The San Jose Sharks seem to view Chris Tierney’s 2016-17 season as a make-or-break year. A source told Friend of the Blog Kevin Kurz at NBC Sports California that the Sharks did not want to negotiate this summer. That’s why Tierney returned on a one-year, $735,000, the value of his qualifying offer.
The 2012 second round pick, who just turned 23 this July, spent time as the third, and fourth-line center last season. He performed much better in the latter role than the former, despite expectations he would seize the third line center position after a strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Because of that, Head Coach Peter DeBoer mentioned at his end-of-season press conference that the Sharks will need more production from Tierney this year. General Manager Doug Wilson said in a statement following Tierney’s re-signing that the Sharks "are excited to watch his offensive development as he continues to use his strong two-way hockey sense to impact the youthful infusion of our roster."
If the Sharks want Tierney to emerge as a stronger offensive force, they need to be prepared to change his role.
Only two Sharks started less shifts in the offensive zone while also playing with worse teammates than Tierney last season: defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, used in a shutdown role. Tierney failed to drive, or even break even in, puck possession under those circumstances, but still posted the best raw and relative possession numbers of his career. He also averaged just 0:16 game on the power play.
In that context, 23 points in 80 games isn’t all that bad. It still doesn’t match the career-high 0.49 points per game he scored in his rookie year, but he started a higher percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone (49.6%) in his first season than he did last season (45.4%).
Tierney’s shown offensive ability in spurts, and enough to indicate he could produce more under easier circumstances. Given San Jose’s power play struggles last season, he’s also worth a look on the power play’s second unit as the Sharks revamp their approach on the man advantage.
His role could look something like Sam Gagner’s in Columbus last season, with the Sharks using Tierney as a bottom six power play specialist. Under similar, favorable circumstances, Tierney could be in line for improved production. Using Tierney in the same ways as last year and expecting more offense, however, will lead to more disappointment.
Name: Chris Tierney
Age (as of 9/9/17): 24
Last Year’s Ranking: 4
2016-17 Team: San Jose Sharks
Where he’ll (probably) be next year: San Jose Sharks
What we like
Solid two-way game, hockey IQ, above average vision and passing.
What to improve on
Shot frequency, driving play.
Tierney’s lone point of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs was a tidy encapsulation of his game: he’s leading the forecheck (which forces a turnover), reads the play well to sneak behind Edmonton’s defense, and has the presence of mind to tap a pass back across the crease to Mikkel Boedker for a goal instead of a bad-angle shot.