Winning Play: Sharks can overcome potential loss of Meier

In mid-February, the San Jose Sharks were perhaps the healthiest team in the NHL.

Up to Feb. 13, they were the only team in the league to have zero roster players miss more than 10 games. Not coincidentally, they were also atop the Western Conference.

Since then, Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek, Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane have missed significant time. Before edging the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 last night, San Jose had lost nine of 10 games. First place in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division had been long lost.

And now, the Sharks might have lost Timo Meier for a while.

According to some analytics, Meier has been the Sharks’ most impactful offensive forward at 5-on-5:

Meier leads San Jose forwards in goals, points, scoring chances, high-danger Corsi for and penalties drawn per 60 at 5-on-5. In short, no other San Jose forward has scored, played on the inside and garnered power plays more efficiently at even-strength than Meier.

There’s no doubt of Meier’s importance to this squad. Perhaps the surest sign of that is when the young winger essentially gave up a goal on Tuesday because he got beat up the ice by Tanner Pearson and wasn’t benched. For the coaching staff, the rewards of Meier have clearly become greater than the risks.

That said — and losing nine of 10 makes it easy to forget — there may be no team in league better equipped to handle the loss of a Meier than the Sharks.

By a couple of key conventional and advanced measures, San Jose is still arguably the deepest team in the league, even after their recent slump.

Per Evolving-Hockey’s WAR model, the Sharks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied, at nine apiece, for the most skaters with a 1.5 or higher WAR.

Tampa Bay offers Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli, Ryan McDonagh, Yanni Gourde, J.T. Miller and Erik Cernak, while San Jose counters with Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Meier, Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Logan Couture, Gustav Nyquist and Evander Kane.

San Jose also features nine 50+ point scorers (Burns, Hertl, Couture, Meier, Joe Pavelski, Nyquist, Kevin Labanc, Kane and Thornton). What’s mind-blowing is that no other NHL team has more than five: Boston, Columbus, Calgary, Chicago, Florida, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Vegas and Winnipeg are all tied at five apiece.

Of course, the Sharks will miss Meier dearly, if he is indeed sidelined. But whether or not it’s Timo Time this spring, a balanced San Jose squad is designed to have enough forward depth to answer the bell.