Scorned Lovers: The Ballad of Former Sharks

"All the old knives that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours"

- Phaedrus

A common belief held amongst Sharks fans (and sports fans in general) is that a player will haunt his former team in every game he plays against them after leaving. A crucial goal, a crucial play-- all of these are pointed to and obsessed over, taken to be the norm and not the exception.

For example, look no further than Marcel Goc. Twenty goals to his name in four seasons with San Jose, and yet in his first game back to The Tank he managed to notch a goal against Thomas Greiss that tied the game in the second period. Game, set, match. The curse is among us; it is sleeping in our living room.

But is this the entire story? Do ex-Sharks truly flourish when playing against San Jose, or is it a mere matter of selective retention on our part? With the following set of criteria, that is what I set out to find.

1) Goals, assists, and points were the metrics used to determine how well they have fared. When we think of Sharks killers (Modano, Iginla), we immediately think of goals and assists. This list is no different.

2) Players must be a forward, and have forty games played with the Sharks before facing them in an opponent's jersey. Defensemen were not included due to their small point totals, but I plan on taking a look at them later in the year. Forty games played is an arbitrary cutoff point, but manages to weed out rental players and those who did not sufficiently impact the team-- essentially, what we're looking at are players who would be considered true San Jose Sharks.

3) Players need to have played their final game with San Jose no earlier than the 1999-2000 season. I wish I could have done this for the Sharks entire history, but the seasonal splits from Yahoo! and ESPN only go back to 2000-2001. Yahoo! contains total splits since 1989, but these do not reflect the basis of this study-- how players fare after leaving the Sharks. For example, Teemu Selanne played against the Sharks both before and after he wore teal. We only want to see how he has fared afterwards.

4) Players need to have played at least one game against the Sharks after leaving. Self-explanatory.

With all of these fulfilled, we come to a grand total of sixteen forwards. These players are Niklas Sundstrom, Jeff Friesen, Todd Harvey, Dave Lowry, Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Marco Sturm, Matt Bradley, Teemu Selanne, Mark Smith, Scott Thornton, Alyn McCauley, Wayne Primeau, Nils Ekman, Steve Bernier, and Marcel Goc.

What follows is the raw totals of these sixteen players-- their regular season point totals with the Sharks, after leaving the Sharks, and against the Sharks.


Regular Season Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
w/ San Jose
4707
992 1335 2327 151 17.28 23.26 40.54 2.63
After San Jose
2733
566
636
1202 89 16.98 19.08
36.06
2.67
vs. San Jose
122
26
24 50 3 17.48
16.13
33.61
2.02

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games


As we can see, there isn't an especially appreciable difference in the amount of goals scored by forwards facing San Jose compared to their career after leaving the team-- overall goal scoring rates increase slightly, but not enough to warrant much consideration. However, assist and point totals do drop, signaling that the group as a whole doesn't seem to elevate their game to a level where we could call all of them "Ex-Sharks killers" whenever they play San Jose.

An interesting note-- the entire pool of sixteen players have seen a decrease in all applicable categories (barring GWG) once leaving San Jose. Take this with a grain of salt however, as many were reaching the twilight of their careers once shown the door.

With that in mind, let's look at some players who do manage to elevate their game when facing San Jose. Out of the sixteen players in this pool, four of them have improved in one category or another against the Sharks compared to their career after leaving the organization. These four are Jeff Friesen, Owen Nolan, Marco Sturm, and Matt Bradley, and their area(s) of improvement are marked in bold.


Jeff Friesen Regular Season Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
After San Jose
381
69
97
166 9 14.85 20.88
35.73
1.94
vs. San Jose
13
2
7 9 0 12.62
44.15
56.77
0

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games



Owen Nolan Regular Season Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
After San Jose
313
89
98
187 14 23.32 25.67
48.99
3.67
vs. San Jose
17
7
2 9 1 33.76
9.65
43.41
4.82

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games



Marco Sturm Regular Season Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
After San Jose
248
89
78
167 12 29.43 25.79
55.22
3.97
vs. San Jose
2
0
3 3 0 0
123
123
0

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games



Matt Bradley Regular Season Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
After San Jose
394
34
52
86 6 7.08 10.82
17.90
1.25
vs. San Jose
5
1
2 3 0 16.4
32.8
49.2
0

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games


Out of the notable four, only Friesen and Nolan can really be considered sufficient sample sizes-- Sturm and Bradley have played in the Eastern Conference since leaving San Jose, only facing the Sharks a combined seven times between them.

No list would be complete without a look at the playoffs-- here are the raw totals of these sixteen players since leaving San Jose.


Playoff Totals

GP G A PTS GWG G/82 A/82 PTS/82 GWG/82
Todd Harvey
1
0
1
1 0 0 82
82
0
Dave Lowry
3
0
0
0 0 0 0
0
0
Owen Nolan
7
3
2
5 2 35.14 23.43
58.57
23.43
Wayne Primeau
7
1
0
1 0 11.71 0
11.71
0
Teemu Selanne
11
1
2 3 1 7.45
14.91
22.36
7.45

G/82: Goals per 82 games A/82: Assists per 82 games PTS/82: Points per 82 games GWG/82: Game winning goals per 82 games


*****

Conclusion: The notion that Sharks players continuously come back to kill the team as a whole looks to be false-- career production after leaving San Jose is very similar to production in games against San Jose.

That being said, former Captain Owen Nolan seems to elevate his game to a high level whenever playing the Sharks. His line against San Jose the last three seasons (CGY & MIN) reads as follows: 15 GP, 10 G, 3 A, and 3 GWG. Those are some staggering numbers.

If Todd Richards manages to light a fire under the Wild this season and propel them into the playoffs, write a letter to McLellan suggesting that Nabokov wear a tinfoil helmet-- Nolan seems to be reading his mind.

 

Go Sharks.

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