Sharktistical Analysis: Clowe-verfield
Much of the Sharks success this season has been credited to the offseason acquisitions of Blake, Boyle, and Lukowich. Granted, these guy have been great so far this season and have played a big part in the overall success of the Sharks this season.
However, I'm going to go on record by saying that the biggest offseason move made by the Sharks was the resigning of Ryane Clowe.
Clowe's 07-08 numbers were low due to a knee injury that kept him off the ice for 67 games. Although he played well during the post season, the Sharks took a risk by signing him... knee injuries have the tendency to linger. (see Cheechoo, Jonathan)
But it appears as if that risk has come with an extreme level of reward. Clowe is currently 4th on the team in points (19 goals, 19 assists) and has impressed coaches and fans alike with his improved scoring touch and impressive up and down play.
Clowe's stellar play has meant volumes to the Sharks this season. How did I come to this conclusion? Take a look at the graph below.
The blue section of the graph shows how many points the Sharks have earned during the season (in five game increments); the orange shows Clowe's points during the same increments.
As you can see, when Clowe scores, the Sharks win. I've run the same study for every other Sharks player, and no one is as closely correlated or has as much covariance with the Sharks' points this season as Clowe.
What does this mean? It means that an injury to Clowe would be as devastating to the Sharks' Stanley Cup hopes as almost any other player on the team. Without Clowe, you lose 22% of your powerplay scoring (Clowe has 11 powerplay goals). You lose the solid up and down play that Clowe brings. You loose one of your most physically gifted players. Last, but not least, you lose a strong clubhouse presence and the youthful leadership that he brings to the best team in the NHL.
So, while other players get all the hype, Clowe will keep on carrying the Sharks to bigger and better things this season. If last years playoffs were any indication, Clowe is at his best when it matters most (5 goals and 4 assists in 11 playoff games).
Whatever the outcome of this season is, it will have one thing in common with the end of last season: Ryane Clowe will once again be a free agent. If Clowe continues on this pace, there will be at least a few teams who will throw big numbers and big years at him. Here's hoping that the Sharks are one of those teams. With players like Blake (5MM/yr), Roenick (1.1MM/yr), and Grier (1.775MM/yr) coming off the books, the Sharks will definitely be capable of putting some money in front of our star RW. Three years and 4.0MM average per (3.0MM start with 1.0MM bumps, similar to the recent Michalek contract) should get the job done. Much of this depends on the play of rookies like Joslin, Cavanagh, and Staubitz. If these young guys can prove they deserve a place on the top team in the NHL, the eventual departure of Blake, JR, and Grier will hurt much less.
Hopefully the Sharks' front office sees what I see in Ryane Clowe. If they do see it, they'll do everything they can to keep him in teal for years to come.