The Sharks added to their already impressive defensive core earlier today, inking former New Jersey Devils defenseman Colin White to a one-year contract worth $1.0 MM. White joins Jim Vandermeer and Brent Burns as fresh faces on the Sharks backend. These additions have immediately turned what was a weakness of the organization into a clear strength.
White spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils, serving a defensive defenseman role with the club. Weighing in at 235 pounds and boasting a 6'4 frame, White's primary role on the team will be to clear the front of the net, kill penalties, and hold the fort in front of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. He has amassed over 100 hits and 100 blocked shots in each of his previous three seasons, making him a prototypical defensive defenseman with a penchant for doing the rough stuff and doing it well. A left eye injury sustained in 2007 renders him unable to drop the gloves like he did earlier in his career, but the visor he now wears makes re-aggravating that injury a non-issue during the course of normal hockey play.
With a grand total of 20 goals in 743 games played it is clear that White won't be counted on to deliver any offense throughout the course of next season. Considering he will likely start the season with Jason Demers on the Sharks third pairing however, that focus on the defensive zone is something that is a clear asset to the club.
As White's advanced statistics show, those assets make him a very valuable addition to the organization:
Colin White Advanced Statistics (2008-2011)
|Year||GP||Qualcomp||D-Zone% ||CORSI Rel ||+/- ON/60 ||PEN/60 ||SH TOI ||SH GAOn/60
*Team ranks in parentheses. Ranks are out of subjects with at least 30 GP; SH sample is with players who have more than 1:00 SH TOI/G.
White has played against top competition for the last three seasons of his professional career. At the age of 33 he isn't going to be the dynamic shutdown defenseman he used to be, but right off the bat it's clear that the Devils coaching staff continued to trust him with playing the toughs. Coupled with his team-leading defensive zone starts, it becomes clear that White is a player who knows how to handle the hardest assignments on the blueline.
His underlying CORSI numbers reflect those assignments. He ends up middle to low on the totem pole of Devils defenseman, an acceptable result for a player who begins his shifts in the defensive zone where shots are likely. Directly related to that is his 5v5 plus/minus numbers. These two metrics put White on the lower end of the Devils blueline, indicating that the tough assignments he is seeing may be getting a little too much to handle for him at this stage in his career.
Essentially you have a historically competent defensive defenseman whose age seems to be catching up with him. There's no doubt he is able to hold his head above water playing the toughs, but his nose would be hovering just above the tides. And that's an easy fix on a Sharks blueline now stacked with legitimate blueliners.
Pairing White with Demers fixes all of those concerns and turns them into an asset. You put a young and talented defenseman that will be a big part of the organization for years to come alongside a once top-minutes guy who will excel against competition that is inferior to what he is used to playing against. It opens up more ice for Demers to use offensively, feeds into the lefty-righty dynamic, and is a vast improvement over Vandermeer.
Furthermore, White's bread and butter is the penalty kill. He has seen big minutes on the shorthanded unit throughout his career and consistently puts up excellent goals against numbers at 4v5. Spreading out the minutes in this situation has long been a request of mine, and after adding Burns, White, and Vandermeer this offseason, you're going to see Dan Boyle's minutes in this situation take a dive. That is a good, nay, an excellent, thing.
Here's how things should shake out on opening night:
Over the years the staff at Fear The Fin has written countless articles highlighting the inadequacies of the Sharks defensive unit. It seems like every year at the deadline there would be at least seven articles written about trade targets San Jose should acquire, why said player would make them a Cup favorite, and how a strong and deep blueline is an essential asset to have on the road to the Finals.
The Sharks end today with three pairings that have a dangerous offensive defenseman paired alongside a legitimate shutdown defenseman. Justin Braun, James Vandermeer, Mike Moore, and numerous other prospects wait in the wings to provide help in the case of injuries. There is no perceivable weakness on the unit with forty two days left to go until training camp begins.
I'm not sure what changed this offseason. Maybe it was the fact that Jason Demers' injury in the Western Conference Finals highlighted that lack of depth, Dan Boyle's increasing minutes took their toll, or DW always wanted to upgrade the backend but never could quite get the pieces together to make it work.
Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt San Jose enters next season with the best blueline in team history.
To read the original fanshot breaking this story, please click here.