A look at the Sharks 2010-2011 defensive minute allocation

SAN JOSE CA - JANUARY 11: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates past a diving Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on January 11 2011 in San Jose California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Even before Rob Blake left during the offseason, the allocation of minutes for the defense was an issue. We covered it here extensively, believing that the high amount of minutes played by both Blake and Dan Boyle were detrimental to the team as a whole.

Don't get us wrong, both players are fantastic talents. Rob Blake could probably come back and play 18 minutes a game right now. But every player has their limit, and it appeared as if both Blake and Boyle were pushing theirs for the better part of the regular season. A move to truly alleviate those minutes was never made, and the toll taken on those players was noticeable down the stretch.

This season, the problem is even more pronounced. Although the team is awash with capable NHL defensemen, they are missing a player who truly fits into one of the top four spots in the depth chart, the spot vacated by Rob Blake. Without that player, the Sharks have been less than spectacular in the defensive end, evidenced in their inability to hold six third period leads this season.

Dan Boyle is currently carrying the heaviest load, at an NHL leading 26:59 minutes per game. No words, really. It's a 46 second increase from last year, a year in which we already thought he was gassed down the stretch.

Boyle will be the first to admit it when he's made a mistake, and he's had to do that with increasing frequency lately. The minutes are undoubtedly affecting him.

What's interesting, though, is that we expected he'd be playing even more than this when Rob Blake, who was playing 21:21 per game, left. Those minutes didn't just dissapear. So who's taking them?

Thanks to behindthenet.ca, we are able to look at the change in minutes for the Sharks top six defensemen season-over-season, by situation. You will find the info below.

Even Strength

Power Play

Penalty Kill

2009-2010

2010-2011

Change

2009-2010

2010-2011

Change

2009-2010

2010-2011

Change

Dan Boyle

18.33

19.09

0.76

4.10

4.61

0.51

2.38

2.15

-0.23

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

16.36

17.23

0.87

1.72

1.07

-0.65

2.80

2.24

-0.56

Douglas Murray

16.46

16.20

-0.26

0.48

0.74

0.26

2.44

2.00

-0.44

Jason Demers

12.09

14.46

2.37

2.35

2.79

0.44

0.62

1.34

0.72

Niclas Wallin

13.82

13.40

-0.42

0.26

0.18

-0.08

2.51

1.49

-1.02

Kent Huskins

14.52

14.29

-0.23

0.68

0.12

-0.56

1.59

1.46

-0.13

While it's important to note that Boyle and Vlasic have had their workload increased, the thing that really jumps out to you is the increase in minutes played by Jason Demers in just his second NHL year. He's seen an increase in every category; 2.37, 0.44 and 0.79 in even strength, power play and penalty killing situations, respectively. 

Although we have expressed confidence in Demers and have lauded his growth, he's not the guy who should be seeing the brunt of the minute increases. If anything, his power play minutes should be increasing most, based on his skill set. That's not the case.

Right now, he's your number four defenseman. The Sharks are leaning on him too heavily.

Wallin and Huskins have seen their minutes decrease this season, a factor of both their role and their less than stellar play to date. Take a look at their showings in last night's game against Edmonton, and the explanation for their reduced minutes stares you straight in the face.

At this point, it seems almose futile to hammer the point home any further. The horse is dead, beaten to a slimy, stinky pulp of horsey goo. The team needs a defenseman. I think I've typed that statement once a week for the past two years now.

Dave Pollak and Mark Spector seem to think that the Sharks will wait for the deadline to make any moves. For a need this pressing on a team that's been losing, the deadline may be too late.

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