It wasn’t going to be extremely difficult to replace Roman Polak, and David Schlemko found a new home on the Sharks third defensive pairing after signing with San Jose back on July 1 of last year.
The combination of Schlemko and Brenden Dillon played well throughout the 2016-17 season. Schlemko had 18 points (2 goals, 16 assists) in 62 games this season, but only three on the second-unit power play which he was brought in to boost.
Perhaps Schelmo’s greatest contribution was the time he didn’t spend in the penalty box. In those 62 games, he skated to the box just seven times for 14 PIM. In comparison, Polak had 16 PIM with San Jose in 2015-16, but in only 24 games after he was acquired from Toronto. (In 75 games this season with the Maple Leafs, Polak had 65 PIM).
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.
David Schlemko Rolling 25-game score, zone, and venue-adjusted average CF% (via Corsica Hockey)
David Schlemko Hero Chart
Schlemko’s offensive ability is largely what brought him to San Jose, and his instincts were on full display with this January overtime winner against Colorado. The defenseman beat Avalanche forward Matt Duchene down the ice, opened himself for a one-timer from Couture, then followed up the rebound following Couture’s shot when that pass did not come.
It’s hard to imagine anyone from the third pairing last season doing any of that.
What comes next?
Provided Schlemko is protected OR goes unselected in the expansion draft, his service on the Sharks blueline was an improvement over what the Sharks had on the third pairing during the 2015-16 season, and should certainly be a reliable third pairing contributor.
He turned 30 earlier this month, which makes him the second-youngest Sharks defenseman who saw consistent playing time this season (sorry, Dylan DeMelo), so naturally age is something to watch for, but that shouldn’t be a problem as he still hs three years left on his contract.
Interestingly enough, Schlemko scored two goals in the playoffs for San Jose matching his total from the regular season. While the Sharks postseason only lasted six games, it would have been interesting to see if those tallies would have kept on growing.