What you make of Chris Tierney’s season likely depends on where your expectations stood entering training camp.
He began this season centering the third line, with the hopes that the offense he displayed in the run to the Stanley Cup Final last year were a sign of bigger and better things to come. Tierney managed to score at a similar rate as he did last postseason early on, including seven points in 14 games in November.
But the third-year center struggled to break even in puck possession, and with the difficult assignments head coach Peter DeBoer put in front of him while Tierney manned the middle on the third line. In fact, only Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun started less shifts in the offensive zone and with worse teammates than Tierney.
When DeBoer moved Hertl to the third line in February, Tierney’s possession numbers improved, and he posted a 51.99 CF% (without adjustments) over the season’s last 25 games, according to Corsica. He broke even in possession from March onward, and picked up six points in the season’s final 13 games.
Yet, even with those struggles early on, Tierney finished the season tied for fifth on the team in goals (11), and set career highs in goals, points, and total ice time. He was a perfectly capable, stable presence in the bottom six forward group, even if he didn’t truly grab hold of the third line center role.
2016-17 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.
Chris Tierney Player Rolling 25-game score, zone, and venue-adjusted average CF% (via Corsica Hockey)
Chris Tierney Hero Chart (via Own The Puck)
Chris Tierney’s offensive instincts were on full display in the Sharks’ regular season finale against Calgary, but especially so when he set up this Mikkel Boedker finish with a silky saucer pass. To recognize Boedker’s open is one thing, but to hit him with a perfect pass, on the backhand no less?
This is the kind of play that has me constantly calling for him to get power play minutes on the pod!
What comes next?
As managing editor emeritus Jake touched on last month, Tierney very well could be available in June’s expansion draft. Vegas can’t go wrong with Tierney or one of the Sharks’ exposed defensemen, but they’d be wise to give a long look at the 22-year-old.
Whether or not he’s back in San Jose, Tierney will need a new deal after playing the final year of his entry level deal. His contract likely won’t break the bank, as I’d expect him to make somewhere between $2 million to $3 million.
He’s still young enough where he can continue to grow into a third-line center, and has demonstrated an intriguing offensive skillset that could be utilized on the power play. Whether or not that happens in Silicon Valley or in Sin City remains to be seen.