Although he didn’t finish the season with particularly impressive offensive numbers and struggled down the stretch, Dainius Zubrus was a massive upgrade over players Pete DeBoer had played on the Sharks’ fourth line prior to his November signing. Mike Brown and Micheal Haley were tough guys who chased the puck, and Barclay Goodrow couldn’t translate his AHL success into a long-term stint in the NHL. Zubrus represented one thing above all else in the bottom six: stability.
Zubrus finished the season with a Corsi For percentage just under 50%, and a Fenwick percentage just above. Just playing even with his opposition was an asset for the Sharks this season, and represented a massive improvement over the players the Sharks had deployed on their third and fourth lines the previous season (no disrespect to All-Star game MVP John Scott).
Zubrus even represented a viable option playing alongside the Joes Thornton and Pavelski, and saw a significant bump in his possession numbers as a result. He wasn’t able to sustain that domination as he moved back to the bottom six as the season wore on, as the handy chart below courtesy of Corsica Hockey shows.
But, even with those struggles, Zubrus’ possession numbers were higher than other bottom six options, and even regulars like Tommy Wingels and Chris Tierney, albeit with easier zone starts. Zubrus remains unsigned, and this very well could have been his final season in the NHL. Lord Stanley’s Cup may have evaded him and the Sharks this season, but considering the fourth line options there before him? The Sharks may not have gotten there in the first place.
2015-16 Sharks 5v5 Forward 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.
Dainius Zubrus Hero Chart (via Own The Puck):
Zubrus only scored three goals in the regular season, but his very first was a thing of beauty, showing some pretty good hands for a then-37-year-old.