2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Season Review: Ryane Clowe

Where Marc-Edouard Vlasic, our last season review subject, rebounded from a so-so 2010-11 season to have arguably the best year of his career in 2011-12, Ryane Clowe followed up what was unquestionably the finest campaign of his NHL tenure last season with perhaps the worst of his career this year. Clowe was limited throughout the second half of the season by a facial fracture he suffered in early January and what was later revealed to be a concussion he sustained during the team's endless road trip in February, so there were certainly mitigating circumstances. Still, Clowe posted his worst points-per-game rate and lowest goal total since becoming a regular NHL forward on top of the worst underlying numbers he's ever had.

As was the case with a lot of players on a team that collectively managed one of the lowest 5v5 shooting percentages in the league, some of Clowe's struggles to produce were driven by the percentages. His individual shooting percentage of 9.4% this season was the lowest of his career so far. Additionally, his 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage (i.e., the shooting percentage of all Sharks players at even-strength when Clowe was on the ice) was 7.18% which, while lower than league-average, is right around the level he's been at in prior full seasons save for the 09-10 campaign when pretty much everyone on the team shot the lights out. It also ranked fifth among the team's forwards this year, behind only Patrick Marleau, Joes Thornton and Pavelski, and Martin Havlat so Clowe's disappointing season can't really be blamed entirely or even mostly on bad luck. The decline was really predicated on a significant drop in Clowe's ability to control possession:

Ryane Clowe Statistical Overview

Season GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC DZone% Corsi On PDO P/60
2011-2012 76 15.03 (4th) 0.790 (5th) 42.8% (12th) +6.0 (5th) 988 (7th) 1.52 (5th)
2010-2011 75 15.07 (1st) 0.116 (9th) 49.3% (7th) +17.1 (2nd) 998 (9th) 2.44 (1st)
2009-2010 82 14.33 (4th) 0.601 (5th) 51.3% (5th) +6.0 (4th) 1001 (10th) 2.04 (5th)
2008-2009 71 13.80 (3rd) 0.565 (4th) 46.4% (7th) +13.2 (1st) 999 (5th) 1.53 (5th)

Rankings are among forwards who appeared in at least 40 games that season. 13 qualified in 08-09 and 12 qualified each of the other three years.

Clowe's game has always been about his elite ability to control the puck along the boards and create chances off the cycle. For whatever multitude of reasons, many of which likely had to do with his injures, that wasn't there this year to nearly the same extent as it has been previously. The most concerning part is that Clowe was given a significant advantage in starting position, beginning a greater percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than any other regular Shark in 2011-12 and than in any other year of Clowe's career. Clowe also struggled mightily when split from Logan Couture, posting a raw Corsi rate of -6.5 per 60 minutes when he was on the ice without his bear cub. As good as it looks on paper, the Clowe/Marleau/Havlat line that McLellan experimented with at points of the season, just didn't get results although I'm not willing to blame Clowe alone for that.

FTF Grade: D
. That might seem harsh, especially considering the injuries Clowe suffered from, but my expectations were sky-high after the year Clowe had in 2010-11 and far too often this season Clowe was part of the problem rather than the solution. I'm not a fan of valuing players based on the supposed "intangibles" they possess--heart, character, leadership, toughness--since I believe if those traits help a player's game, it should show up somewhere in the numbers. Many GMs disagree and seeing as Clowe is often bandied about as a bastion of grit, I could very easily envision him being overvalued by the market in spite of the year he just had. I've mentioned before that I'm absolutely terrible at coming up with plausible trade ideas but if the Sharks can ship the truculent Clowe to, say, the Maple Leafs for Nikolai Kulemin and Carl Gunnarsson that's definitely a deal I'd want Doug Wilson to make. If the Blackhawks are foolish enough to think the solution to what ails them is adding grit and toughness, rather than competent goaltending, a package of Clowe and Douglas Murray for Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik would be like Christmas in July. I think there's a good chance Clowe can rebound following offseason rehab and at 29 he's probably not over the hill just yet but if Wilson can find good value for him on the trade market, he shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

How would you grade Ryane Clowe's 2011-12 season?