Shark Month: February Player Rankings

"Shark Month" will be a piece that runs on Fear the Fin where Plank and TCY will track the progress of the players as the calendar flips (there may be some extra games thrown in here or there, but such is life). The players are listed alphabetically, the arrows will indicate the change on a monthly basis. We will also keep track of our top five Sharks players each month.

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Goalies___________ Trend Notes
Antti Niemi http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png You'd be hard pressed to find a goaltender on the planet, nay, the universe, playing better than Antti Niemi right now. We've heard Xr!z Xcvxs is having a pretty good season out on HD 209458b, but we think Niemi still gets the edge here (Xcvxs' fourteen arms give him an unfair advantage over Niemi's T-Rex arms, which was a big factor in our decision). Owner of a .937 SV% and a 1.76 GAA since the beginning of February (prior to the Dallas game), Niemi has been lights out since 2011 began. He's definitely the biggest reason San Jose has gone 17-3-1 since their six game losing streak.
Antero Niittymaki http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png He hasn't played a game since January 13th due to a nagging groin injury, but had lost the starting role to Niemi long before that. Niittymaki has returned from injury as of Saturday and will back up Niemi for the foreseeable future. We like the fact that McLellan now has a goalie in his back pocket to give Niemi a break once in awhile (in theory), but judging by the workload McLellan gave Nabokov last season as well as comments about Niemi playing better with more starts, expect Nitty to Finnish more periods on the bench than on the ice.



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Defensemen_______
Dan Boyle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217725/cross.png We were afraid that a long term injury to Dan Boyle would equal doom for the Sharks, but so far, San Jose has continued winning without their all-star minute-eating defenseman. That's not to say that the Sharks don't miss Boyle; he's the heart and soul of the defense and their best point option on the power play. He has been skating before practice, but a return date has not been set. Giving Boyle some rest down the stretch is a definite positive for the team, but if he is still out in late March, grab your nearest stuffed animal and start to worry.
Justin Braun http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png It's pretty obvious what the organization told Braun to work on when they sent him back to Worcester last month: improve your defensive game. Braun hasn't been scoring as he did in his first call up (pointless in four games) but a pair of posts and excellent skating ability through the neutral zone show that he's a definite contributor on the squad. With an impressive eighteen minutes per game on average, Braun could be a nice X-Factor down the stretch. 2010 Jason Demers anyone?
Jason Demers http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Demers has seen the biggest minutes increase of any defenseman with Boyle's absence, and he's been reliable defensively in those minutes. We've highlighted his lack of scoring as a concern, but he's been as dependable as Boyle himself minutes wise (over twenty-two minutes per game in each that Boyle's been out), and that earns him the green arrow. Demers has had a great sophomore campaign and is really maturing into a dependable blueliner.
Kent Huskins http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217725/cross.png Kent Huskins has been out with a phantom injury since the win against Colorado on the 19th. Oddly enough, he came back to play in that game... so we don't quite know the extent or the severity of what ails him. Regardless, he's on LTIR and he isn't being missed necessarily with Braun playing so well. When he comes back, he might be the odd man out.
Douglas Murray http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Douglas Murray has been a shot-blocking machine lately to go along with his always physical play. Solid, dependable. His minutes have decreased, but on a shift by shift basis, he's still giving San Jose its money's worth.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic  http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Another minutes eater, still strong with the stick. You don't notice him often, but that's a good thing. Consistently consistent, and although we still would like to see some more offense from him at times, there's no one better in San Jose when it comes to the defensive zone.
Niclas Wallin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png He's been good when his team is shorthanded, and he's the second-most physical defenseman on the roster behind Murray. He still gets beat defensively at times and is a poor defender in transition, but as a sixth defenseman, Wallin is able to hold his own.
Ian White http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png We would love to give White the up arrow, as he's shown the offensive skill we've looked for on the blue line all season. Still, the results aren't quite there yet... just two assists in his seven games with the team. It was a rocky start defensively for White, but that's to be expected with a new team and he's managed to pick up the pace. You have to love his ability to move the puck at the blueline-- White takes about one step, opens up a shooting lane and gets rubber on net.



