his lack of foot speed, and age showed a bit more. Brad Stuart has been a huge pickup for the Sharks this season, especially on the penalty kill. I’ll say his efforts are better than the older Blake but not the younger version.

Totals:
2013 (13)
2008-09 (13)
2009-10 (10)

No. 4 defenseman

Christian Ehrhoff (2008-09)
Douglas Murray (2009-10)
Justin Braun (2013)

Ehrhoff had 42 points in 2008-09 and despite being prone to mistakes at times, he is clearly top dog here, with Murray coming in second and Braun last. Murray had two solid career years with the Sharks, 2009-10 being one of them.

Totals:

2008-09 (16)
2013 (14)
2009-10 (12)

Fifth defenseman

Douglas Murray (2008-09)
Kent Huskins (2009-10)
Matt Irwin (2013)

The 2008-09 season was the year before Murray really made big progress in his game. The following two years he played mostly alongside Dan Boyle as part of the top-four. Huskins was simply never very good with the Sharks. Irwin has been shaky at times in his own end, but his offensive ability trumps that of either Murray or Huskins so I have to go with Irwin first in this comparison. Murray second and Huskins third.

Totals:

2008-09 (18)
2013 (17)
2009-10 (14)

Sixth defenseman

Brad Lukowich (2008-09)
Niclas Wallin (2009-10)
Jason Demers (2013)

Lukowich was on his way out of the league by the time he got to San Jose. Wallin was a well respected veteran guy but just wasn’t very good at making clean breakouts and offered little offensively. Demers has his moments of turnovers but I’ll give his offensive talents a bit more of an edge over Wallin’s shut-down play. Demers first, Wallin second, Lukowich third.

Totals:

2013 (20)
2008-09 (19)
2009-10 (16)

Goaltending

Evgeni Nabokov (2008-09)
Evgeni Nabokov (2009-10)
Antti Niemi (2013)

Niemi is a better goaltender than Nabokov ever was. He has a better five hole which was always Nabokov’s weakness and he’s having a Vezina Trophy caliber year right now. The difference between the two Nabokov’s is similar to Boyle, not much, but I’ll give the younger one the benefit of the doubt.

Totals:

2013 (23)
2008-09 (21)
2009-10 (17)

12th/13th and 14th forwards

Jody Shelley and Tomas Plihal (2008-09)
Jed Ortmeyer and Brad Staubitz (2009-10)
James Sheppard and Tim Kennedy (2013)

I don’t think this is even close, the current Sharks depth forwards are much more talented than that of the previous years. Sheppard and Kennedy first, Ortmeyer and Staubitz second, Shelley and Phihal third.

Totals:

2013 (26)
2008-09 (22)
2009-10 (19)

7th/8th defenseman

Alexei Semenov and Derek Joslin (2008-09)
Jason Demers and Jay Leach (2009-10)
Scott Hannan and Matt Tennyson (2013)

Demers put up a lot of points as a rookie and was at times on the No. 1 power play that season. However I will give the nod to Hannan and Tennyson here as you want more defensively reliable depth guys, and as a combination, I’d rather have those two than a rookie Demers and Leach. Semenov and Joslin far behind in third.

Totals:

2013 (29)
2008-09 (23)
2009-10 (21)

Backup netminder

Brian Boucher (2008-09)
Thomas Greiss (2009-10)
Thomas Greiss (2013)

Boucher was good with the Sharks, he gets the first place nod. However Greiss has struggled this year and so I’ll give the younger Greiss the nod for second place.

Final Totals:

2013 (30)
2008-09 (26)
2009-10 (23)

There you have it, despite the 2008-09 team winning the President’s trophy, and despite the 2009-10 finishing first in the conference, I like this year’s Sharks chances to go deep in the postseason better than either of these previous two Sharks clubs.

Sure, some of you will nitpick and say backup goaltender and depth skaters don’t deserve the same amount of points in a ratings system as top level guys. But that really wouldn’t change the outcome at all. On paper, the 2013 team comes out on top because it clearly features the best second, third, and fourth lines the team has ever had (not to mention the best goaltending). Furthermore the 2013 top line and defense pairs are either not significantly worse or are on par with previous franchise bests.

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5 Responses to “2013: The Best Sharks Ever?”

  1. Brian
    April 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Not gonna point out the 12th/13th/backup net minders, but more the general fact that you’ve assumed that all positions are deserving of equal weight. i.e. 1st line is worth the same as 3rd line, and an individual defensemen is the same as a goalie. Main point = if you’re going to make a quantitative analysis to support an opinion, you need a more sound methodology behind the #s that you’re coming up with.

  2. chucklessmith
    April 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Great piece! It’s weird, in that I don’t feel like, in terms of raw talent and guys at the very top of their game, that this is the best Sharks team ever. But based on your rating structure, I actually give the current roster even more points than you!

    Agreed that the Sharks could be poised for a great postseason run, for a couple reasons you highlight: The forward lines have a roundedness and _overall_ level of capability that past very-good Sharks teams have not had, and (especially important for the playoffs) there is, somehow, a sense of depth to the roster that has not been there in years past. Particularly looking at your healthy scratch forwards / defense — holy god remember Tomas Plihal?? — there are people to slot into a game, if needed, who can help carry some water.

    Now stop getting my hopes up. :)

  3. Andrew Bensch
    April 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Brian, i assume we’ve met lol, sure first line plays more than the fourth line, and so yes your premise is correct in giving a higher value ranking to first line over third or fourth. But on the same token, you could say certain really bad lines/player deserve negative points, its not a science, therefore I simplified it down to just three points for each. Even if you give 2009-10 first line three more points, they still lose.

  4. Andrew Bensch
    April 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Chuckles, as i mentioned to Brian, the rating system isnt perfect, but neither would be any system anyone could come up with to quantify which team is the best. That said, the summary section in this article of mine is the main point. This is the best overall set of forwards the Sharks have ever had, and best starting netminding. You could argue the 08-09 defense was overall stronger than this current one (and i agree with that notion), but i think the 2013 forward lines/goaltending are better than the 08-09 forwards/goaltending by a slightly bigger margin than the margin they come up short in when comparing their defense to the 08-09 team. So, by a smidge, i think this is the best roster the sharks have ever had.

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