Geek of the Week: An Offensive Display in San Jose

by Mike Zacour on May 5, 2019


For this week’s edition of Geek of the Week, we are going to focus on a San Jose Sharks forward.  It took a while to decide which forward, as there are plenty of candidates. 

Up until recently the Sharks have been a team that many fantasy GMs have somewhat avoided as far as forwards go. 

With diminishing returns on Joe Thornton the past few years and outside of the obvious (Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski), there haven’t been any major standouts.  Lots of potential on that roster but no one was able to take the next step prior to this season.

Seemingly out of nowhere the Sharks led the league with seven forwards that had more than 50 points this season (eight if you count Gustav Nyquist, but he only played 19 games with the Sharks, so we’ll leave him out). 

To put that in perspective, last season and the season prior they had three forwards with more than 50 points and only two in 2015-16. 

The next closest team to the Sharks this season was somewhat surprisingly the non-playoff bound Montreal Canadians with five forwards cracking 50 points or more.  After Les Habitants, no team had more than four forwards hit the 50-point mark.

Ron Burgundy would probably say that seven forwards with 50+ points is kind of a big deal and that the Sharks’ dressing room smells of rich mahogany. 

A few other interesting stats while conducting this exercise:

1.   Four teams had four forwards with at least 70 points this season.  After the top four, no other forward reached fifty points in Boston, Calgary, Florida, or Pittsburgh. You’ll find the usual suspects on these top-heavy teams and some similarities between them.  The coaches love their first line and rightfully load the top power-play unit for the bulk of the team’s PP minutes.  If you can’t get one of their top four forwards it may be worth moving on (and drafting a Shark forward?) in next year’s draft.  Jake Guentzel was of particular interest as he shared a lot of his PP1 time with Patric Hornqvist.  Don’t count on that continuing next season.

2.   Anaheim and Arizona were at the bottom of the barrel with zero forwards reaching the 50-point mark.  No real surprises here outside of Clayton Keller, Ryan Getzlaf, and Rickard Rakell.  All are prime bounce-back candidiates for next year.

3.   Tampa Bay was the only team to have three forwards go over 90 points.  After that no forward had more than 48 points for the Lightning.  Expect another battle next season for the primo top line minutes and the fourth forward spot on the top power play unit between the likes of Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Miller et al. If you can pick the one that sticks on the top units, then any one of them could put up 65ish points.  Expect people to spin the wheel at next year’s drafts, when the leftover Lightning forwards could go too early.

Back to the San Jose Sharks.  Why did they have so many forwards hit 50 points?  Two main reasons: Elite level offense from the back end, and the emergence of their forward depth. 

The Sharks were second in goals for this season with 289 and going into Saturday night led all playoff teams with 35 goals for.  This team can score and will continue to score in 2019-20.  The only concern fantasy owners should have is the Jekyll and Hyde act that we see with Martin Jones night in and night out.

The Sharks have the 1a/1b of offensive defensemen.  Every team that matches up against them will have either Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson on the ice for almost the entire game. 

That’s difficult to deal with to say the least and equates to a good amount of scoring.  Both Burns and Karlsson are well enough established and so well known in the fantasy hockey world that we don’t need to go into the details of their offensive ability.  In this writer’s opinion having them both on one team is simply not fair for the rest of the NHL.

People aren’t making a big enough deal about this, and it’s likely because Karlsson started slow and was injured near the end of the season.  He only played 53 games for the Sharks this season but was still able to pace for 70 points after the slow start. 

When is the last time we’ve seen two more offensively talented defensmen play on the same team?  Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger come to mind, but on straight offensive talent the numbers show Burns and Karlsson have them beat. 

This is a team that, with a healthy Karlsson, could have two defensemen go over 80 points next year.  The forwards in San Jose benefitted tremendously from their talented back end production this season, and will benefit even more next season if Karlsson remains a Shark and can stay healthy.

Doug Wilson has to recognize how powerful this duo is and will do everything in his power to sign Karlsson.  That will be priority number one. 

To the dismay of fantasy owners everywhere, sitting Karlsson for the back part of the season was the right move, as Karlsson has 10 points in 11 playoff games and is averaging well over 25 minutes per game. 

With a plethora of options available how do we pick a single forward to focus on?

From Tomas Hertl’s 74 point season, to Timo Meier’s 30-goal campaign, to Kevin Labanc’s season over season improvement.  There are career highs all over this forward group.

When it came down to it, Logan Couture’s first 70-point season coupled with his dominance in the playoffs set him apart. 

Couture turned 30 in March and it’s quite possible that his best season is yet to come.  The potential for a 70-point season has been there for quite some time for Couture and the Sharks aren’t exactly strangers to aging stars. 

Heading into Saturday night, Couture led all Sharks with 12 points in 11 playoff games and has been a playoff producer his entire career.  He has 93 points in 107 career playoff games – that’s a 71-point pace over an 82-game span which shows us he’s capable of breaking this season’s milestone.

His shooting percentage (13.2%) appears to be more sustainable than Hertl’s 19.9%, and his TOI plus being cemented on the top power-play unit was slightly more appealing than Meier’s break out season.  Couture had over 60 percent of his team’s power play time while Meier received a measly 37.7 percent. 

Couture’s advanced stats were very normal this season and 70 points appears sustainable: PDO of 984, IPP of 63.6, and 5on5 shooting percentage of 10.23%. 

He took exactly 204 shots for the second straight year and a slight increase in shooting percentage would get him back over 30 goals.  Couture is only one season removed from shooting a career high 16.7%, so a slight decline was to be expected.

There is a situation where Couture could become the Sharks clear cut number one center next year with both Pavelski and Thornton as pending UFAs.  He could see his ice time increase from 18:30ish minutes per game (past two seasons) to over 19:00 per game, especially if the Sharks find themselves without Pavelski in 2019-20.

Couture comes in at a reasonable $8 million cap hit starting next year and ending in 2026-27.  It seems like a decent contract that should look really good in year 3 and 4. It may not look great on the back half depending on how well Couture ages.

With a standard Yahoo head-to-head points scoring format (private leagues only) we can see where Couture ranked this season using the Fantasy Hockey Geek tool:
 

Rank

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SOG

PPP

BKS

Fantasy

Points

77

Phil Kessel

81

27

54

-19

211

36

18

620

78

Logan Couture

81

27

43

-7

204

18

52

592

79

Teuvo Teravainen

80

20

51

27

164

21

23

591


Couture is in good company between Kessel and Teravainen.  The first thing that stood out in the chart was the difference in PPP.  

The Sharks finished sixth league wide with a 23.7% power play conversion rate.  They had 57 goals on the power play in the regular season and Couture was in on 18 of them.   

He played 60.2% of the Sharks’ time with the man advantage, which would roughly put him on the ice for 34 power-play goals.  That means that Couture was in on roughly 53% of the power-play goals he was on the ice for.  That number should be closer to 60-65%, which could up his PPP production next season.

There is no doubt the Sharks have some contract work to do in the off-season.  If they can make their cap situation work, sign the key players (especially Karlsson), and said players are able to remain healthy, it should directly benefit every forward that cracks the top six in their point columns. 

Couture had a very sustainable year, and a full season of exposure to a settled in and healthy Karlsson could add another five to ten points to his total.  With some luck on his side and improved power-play production he could go point-per-game at least once in the next few seasons.  We probably have yet to see the best he has to offer.

Either way the Sharks should to be loaded with fantasy gold-type depth next year.