Revisiting Fear The Fin's 2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Predictions
Back when we were but wee little lads, unburdened by playoff pushes and the crippling alcoholism that emanates therefrom, we stood brash and confident in the face of a new season.
The day was October 8, 2011 when we sat down to predict what would happen this year with the San Jose Sharks, and while the season still has three games remaining, something tells me that following game 82 we will care very little about revisiting these predictions. We'll either be gearing up for an eighth straight playoff run or laying buck naked in a ditch wearing sweatpants as a scarf, desperately trying to survive Armageddon.
Let's see how we did.
Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals during the 2011-2012 season. Coming off a season that saw him log a shooting percentage well below his career average, log third line center duties, and still manage to finish first on the Sharks in shots with 282, Pavelski gets placed on the top line alongside Joe Thornton, quickly falls in love with the reduced responsibility of playing wing compared to his usual center role, and finishes the season with more goals than any Sharks player on the roster.
Boom shakalaka! Sure the season isn't completely finished just yet (why do you think we did this prediction review article early?) but right now Pavelski leads the team with 31 goals with three games left to play. He's been one of the best players on the team, handled first line quality of competition impeccably, and stands as probably the most consistent producers throughout the entire season. Too much here not to love. I give myself a high five and gladly swoop up an A+.
Thomas Greiss plays himself onto a full-time role with the team by the time Antero Niittymaki gets healthy. After a disappointing season abroad, Greiss makes a triumphant return to the NHL, helping to backstop the team during a rough start to the year from starting netminder Antti Niemi. With Al Stalock's injury healing at a superhuman rate (Stalock Saves himself this time, but rest assured he still plans to cure twice as much leprosy next offseason) and the Worcester Sharks receiving quality goaltending from Tomas Heemskerk, Harri Sateri, andTyson Sexsmith in the AHL, the increased defensive acumen of the Sharks blueline complements Greiss' sometimes erratic and always aggressive style perfectly.
Well aren't we getting off to a good start here? Greiss was phenomenal at the beginning of the year, posting a .929 SV% in 7 game appearances throughout the months of October and November. Once Antero Niittymaki was given a clean bill of health he was put through waivers on January 25th and Greiss' full-time role with the teamwas complete. Aggressively coming out of my basement and staying square to the prediction, I pokecheck away the doubters and earn another A+. Isn't this fun?
Joe Thornton finds himself in the Selke conversation for the first time in his career. Jumbo Joe starts where he finished last season. He leads the League in takeaways, sees his point totals return to a point per game, and does it all against the toughest competition amongst Sharks forwards.
Thornton might not be in the Selke conversation but he deserves to be-- as The Neutral covered earlier in the season, he's posted some unreal underlying statistics and done so against top quality of competition and non-sheltered ice time. He's second in the League in takeaways with 95, and a few points shy of that point per game pace we predicted as well. This one definitely isn't as bang on as our previous two, but since I'm the one handing out the grades here (and get absolutely hammered after the jump) an A- will be where this one lands. Thornton has been excellent this season for San Jose.
Brent Burns is mediocre defensively throughout the year, but his defenseman-leading point totals and partner Marc-Edouard make those concerns somewhat irrelevant. Despite some rather glaring errors in his own end, Burns gets better and better defensively throughout the 2011-2012 season and sets the tone for what will be a Norris caliber campaign in 2012-2013.
Unfortunately for San Jose, Burns hasn't gotten consistently better defensively in the second half of the season. The high-risk high-reward play he's known for still produce mistakes, and his defenseman leading offensive zone starts speak equally about his offensive acumen as well as his defensive miscues. Splitting him away from Vlasic definitely played a part in this drop, but there's no doubt Burns has been worse than my prediction said he would be at this stage in the year.
With 36 points and 11 goals Burns has had a good year offensively, but he currently trails Boyle by 8 points and won't lead the blueline in points like I predicted he would. Furthermore, Burns doesn't look like he'll take the next step into a Norris caliber trophy winning defenseman-- he's a top-notch offensive player who will help San Jose throughout the life of his contract, but it's hard to think he'll be a Norris candidate next season. I take the wind out my own sails and sadly give myself a D+ for this prediction.
