David Quinn has this reminder when assessing the 2022-23 San Jose Sharks.
“We have to not forget, really focus on the first [part of the season], probably through the middle of January before we started making changes, what that looked like, when we weren’t auditioning players,” the Sharks head coach offered during his exit interview last month. “The last six weeks are a little bit misleading because of the changes.”
Jan. 25 was the franchise’s first white flag, when they traded top penalty killer Matt Nieto and struggling prospect Ryan Merkley to the Colorado Avalanche for journeyman defenseman Jacob MacDonald and struggling prospect Martin Kaut.
On Feb. 5, the Sharks sent Erik Karlsson’s defensive partner Jaycob Megna to the Seattle Kraken for a 2023 fourth-round pick.
On Feb. 26, San Jose sent their top forward, 40-goal scorer Timo Meier, to the New Jersey Devils for a bunch of futures.
Then, on the week of the Trade Deadline, GM Mike Grier traded energy winger Mikey Eyssimont and top penalty killer Nick Bonino for essentially futures.
That’s five regulars out of the Sharks line-up from the Trade Deadline on.
To Quinn’s point, both the counting and underlying stats support his larger argument.
The San Jose Sharks were 15-25-11 with a -35 Goal Differential at the All-Star break. That’s nothing to write home about, but there’s a thin line between bad and put on a hazmat suit.
After the All-Star break, the Sharks were an NHL-worst 7-19-5 with a -47 Goal Differential. That’s -35 in 51 games…then -47 in the last 31.
That’s what happens to a team when they lose both everyday players and motivation. There’s a drop-off everywhere, in areas big and small. Per SPORTLOGiQ, here are some key San Jose micro-stats at mid-season, then after:
|Even Strength||Mid-Season Rank||End Season Rank|
|Expected Goals For||15||22|
|Expected Goals Against||20||27|
|Shots On Net From Slot Against||16||25|
|Pass to Slot Against||4||17|
|DZ Rebounds Recovered||10||27|
|Controlled Entry Success%||21||32|
|Opposition OZ Possession Time||13||23|
|Team Entry Denial Success%||16||26|
|Power Play||Mid-Season Rank||End Season|
|Controlled Entry Success%||3||19|
|Shots On Net From Slot For||19||29|
|OZ Shot Attempts Recovered||20||30|
While the Sharks’ record never caught up to their better underlying stats, at least under the hood, they were roughly an average team at mid-season…and a whole lot worse after the All-Star break.
I’m not making any excuses here: The Sharks, even with some bounces and stronger goaltending, were no better than an average group at their very best. Trading Meier and company wasn’t the difference, say, between the playoffs and the lottery.
But Quinn isn’t fibbing when he insists, “We weren’t far off in however many games that we lost. There’s a lot of data and stuff that we do behind the scenes here that thinks, Jesus, we should have won that.”
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