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Looking at the goal differential of the Sharks 31.7 percent of the way through the season

It’s scientific, I swear!

San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings
It’s better for one of these guys than the other.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This post includes numbers entering Friday’s game against the Ducks.

I like to start posts like this with a disclaimer. Goal differential informs us of the past much better than it clues us into the future. Smarter people than me have shown things like previous shot attempts better predict future goals than previous goals. It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but the larger sample size explains it.

Oh! And while I adjusted these numbers for score, venue and zone, these aren’t adjusted for teammate, nor are they adjusted for opponent. So guys like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun’s numbers will naturally take a hit by playing against the toughest opponents while the Tommy Wingels of the world get a bit of a break by playing against other team’s fourth lines.

Like I said, these numbers are interesting to a point, but they don’t tell us everything; not even close. Okay? Okay. Don’t freak out. This should be fun if we don’t freak out. Before we get to the chart, here’s how I got the numbers: Going to I selected the Sharks with at least 50 minutes played at 5v5. Then I downloaded the file and calculated each player’s goal differential per 60 minutes played.

The chart below shows each player. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the biggest surprises: Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney. Karlsson has played well this season, but I wouldn’t have picked him to be at the top of this list, not by a long shot. And TIerney has also wowed me by the eye test this year as well, so I’m surprised to see him on the negative side of this list. Throw Tomas Hertl on that list, too.

I’m less surprised to see guys like Tommy Wingels and Micheal Haley hovering around the 0.50 mark because of the limited minutes and soft competition they play against. That’s not to subtract from their impact (their job is to be better than fourth liners! So that’s good!) but it explains why their numbers are better than a guy like Brent Burns, who does a lot of damage on the power play.

Seeing Kevin Labanc so high on this list is encouraging. He’s looked good, but hasn’t scored quite as much as I hoped he would when he was first called up. Still, he, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski all settling at the high side of this list encourages me going forward.

Okay, so I made a big deal about shot differential, right? How about I give you one of those charts, too. This still doesn’t calculate for opponent, nor for teammate, but it will get us quite a bit closer to predicting the future than goal differential.

Perhaps needless to say, this chart much more accurately (in my opinion) reflects the play of the Sharks this season than their goal differential. Give it a full season (or more) and goals will start to tell us more, but for now, this chart looks a whole lot more like the pecking order in the San Jose lineup.

Karlsson still looks like the standout here, while Chris Tierney is the biggest disappointment in the lineup. This, again, doesn’t factor for teammate or opposition, but I’d hoped to see Tierney fair better in fenwick than he did in in goal differential. Oh well.

What are your takeaways from these differentials? Any surprises?