Unsurprisingly, Marc-Edouard Vlasic remained a defensive stalwart in 2015-16. Surprisingly, he posted the best offensive season of his career despite playing the second fewest games of his career.
Not only did Vlasic have the biggest impact on puck possession of any Sharks’ defenseman (+4.37 rel CF% and +4.66 rel FF% in the regular season and playoffs, per Corsica Hockey) he also managed to disrupt zone entries at an elite rate this postseason, as Sportsnet’s Dimitri Filipovic noted.
Vlasic’s offensive explosion this season was not entirely due to a PDO-fueled hot streak. He did post his second-highest shooting percentage at even strength and the highest power play shooting percentage of his career, but he also managed to shoot the puck more at evens (second-highest rate of his career) and with the man advantage (fourth-highest rate of his career). Playing the second most amount of minutes on the power play in his career certainly didn’t hurt those totals, either.
But, another contributing factor to his career offensive year may have been Vlasic’s secondary assist numbers. 18 of his 31 assists, including 12 of his 18 assists at even strength, were secondary assists. That, coupled with the highest on-ice shooting percentage the Sharks have managed in his career (11%), were two of the biggest driving forces behind his best-ever assist totals.
As a result, it’s probably unfair to expect the same offensive production from Vlasic as he posted this season. He also could see his power play time reduced with the addition of David Schlemko. But, there’s a reason Vlasic was one of the first four defensemen named to Team Canada’s World Cup squad. Still somehow under 30, it’s safe to assume Vlasic will remain an elite defender for years to come.
2015-16 Sharks 5v5 Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey):
ZSR: Zone Start Ratio; The percentage of non-neutral zone starts that are offensive zone starts (OZS/(OZS + DZS))
TOI.QoT: Time On Ice Quality of Teammates; The weighted average TOI% of a player’s teammates
Rel.CF%: Individual corsi-for percentage subtracted by the team’s overall corsi-for percentage.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic Hero Chart (via Own The Puck):
All squared up in the Western Conference Final and coming off of a Game 4 loss at home, Marc-Edouard Vlasic opened the scoring in a pivotal Game 5. Although the Blues would re-gain the lead, this allowed the Sharks to withstand St. Louis’ initial pressure and establish their own game, eventually turning the tide of the series.