2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Season Review: Martin Havlat

Maybe the most important thing to take into consideration when evaluating Martin Havlat's shortened first season as a San Jose Shark is that he was acquired in exchange for Dany Heatley. Heatley, of course, was flushing $7.5 million in cap space down the toilet each season to be a liability at even-strength with his power play production, while prolific, more than redundant on a team that needs less help on the man advantage than any other NHL club. Doug Wilson could have literally traded Heatley for nothing (or packaged him with a sixth round draft pick for a seventh rounder, since the league doesn't allow for teams to trade players for nothing) last offseason and it would have been a good move. Realistically, it seemed that wasn't a contract any competent general manager would take on without sending a terrible deal the other way. Well, along came Chuck Fletcher offering the Wild's second-best forward, signed to a fair deal, for Heatley and Doug Wilson completed what seemed like his most one-sided trade since ripping off the Maple Leafs for the pick that was parlayed into Logan Couture.

Viewed solely from that perspective--as an alternative to Heatley--Havlat was a success in teal. He was by no means a marked improvement on Heatley over the 39 games he dressed for in 2011-12 but a dash of PDO luck as well as some legitimately dominant play down the stretch after returning from his second injury layoff salvaged what looked to be a lost season for the Czech winger. And, of course, he carried a cap hit $2.5 million cheaper than his predecessor. Havlat's injury struggles predictably gave way to rampant references regarding his infamous history of torn hamstrings, separated shoulders and everything in between. In reality, Havlat had been remarkably healthy the three seasons prior to this one, averaging 77 games a year between 2008 and 2011. That combined with the "lower-body" injury he sustained while attempting to hop over the boards pretty clearly being a freak accident makes me optimistic that Havlat should play much closer to the full slate of games this season.

Martin Havlat Statistical Overview

Season GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC DZone% Corsi Rel Corsi On PDO +/-/60 P/60
2011-2012 39 14.32 0.510 45.0% +0.4 +0.54 1032 +1.07 1.61

Martin Havlat led the Sharks in +/- per 60 and the team had a ridiculously good record when he was in the lineup (25-11-3, a 111-point pace over 82 games); two interconnected facts, the latter of which Todd McLellan referenced outright late in the season. The reason I'm skeptical that either of those things are particularly relevant is the whopping .956 SV% Sharks goalies combined to post at evens when Havlat was on the ice this year. You're not going to give up a lot of goals (and, hence, seeing as Havlat logs a lot of EV minutes, you're going to put the team in a very good position to win) when your goalies are putting up those kinds of numbers behind you. I'm not convinced Havlat had much, if anything, to do with that; over a 39-game sample, a single player's on-ice PDO is going to be determined overwhelmingly by variance. In addition, on-ice SV% hasn't really been found to be much of a persistent player-driven talent in general and, even if it is something wingers can influence, it seems far more likely Havlat's true talent in that department is quite awful: in his three full seasons before this one, his EV on-ice SV% was below .900 (league-average is .920).

When you take that away, there isn't a lot left to be all that pleased about with Havlat's season, at least 5v5. Despite some of the most favorable zonestarts on the team (he began 55% of his shifts in the offensive zone), the Sharks only outshot the opposition by the slimmest of margins with Havlat on the ice. While Havlat is probably the type of player who can drive his teammates' shooting percentages up to some degree (and has done so in the past), he was one of the few forwards on the team underwater in scoring chances at the time of his first injury. The good news is he returned from that layoff with a vengeance, posting a +10 in EV chances over his first five games back in the spring. With such a small sample by which to judge his performance in teal, it's tough to know which version of Havlat we should reasonably expect to see next season, but here's hoping it's Havlat 2.0.

FTF Grade: C. He played less than half the season so I'd lean towards an incomplete if possible. His underlying numbers were disappointing to say the least, although he appeared to right the ship after returning to the lineup in March. He was disappointing on the second power play unit, with none of the regular PP players on the ice for fewer shots on goal per 60 minutes 5v4 than Havlat and only Handzus on the ice for fewer goals for per 60. One thing I would like to see the coaching staff experiment with is giving Havlat more time on the penalty kill. If you're not going to successfully kill penalties anyway might as well have a shorthanded threat.

How would you grade Martin Havlat's 2011-12 season?