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Midweek Mailbag: Karlssons per 60

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How many Karlssons is too many Karlssons? What do Wilson’s trade deadline moves bring to the Sharks? You asked and I answered!

Feb 23, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to sit down and answer reader questions. I put out the call late last night and here are a few of the questions you all sent my way.

Oh boy, does Gustav Nyquist provide depth.

Over the last three seasons, Nyquist has been playing second line minutes on average, sometimes being used on the top line for the Detroit Red Wings. Erik Fowle had an excellent write up on why the Sharks should pursue Nyquist and the long and the short of it is that he’s a bonafide top-six winger.

Not only does it give the Sharks insurance should injuries happen to anyone already in their top-six (especially given the flexibility that Nyquist can play both right and left wing), but by bumping him down to the third line, the Sharks have two players who would be on nearly any other team’s top-six. Per Corsica’s data at The Daily Faceoff, adding Nyquist makes the Sharks’ third line the best third line in the league.

The move bumps Lukas Radil or Marcus Sorensen to the fourth line, that regrettably won’t be particularly productive until they drop the dead weight come playoffs. It also bumps Marc-Edouard Vlasic off the second power play unit, making San Jose’s power play all the more lethal (Nyquist has one power play goal and 10 power play assists among his 49 points this season).

So thanks to Sean Tierney’s WAR lineup tool, I made an all Karlsson line and D-pair. Turns out the line of Jakob Forsbacka KarlssonWilliam KarlssonMelker Karlsson is not very good, with a projected full season WAR of -0.2. The D-pairing of Erik KarlssonJohn Carlson (look, I had to fudge the rules here) is very good, however, with a 7.2 ProjFSW.

I don’t know why I did this, except to say that if San Jose is gonna acquire another Karlsson, aim for a defenseman.

Every general manager and every coach has a blind spot. It sucks that for this organization, that blind spot is enforcers.

It’s frustrating to waste a roster spot on a player whose role is to sit in the penalty box. Pretending that Haley is there to “protect” other players a fundamental lie of the role of the enforcer. Players will still go after your top players. That is the nature of the game. But now, Micheal Haley might fight the other team’s enforcer if someone has a bad hit on one of the Sharks and the Sharks might end up on the penalty kill afterward. Super helpful.

Enforcers don’t prevent anything. If anything, violence in this sport breeds more violence. Haley knows his role is to fight, so he’ll jump at the chance to make himself useful. We shouldn’t even want violence in the first place.

No one looked at a roster with Joe Thornton and Evander Kane, the big bodies of Brenden Dillon, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, and the scrappy Barclay Goodrow and thought that this roster was too soft to defend themselves.

Earlier this season, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, “There’s no one tougher on [the Sharks] than Big Joe.” And 6-foot-4 Joe Thornton can still hold his own.

Would you rather have Haley in the box than Thornton? Sure. But would you also rather your top players not get exhausted by covering Haley’s minutes because he can’t score and goals are how games are won? Of course not.

This is the wrong direction for the team to be heading in when the division title is so close.

Because the universe is cruel and also wants me to have to read the words “tweaked his groin” approximately 30 times a day.

  1. Incorporate Nyquist. That’s the biggest thing right now. Make sure he’s comfortable and adjusts to his role. I don’t think this will take very long, but it should absolutely be their focus.
  2. Score goals. In three of their last four losses, the Sharks scored one or fewer goals, while their opponent scored four or more. When they lose, they lose by wide margins. Since the new year, every Sharks loss except for the overtime loss to Boston has been by a three or more goal margin. Part of that is also —
  3. Finding goaltending consistency! This has wider implications than the next couple of games, but missing out on a key piece of their defense means they’ve got to be tighter in net.
  4. Stay healthy. Everyone is banged up and it’s because they’re all fighting for some reason now. Knock that off. Get healthy and stay that way.

I’m not afraid of the Vegas Golden Knights, which probably means the Sharks will get swept.

Honestly, the Sharks’ biggest problem is goaltending. The addition of Mark Stone makes the Knights scarier in that regard. But no matter the opponent, my real concern is that goaltending will lose them a series.

I’ve got some really good thoughts on this from the All-Star Game that will hopefully be written soon, but the bottom line is that the NHL doesn’t know how to market itself.

Part of that is culture. Players are straight up uncomfortable talking about themselves and that makes them hard to market. Connor McDavid is the biggest star in the league and he looks terrified of every camera that is ever on him, even in the one year that Edmonton did well since he joined.

The Sharks actually do a good job of this. Their video team is incredible — The Deep series is how I introduce people to the team.

It’s up to teams to tap into their markets and their players. I think having Wayne Simmonds in Nashville with P.K. Subban is a huge opportunity for the predators to market themselves to black communities specifically. Unfortunately, until there’s a culture change, those opportunities are few and far between.

Watch the Blackhawks somehow win the Cup this year. That’d be our luck, eh?