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Forwards__________
Ryane Clowe http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Ryane Clowe has been a strong presence for the Sharks all season. He's a killer in the shootout, and he could conceivably break his career high in goals and points this year. Still, his physicality comes at a price-- when he fights, he's usually putting the Sharks at a disadvantage by leaving.
Logan Couture http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Couture carried this team offensively early in the season, but he's cooled off from a goal scoring standpoint as of late; he has just one in his last twelve games. Still, he has eight assists in that time frame and has played a huge role in the resurgence of Devin Setoguchi. Speaking of which, Thornton-Couture-Setoguchi has consistently been the Sharks best line since being put together. It gives the Sharks a multitude of options throughout their lineup if they can keep up the pace.
Andrew Desjardins N/A Desjardins has been sent down to Worcester, and barring injury to a lower line forward, will probably not appear in another game for the Sharks this season.
Ben Eager http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Ben Eager plays with a reckless abandon that shows little concern for his opponents, and at times, his teammates; he destroyed Patrick Marleau against Dallas when he lit up Trevor Daley. Still, his game is a breath of fresh air for a team that wasn't getting the physicality it wanted from Jamal Mayers. Eager likes to go to the net as well, which has always been a concern from fans and pundits alike when it comes to San Jose.
Benn Ferriero N/A Ferriero is playing well in Worcester, with twenty-five points in twenty-seven games this season. He's definitely an asset to the NHL club going forward. but there's no room for him on the roster right now. He's projected as a top six forward based on skill, but his size means he's not going to be playing on your lower lines. The AHL is the best place for him right now. Next season is when he gets another chance to stick.
Dany Heatley http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Something has obviously slowed Heatley, be it an injury or the lingering effects of the surgery he had in the offseason. Lately he's been better (two goals against Detroit), but he's not the elite player he should be. Hopefully the recent improvement will be built upon headed into the playoffs.
Patrick Marleau http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Marleau had slumped a bit earlier in the season, but since 2011 rolled around he's been more of what we expect him to be. He's had fourteen points in the sixteen games since February 1st and has flashed that speed which makes him such a dangerous player. We couldn't be more pleased with Marleau right now, and with all due respect to Randy and Drew, feel as if he is the number one Shark of all-time.
Brandon Mashinter N/A Mashinter has been up and down all year, and he's back in Worcester now. 
Jamal Mayers http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png We're not as low on Mayers as everyone else; he's valuable on the penalty kill and can flash a bit of speed here and there. Jamaaaaaal (raucous cheering) MAYERS!!!!
John McCarthy http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png John McCarthy is the kind of organizational player that every team has, and his role on the NHL team is pretty much limited to not making mistakes in limited minutes. McCarthy is effectively replacing Nichol while he is out, but is a lock to be sent down when Nichol returns. 
Jamie McGinn N/A After a promising 2009-2010 campaign, Jamie McGinn regressed into the third/fourth line checking role we hoped he wouldn't. The skill is still there, he just needs to be playing minutes where he'll be looked at to provide scoring, and not physicality. He's still young, and he's still the Sharks' best offensive prospect. Playing big minutes in Worcester is better for his development than playing four minutes in San Jose. He's tallied twelve points in fourteen AHL games. On a related note, his favorite drink is orange julius.
Torrey Mitchell http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png He's found a home next to Pavelski and Wellwood on the third line. We've loved his continued improvement on defense, a talent that too often goes unnoticed by observers. That, coupled with his nice tick tack pass to Wellwood against Dallas, earns him the green arrow.
Scott Nichol http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217725/cross.png Nichol has been injured for a while, and we do miss his play on the fourth line and on the penalty kill. He's an instant upgrade over McCarthy.
Joe Pavelski http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Pavelski is one of the main reasons for the Sharks resurgence, he's been playing well all year and is finally getting the points to show for it. He has fifteen points since the beginning of February and has made the third line a scoring threat. We're itching for April. Bet your butt Joe Money is too.
Joe Thornton http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Joe Thornton is Jumbo Joe again, and he's teamed with Couture and Setoguchi to make the Sharks best top line of the 2010-2011 campaign. They're controlling the offensive zone for long stretches and have broken up HTML and Pavelski to make three solid scoring lines. And although we've mentioned it countless times before, you gotta love Thornton's newfound attention to the defensive zone.
Devin Setoguchi http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Anyone else happy that Devin Setoguchi wasn't traded? He's on fire lately, and the increased scoring has lead to the confidence (cockiness?) that Setoguchi needs to be effective. He's been creative offensively and provides more "wow" moments than anyone else on the team. Like Marleau however, Setoguchi can hit a lull-- he's shown no signs of slowing lately, and we hope that carries on for the rest of the 2010-2011 campaign.
Kyle Wellwood http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Of all the additions made by the Sharks lately, Wellwood has made the most difference. He's developed chemistry with his linemates quickly and has chipped in four points (three goals) in his short time with the team. 

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