2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Season Review: Benn Ferriero

As most of you probably know, I'm not a fan of (but enjoy poking holes in) the amalgam of tired cliches, unsupported claims and casual xenophobia (as Keith Jones reaches for his telestrator) that together form much of the conventional hockey wisdom perpetuated by mainstream media covering the sport. One part of that mess, as Jeremy Roenick will gladly tell you, is the distinction of players as "clutch" or "unclutch." There are pretty obviously plays each game that significantly increase a team's win probability and deserve to be referred to as unequivocally clutch; the issue is in attributing the descriptor to an individual player since clutchiness has so little predictive value. Just because a player scores with five seconds left to tie a game doesn't make him any more likely to repeat the feat at a later date. There simply aren't many players who, in the long run, deliver at a greater rate during crunch time than they do at any other part of a hockey game.

So largely for the sake of satire, as well as due to the fact that there isn't much else to write about Benn Ferriero's season, I tallied up clutch goals scored by each Shark this season and expressed them both as a percentage of overall goals that player scored on the year and the number of clutch goals they scored per 60 minutes of ice time to gauge who came through in the clutch at the highest rate. For the sake of this post, I defined a clutch goal as any goal scored to either tie a hockey game or give the Sharks a one-goal lead.

Player G Clutch G Clutch G% Clutch G/60
Benn Ferriero 7 6 85.7% 0.85
Logan Couture 31 18 58.1% 0.73
Patrick Marleau 30 17 56.6% 0.60
Joe Pavelski 31 17 54.8% 0.60
Ryane Clowe 17 12 70.6% 0.53
Martin Havlat 7 6 85.7% 0.52
T.J. Galiardi 9 6 66.6% 0.40
Joe Thornton 18 9 50.0% 0.32
Michal Handzus 7 5 71.4% 0.31
Torrey Mitchell 9 4 44.4% 0.25
Brent Burns 11 7 63.6% 0.23
Brad Winchester 6 2 33.3% 0.23
Dan Boyle 9 4 44.4% 0.12

Benn Ferriero didn't score a lot of goals this season but when he did, he sure as hell made them count. Four of Ferriero's seven goals stood up as game-winners and two others either tied a game or broke a tie. Martin Havlat's got ice in his veins as well, posting an identical 85.7% clutch%, although he had a lot more ice time to work with than Benny. He also looks less like the awkward lovechild of Tim Lincecum and Keanu Reeves than Ferriero so screw Havlat.

Tommy Wingels' emergence in training camp as a stop-gap Havlat replacement meant Ferriero started the year in Worcester where he's scored 44 goals and 103 points in his last 121 AHL games over the past three seasons. Recalled on October 21st, Ferriero scored the game-winner the very next night in his hometown, Boston. He was sent down two weeks later until the Sharks' bench exacted revenge on Havlat in December and the team was once again short a forward. Ferriero never returned to Worcester after his December 20th recall, bouncing in and out of the lineup and playing on virtually every forward line. A personal highlight for Ferriero was the Sharks' trip to Washington in February to play the Capitals. Although he didn't dress in that game, Ferriero used his stealthy clutch powers to steal the Declaration of Independence, completely undetected.

Despite his lack of footspeed and diminutive size, Ferriero has always been remarkably effective on the forecheck and, much like fellow American hero Joe Pavelski, uses his brain to win puck battles on a regular basis. I thought he got away from that a bit this season but it's hard to blame the guy when he was cast into a different role pretty much every night. Interestingly enough, Ferriero's strongest game of the year, at least in my opinion, came in one of the few where he scored a goal that wasn't the game-winner. In the Sharks' first contest of the 2012 calendar year, Ferriero single-handedly dominated the Vancouver Canucks, recording 6 of the Sharks' 10 even-strength scoring chances, one of which beat Roberto Luongo.

Speaking of numbers, let's take a look at what they have to say about Ferriero's campaign compared to his two previous seasons in the league:

Benn Ferriero Statistical Overview

Season GP TOI Corsi Rel QoC OZone% Corsi Rel EV G/60 EV P/60
2011-2012 35 421.73 0.301 (10th) 49.8% (9th) -3.3 (11th) 1.04 (1st) 1.04 (14th)
2010-2011 33 431.90 -0.693 (15th) 51.5% (5th) 8.8 (6th) 0.60 (8th) 1.21 (12th)
2009-2010 24 267.30 0.292 (8th) 51.5% (5th) 10.7 (1st) 0.48 (12th) 1.20 (12th)

All rankings are among Sharks forwards with at least 20 games played in a given season; 15 qualified in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and 16 qualified this season.

Ferriero's minutes were much tougher this season than they were a year ago and marginally tougher than his rookie season in 2009-10, in large part due to the spot duty he enjoyed on Thornton and Pavelski's wing immediately after his second recall. As a result, his possession numbers (which had been exceptional in the past) suffered but that didn't stop Ferriero from posting the best even-strength goals per 60 rate on the team. Unfortunately, a lot of that was due to some good fortune as Ferriero's 10.6% even-strength shooting percentage, while certainly not outrageous, was second on the Sharks behind only Marleau and significantly higher than the 6.9% EV Sh% he managed over his first two seasons. We definitely don't have a large enough sample size to rule out Ferriero being a 10.6% EV shooter (especially considering he's been a 14.3% shooter over his AHL career, although that obviously includes power play performance) but it seems pretty damn unlikely.

Season Grade: C for clutch, naturally. In all seriousness, despite the prolific clutch goal-scoring, this season felt like a bit of a step backwards for Ferriero after he showed some promise the two years prior. As mentioned above, a lot of that wasn't his fault but Ferriero did very little to cement himself as a legitimate top-nine option and was decidedly outplayed by the likes of Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins and Jamie McGinn - none of whom were significantly ahead of Ferriero on the depth chart before the season began.

With Wingels having almost certainly passed him as the organization's best right winger 25 or under, it's hard to really envision there being a future for Ferriero in San Jose. His one-year, $605,000 two-way deal expires on July 1st but Ferriero retains RFA status. My guess is the Sharks qualify him but find a way to move him for a late-round pick or failed prospect once they acquire a bottom-six winger via free agency or trade, but it's certainly possible they keep him around as an insurance plan.

How would you grade Benn Ferriero's 2011-12 season?