2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Season Review: Tommy Wingels

The most pleasant surprise of a Sharks season that was full of surprises that were far from pleasant was the emergence of Tommy Wingels. Drafted 177th overall in 2008, Wingels made the team out of training camp last season but couldn't stick with the big club and was sent down after five games. This year, after an impressive showing in preseason hockey, Wingels again made the Sharks as an injury replacement for Martin Havlat to start the year. Sent down at the end of October, Wingels was among the AHL scoring leaders during his time in Worcester before finally being called back up to San Jose at the beginning of the calendar year.

He went on to have a significant impact on the team, bringing his tenacious forechecking and ability to consistently win board battles to each of the top two lines before eventually contributing to the turnaround of the Sharks' bottom six from a black hole of suck to a group capable of driving play. With Wingels on the ice 5v5, the Sharks averaged 12.5 more shot attempts than their opponents per 60 minutes, the second best on-ice Corsi rate among the team's forwards. Wingels was also one of the best Sharks forwards at improving the team's possession game overall, finishing with the fourth best Relative Corsi rate up front, behind only Joes Thornton and Pavelski and Logan Couture. The Sharks also iced by far their best bottom six forward line all year when Wingels joined forces with Daniel Winnik and Andrew Desjardins late in the season, with Todd McLellan frequently commenting that they were more of a third line than a fourth unit. In the roughly 80 minutes of even-strength play the line was together for, the Sharks earned 53.8% of the Corsi events and outscored their opponents 3-1.

Tommy Wingels Statistical Overview

Season GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC DZone%
2011-2012 33 12.76 (8th) 0.381 (9th) 46.1% (10th)
Corsi Rel Corsi On PDO P/60 +/-/60
+9.0 (4th) +12.5 (2nd) 978 (13th) 1.14 (12th) -0.14 (10th)

Rankings are among Sharks forwards who appeared in at least 30 games this year. 16 qualified.

The reason Wingels' counting stats didn't measure up to his terrific underlying numbers was entirely the result of some rotten shooting luck. For whatever reason, no Shark could finish worth a damn when they shared the ice with Wingels this year. As we've discussed ad nauseum on here, the team as a whole suffered from an awful 5v5 shooting percentage but the impact of that was particularly harsh on Wingels. His 4.58% on-ice shooting percentage ranked 372nd out of the 407 NHL forwards who appeared in at least 30 games this year. Some forwards have the ability to influence their teammates' shooting percentage but over a multi-year sample the vast majority (around 90%) of NHL players fall between 7% and 8.5% on-ice shooting at even strength. The point is that 33 games really isn't enough to conclude that Wingels is so horrendous a finisher or contributes to the creation of such low-quality shots for himself and his teammates that his on-ice shooting percentage is sustainable year-over-year. I think the smart bet is on him falling between the 7% and 8.5% envelope next season. For what it's worth, he was an 11.7% shooter in the AHL. His player page also informs me that Wingels is fluent in Chinese and French, he would have been an accountant if it weren't for the whole hockey thing, loves Scrabble and would pick George Washington if given the chance to meet any person in history. Basically, he's hilarious.

FTF Grade: A-. Wingels blew away all my expectations for him and proved this year that he's the best forward "prospect" in the organization, if you consider a 24-year-old with 38 games of NHL experience and a likely guaranteed roster spot for next season a prospect. Wingels is an RFA on July 1st and it seems like a guarantee that the organization will retain his services. The Sharks should definitely look to keep the line of Winnik, Desjardins and Wingels together next season, despite their struggles in the playoffs, as a fourth line although if they strike out on the trade and free agency market at acquiring a third-line winger to replace Torrey Mitchell, Wingels would be far from a bad option.

How would you grade Tommy Wingels' 2011-12 season?