The San Jose Sharks fired head coach Peter DeBoer on Wednesday night following a fairly poor start to the season. As of Thursday morning, the team was five points back of a wild card spot and among the dregs of the league in expected goal share. Whether this is DeBoer’s fault or not, the coach is always the one that gets the axe, not the players.
Bob Boughner was named his replacement.
Part of this is definitely on the shoulders of the goaltenders (and by extension, the general manager). An .878 save percentage would be middle-of-the-pack on the penalty kill, but unfortunately, that’s San Jose’s team save percentage at 5-on-5. I don’t ever remember seeing anything like this at this point of the season. That would be horrific for a five-game stretch, let alone a 33-game stretch. We can argue systems or whatever being part of the cause, but I find it hard to believe that this is the fault of the players. They’re not playing well, but we’ve seen lots of teams not play well for nearly half a season and not have goaltending anywhere near .878 at 5-on-5. At least it can’t really get worse?
One thing we can expect from Boughner is for the top guys to get a lot of ice time. Back in Florida, he had four forwards he used regularly (Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, Dadonov) and the one he used the least (Dadonov) got more 5-on-5 ice time per game than names like Nicklas Backstrom, Sean Monahan, and David Pastrnak. In other words, the days of Logan Couture playing 12:30 per game at 5-on-5 are likely over. (That number, by the way, is over a minute less than Patrick Marleau’s. That DeBoer thought giving Marleau (13:27) way more TOI per game at 5-on-5 than Tomas Hertl (12:46) or Logan Couture (12:32) was a good idea seems very odd to me.)
That should be the big change here. The team realistically can’t get much worse so any change to tactics and systems have to be an improvement, almost by default. But giving more ice time to the good players and less ice time to the bad players is a hallmark of Boughner teams and that should be good for guys like Hertl, Couture, Kane, and Meier. (You’d think this would be more popular around the league but “give your top players a lot of ice time” is, apparently, a controversial statement.) That probably has to include Brent Burns as well as he’s seen his ice time crater of late, even dropping to 19 minutes in a game recently.
Whether the Sharks can make the playoffs is uncertain but this should be a good move for fantasy owners overall. Let’s just hope Boughner doesn’t count Marleau as one of their elite players that deserves a bump in ice time.