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Player Power Rankings, Week 2: We need to talk about Kevin

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Labanc’s special spicy sauce added some flavor to a dull Sharks week.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 09: Kevin Labanc #62 of the San Jose Sharks lines up to take a shot past Robert Hagg #8 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 9, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Welcome to Fear the Fin’s weekly(ish) player power rankings. Who had the biggest impact, the best goals or the prettiest smile in the week that was and who you should totally grab off of waivers in your fantasy league to stick it to Derek in accounts receivable. All rankings subject to the whims of fate and whatever we’re feeling in the moment.


San Jose’s 2-3-1 record paired with their league leading 62.13 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage is spurring a familiar debate about process versus results. On one hand, the Sharks’ results this young season have left much to be desired: they’ve banked a measly five points out of their first six games, Martin Jones has looked shaky, and brand new shiny toy Erik Karlsson has yet to record his first goal in teal. On the other hand, the Sharks have dominated their opponents at 5-on-5, leading the league in shot attempt share in that regard, and consistently burying other teams in shots on goal (the Sharks out-shot their hosts 165-126 through four games this week).

On the other other hand, the Sharks power play has been a problem. Their shot attempts per 60 minutes of 92.36 ranks 20th in the league, which is actually optimistic as their scoring chances per 60 minutes of 35.09 ranks 28th. This implies that the Sharks are firing too many low percentage shots with the man advantage and not moving the puck laterally enough in close to create opportunities. Anyone who has heard of Brent Burns will find that familiar.

On the other other other hand, it’s only been six games, and it takes a whole lot longer than that for the noise of puck bounces, hot goalies, and shooting luck to even out and give us a real sense of a team’s quality. With Karlsson getting used to the system and having a competent defensive roster to play with, and Evander Kane settling into the routine of a full season in San Jose, it’s not unreasonable to expect some down time while players create habits and chemistry.

On the other other other other hand, points against lesser teams are slipping away. The Sharks may look back on this road trip and lament leaving points on the table against teams like the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils.

On the sixth and final hand on this mutated, rhetorical Goro, this is a column for joy and positivity and rainbows, so let’s just get on with it already.

1. Kevin Labanc

Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Season 6 1 4 5 4 2 15 67.7
This Week 4 0 4 4 3 2 11 69.98

Last week: 5

Perceptive readers will notice a theme this week, and that theme is the Philadelphia Flyers. All four of Kevin Labanc’s assists came during Tuesday’s 8-2 shellacking of the Flyers, and a couple of them were particularly pretty. The Bancer’s four points put him into a tie for first on the team this week, and his shot attempt share is first. His promotion to the top line with Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane has paid immediate dividends, since Labanc has the skillset to emulate the role that Joe Thornton filled before his tragic and hopefully temporary departure.

Labanc assisted on both of Pavelski’s goals in Philly, and we’ll get to the captain’s performance in a bit, but this was the youngster’s prettiest assist. Labanc breaks into the zone and brutally toe drags around Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg (unfortunately, we can’t call it a Hagg drag because Hagg is pronounced with a long A. So it goes). Labanc snaps the puck through Hagg’s legs to create a juicy rebound for the captain, who bangs it home.

2. Joe Pavelski

Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Season 6 3 0 3 3 4 17 65.95
This Week 4 3 0 3 3 2 12 67.81

Speaking of the captain, Joe Pavelski’s two goals against Philadelphia were the most (T-Kane) by any Shark that night and his three on the week lead the team unopposed. The fearless leader also ranked fourth on the team in points this week, fifth in shots, fourth in shot attempts, and third in shot attempt share. The play of the captain and his linemates this week, while not generating the end results we’re really looking for, should help to ease some of the pain of Thornton’s absence.

Isn’t this just classic Joe? Benefiting from another great toe drag by Labanc, Pavelski hammers at this puck and, by extension, goaltender and former Wisconsin Badger teammate Brian Elliott, long past the point at which it crosses the goal line. Still, we play to the whistle in this league, and if Joe Pavelski isn’t standing in the crease getting crosschecked and hacking at loose pucks like an axe murderer, then he’s not really being Joe Pavelski.

3. Brent Burns

Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Season 6 0 4 4 1 2 17 64.92
This Week 4 0 4 4 1 2 15 66.94

Brent Burns shares the team lead in points this week with four, but I had to take him down a notch here due to his reliance on secondary assists and a few avoidable penalties. Still, Burns did well at what Burns does well, recording the team’s second most shots and shot attempts in the week’s four contests. While he still makes some very strange decisions on the defensive side of the puck, there are flashes that make me believe (hope?) that he’s focusing a little more on his defensive game.

It is entirely possible that Burns didn’t mean this backhand bank pass to be a backhand bank pass and was just trying to clear the zone, but we did the process versus results thing already, and results stay on the score sheet for longer. This is an excellent finish of a two on one for the Finns, but the outlet pass from Burns is the best part, whether he meant it to go to a streaking Antti Suomela or not.

4. Timo Meier

Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Season 6 3 1 4 4 2 16 64.73
This Week 4 2 1 3 3 2 11 63.39

Last week: 4

Timo Meier’s two goals this week were good enough for third on the team and his four points are good enough for third on the season, but he’s really on this list because of one of them. While the seventh Sharks goal against the Flyers may as well have been their hundredth, Meier’s not-quite-Forsberg move is worth revisiting.

Meier picks up a soaring Labanc pass (him again?) in the neutral zone and he’s off to the races. Thanks to an ill-advised poke by Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, Meier is in alone on Elliott with speed. Similarly to the goal we highlighted last week, Meier’s lateral movement at speed is key here. As he comes in on goal, you see him turning his feet and pushing his hips back just like he did against Anaheim last week. That fast change of direction opens up Elliott’s legs to follow the puck, and Meier’s dodge of the second stick check in as many seconds allows him to tuck the puck into the net to put the game even farther out of reach.

5. Marcus Sorensen

Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Time Games Played Goals Assists Points Primary Points Penalty Minutes Shots on Goal 5v5 adj Corsi for %
Season 6 1 1 2 2 2 11 66.56
This Week 4 1 1 2 2 0 8 66.52

We all know that Marcus Sorensen made this list because of one play. Sorensen’s shorthanded goal against Brady Skjei, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers will likely be on highlight reels for this team for the rest of the year.

Sorensen picks up a Timo Meier pass with speed in the neutral zone and immediately begins to embarrass Brady Skjei. That first cute little poke in front of Skjei’s skates is my favorite part of this whole sequence. The fact that Skjei didn’t immediately exit the ice and commit seppuku to avoid dishonoring his family is a testament to his professionalism. Sorensen zags back around Skjei to the left, spinning him around like a turnstile and, at this point, the perfect snap shot over the King’s left shoulder is almost a formality.

Skjei would score the game winner for the Rangers in overtime that night, so don’t feel too bad for him.

Hono(u)rable mentions

Evander Kane:

Kane led the Sharks in shots and shot attempts this week and his three points tied him for third. Unfortunately, he also led the team in penalty minutes with eight, including four each in losses to the Rangers and Islanders.

Erik Karlsson:

Karlsson struggled to play through illness on Sunday against the Devils and it showed. Still, he acquitted himself well the rest of the week, posing a consistent threat, and pacing for third on the team in shots. If the Sharks’ power play is going to start generating some actual goals, Karlsson will have to be a huge part of it.

Brian Elliott:

Elliott is the recipient of this week’s good sport award. Moose was on the hook for all eight Sharks goals against Philadelphia on Tuesday, and didn’t physically assault any of his teammates. Give him the Lady Byng.