Head coach Todd McLellan came into San Jose bringing a new philosophy: Shoot from anywhere and shoot often – just get it on net and good things will happen.
Seeing as they get the most space to work with in the offensive zone, the San Jose blueliners stood to benefit the most from this.
And boy, have they ever.
Sharks account for two of the top four point producers amongst NHL rearguards and own four of the top 28 spots. No other team can make such a claim (Detroit is the closest with three in the top 20). That’s quite a big shift from just a season ago when just one San Jose defenseman, Brian Campbell, was in the top 25 in scoring for his position, and he tallied most of those points in Buffalo.
That Dan Boyle is again in the top four should come as no surprise. The 32-year-old has topped 53 points three times in four NHL seasons prior to his injury-filled campaign in 2007-08. It has been German-born Christian Ehrhoff who has been the big shocker. At 26, he is still a couple of years away from hitting his prime, but he is already about halfway to his career high of 33 points.
Ehrhoff has benefitted greatly from the new system. Eight of his 16 points have come with the man advantage, which is precisely where the “shoot-from-anywhere” strategy comes into play. His upside is somewhere in the mid-40s, but under this system with three minutes of power play time per game (his current average is 3:03) he could threaten 50 points.
Boyle has seven points on the power play, while veteran Rob Blake has eight, which is 80 percent of his season total.
The biggest beneficiary, however, has been youngster Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The 21-year-old leads all Sharks in ice time and is second among San Jose defensemen in PP time.
Vlasic has vast potential and hasn’t even scratched the surface. However, he is still several years away from hitting his stride and his current pace of a point every two games will slow down.
I say this because, despite the top ice time, he has 10 points – which means his points-per-minute pale in comparison to the other three defensemen mentioned above. Still, he will set a career high of 35 points, give or take, when it is all said in done.
From a keeper standpoint, it is safe to expect increasing point totals each year from him as he gets later into his 20s.
The Sharks are winning a lot of games right now and they are bound to hit their bumpy spots. Even so, these four rearguards will combine for 175 to 190 points by the end of the campaign…
Still with the Sharks, I keep waiting for sophomore sniper Devin Setoguchi to hit a wall. It’s just not happening.
The eighth overall pick in 2005 was very hot and cold throughout his final year in junior and even last season. If you recall, he took the NHL by storm before hitting a wall.
He has sustained his hot streak for so long that even if he goes several games without a point, he has proven himself enough to team brass that they will give him the opportunity to work his way out of it.
He should finish the year off in the 60- to 70-point range, but there is obviously upside for even more…
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Boston defenseman Andrew Ference’s injury (leg fracture) has resulted in the recall of prospect Matt Lashoff. Lashoff has been tearing it up in the American League and if given the opportunity he could do some damage from the blueline. He may be worth grabbing as a depth defenseman for your bench. Sit on him for three games and see how he does.
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