Sharks vs. Blue Jackets: Bananaphone

Removing emotions from the equation, Raffi Torres is a surprisingly effective Ryane Clowe replacement. San Jose opens their road trip against Torres' former team in Columbus.

This has been a far more Raffi Torres-centric week on Fear The Fin than any of us could have really anticipated prior to his trade to the Sharks at the deadline. But he's here, we're forced to come to terms with it and since no one wants to read another piece about his history of on-ice atrocities, I'm taking a different tack. In his excellent recap of the Sharks' deadline moves, Jonathan Willis called Torres a poor-man's version of Ryane Clowe and I think there's a lot of truth to that, both in the players' actual skillsets and management's gameplan to mitigate the loss of Clowe by acquiring Torres. What's surprising is how favorably Clowe and Torres compare statistically over the past four and a half seasons at even-strength.

Here's a look at how they've stacked up since 2008 in terms of even-strength time on ice per game, goals per 60 minutes of even-strength hockey, points per 60, Corsi% (a proxy for the extent to which their team has had possession of the puck in the offensive zone with that player on the ice) and the percentage of non-neutral shifts each has started in the opponent's end of the ice:

Player Seasons 5v5 TOI/60 5v5 Goals/60 5v5 Points/60 Corsi% Off. Zone Start%
Raffi Torres 2008-13 11.00 0.87 1.76 50.0% 47.7%
Ryane Clowe 2008-13 14.22 0.61 1.66 54.1% 52.5%

Impressively, Torres has actually scored goals and points at a higher rate during even-strength play than Ryane Clowe since 2008. This isn't a case of years-old production skewing the numbers, either; Torres is currently 38th in the league among forwards in 5v5 scoring, getting on the scoresheet at a rate comparable to the Sedin twins. Clowe's possession numbers have been substantially better but he's also started his shifts in the offensive zone quite a bit more often than Torres. In addition, Clowe's two most common centers over that span were Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture while Torres' were Manny Malhotra and Daymond Langkow.

Love Torres or hate him (personally, I'll go with the latter), he's a great acquisition not only because of the elements of speed and physicality he introduces into the Sharks' bottom six but because he's simply a better even-strength scorer than Clowe. Which isn't to say he's a better player; far from it, as there's a lot Clowe does that Torres does not (playing the puck from the bench chiefly among them) but San Jose can probably expect to get more offensive output 5v5 from Torres down the stretch than they could have with Clowe. Also more attempted homicides, but that's a topic for a different day.

San Jose Sharks


Columbus Blue Jackets
20-11-7, 47 points
16-16-7, 39 points
5th in Western Conference 12th in Western Conference

4PM PST | Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
CSNCA-HD | Radio: 98.5 KFOX,
Know Your Enemy: The Cannon, Puck-Rakers, In Words and Phrases

Projected Sharks Lineup

Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
T.J. Galiardi - Joe Pavelski - Raffi Torres
Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Projected Blue Jackets Lineup

Vaclav Prospal - Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Blake Comeau

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson
James Wisniewski - Adrian Aucoin
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky
Michael Leighton