Dany Heatley scores 35 goals in Minnesota while Havlat bounces in and out of the lineup with various bumps and bruises. After being traded from his third team throughout his career, Heatley takes a newfound passion in his offseason training regiment, enters the season on a tear, and proceeds to light the lamp with frequency alongside supremely underrated centerman Mikko Koivu. Havlat is an extremely effective part of the Sharks lineup when healthy, his speed meshing well with Couture and Clowe en route to a 21 goal season, but nagging injuries cause him to play 61 games throughout the year.
This one here's a doozy so let's start with all the self deprecation it deserves-- sure Heatley has had the worst shooting percentage of his career (9.5%), played on a bad Minnesota team, and actually has some damn fine underlying numbers at 5v5, but his 21 goals are well off the 35 that I predicted for him.
The spirit of the Havlat prediction was close but the severity was well off the mark-- he has been extremely effective in the Sharks lineup for fits and starts throughout the year, but dormant in others. Furthermore, while we did predict that Havlat would be dinged up with injuries this season, he came closer to missing 61 games than he did to playing in 61.
I purchase a gallon of coffee Häagen-Dazs ice cream on the way home, put on a Morrissey album, and softly rock myself to sleep with an F tucked snuggly under my pillow.
Despite the best Sharks roster in the history of the franchise, San Jose has to clinch the Pacific on the final week of the regular season. A Kings team blessed with health all season long doesn't slow down in November like they did last season, and various injuries to the Sharks top six throughout the year put pressure on their scoring depth. Backed by the goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles goes toe to toe with San Jose the entire year. It all leads to a home and home in the season's final weekend, where the Sharks manage to get three points and clinch their fifth Pacific Division title in a row.
The funny thing about this is that I still think this Sharks roster is the best in the history of the franchise even if their point totals don't reflect that notion. I think the same can be said of Los Angeles, but I don't know enough about the history of the Kings to properly make that claim.
Either way, both San Jose and Los Angeles are better teams than their record indicates, and while I thought that this battle for the Division would be a dogfight between the two all year (and come without the risk of either missing the playoffs), by jove this prediction just might come true. The Sharks did deal with one top six injury this season (Havlat) so I guess I score some marginal points there as well.
We'll see how this plays out later this week, but I'm giving myself a B+ right now with a potential for that to slide to an A- depending on how things shake out before Thursday.
Vlasic continues to go unnoticed across the League, and I continue to use the term "underrated" to describe him in order to childishly illuminate my "excellent" analytical skills. I come off looking like an egocentric hipster in the process, drinking a 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon every night while listening to whatever Pitchfork says I should listen to in order to dull the pain.
Vlasic has had another quietly effective year for San Jose this year (yet again), and I'm still a narcissistic hipster looking for acceptance even though I'll pretend like I don't care what everyone thinks about me. I'm sure you'd give me a B, but I'll give myself an A because you don't recognize how cool my opinions are. Wait, you want to give me an A? Well that doesn't matter to me because I don't base my life around societal norms man, I don't accept them.
Someone hold me.
Jamie McGinn scores 6 goals during the year and we write a post like this after every single one of them.
When I said six goals during the year I meant McGinn would score six goals after he was traded from the San Jose Sharks at the deadline. And when I said I would write a post like this after every single one of them I meant I would do naked jumping jacks in my driveway after every game while singing the new Kelly Clarkson single.
When I said those things above I meant that this one gets a resounding F.
The Sharks roar out of the gate, hit a midseason lull in mid December through early January, pick it up again only to run into difficulty during a 9 game road trip in February, but put the finishing touches on a 108 point season by catching fire all through the month of March. This is ultra specific so you know it's going to be right on the money.
This one was right on the money if you take into account inflation-- as everyone knows, 108 points in October of 2011 is actually worth 94 or so points now in purchasing power terms. This is due to the fact that the OT/SO loser point (quantitative easing) has made standings point less valuable this season as more points flood into the market, thus causing more of them to be available for consumers and...wait a minute, that's not how it works. With more points available to them via shootout the Sharks should have definitely hit that 108 point goal. They've taken a paycut and their purchasing power has decreased?!?!
Let's just get to the postseason and take a ride with those animal spirits.