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Bonino Can Still Help Sharks Next Year

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Credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis

VANCOUVER — It hasn’t been an ideal season for Nick Bonino.

The 33-year-old was the San Jose Sharks’ biggest free agent signing this past summer, expected to center the third line for a playoff hopeful.

Bonino went pointless in his first 18 games and the Sharks are now 17 points out of the playoffs after a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

“It’s been a frustrating year,” Logan Couture noted. “He wanted to contribute his first 15-20 games here offensively, and for some reason, the puck wasn’t going in for him.”

But the two-time Stanley Cup champion has been showing that he can still help San Jose back to the promised last next year. Bonino is signed for another year at $2.05 million dollars.

This was Bonino’s third goal in his last four games.

In his last 51 games, Bonino has 11 goals and nine assists. Over an 82-game season, that’s 18 goals and 14 assists, which is about what the Sharks hoped for from Bonino during the off-season.

Of course, you can’t wish away Bonino’s slump. At the moment, he’s averaging a career-low 0.98 Points Per 60 at 5-on-5. That’s far from previous career-low 1.42

Regardless, it’s good to see Bonino back to adding some secondary scoring. And of course, his game is so much more.

Notice on his goal, for example, how he dislodges the puck from Conor Garland (8) in the neutral zone. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) and Matt Nieto (83) serve it on a platter for the explosive Noah Gregor (73).

“That’s one thing that I’ve noticed he’s really good at,” Gregor said. “How strong on the stick he is. He’s so good at stealing parks, getting underneath guys, and stripping players.

“He’s strips pucks all over the ice and creates foot races or battles for his linemates.”

A Stick Check is, per SPORTLOGiQ, “separating opponent from the puck with your stick causing a loss of possession.”

At the All-Star break, Bonino led all San Jose forwards with 4.69 Stick Checks Per 60 at 5v5.

Here’s a defensive category where Bonino is leading not just the San Jose Sharks, but the entire National Hockey League.

With 91 blocks, he’s 24 ahead of current runner-up Anze Kopitar for most shot blocks by a forward.

He’s the fourth most-used penalty killer, behind Andrew Cogliano, Logan Couture, and Nieto, on the league’s third-best penalty kill.

He’s still a force at the faceoff circle, winning 51.4 percent of his draws.

Off the ice, Bonino’s voice still has weight.

“He plays the right way every game. He’s so consistent. He’s so good for us with faceoffs and on the penalty kill,” 23-year-old Gregor offered. “He’s very vocal in the room and talks to the younger guys and helps them navigate through the league.”

Captain Couture added, “He’s a great pro. There’s reasons why guys play in this league for 13-14 years, especially guys that aren’t the top-end talent — not to take anything away from Bones — he’s a third-line center. Those guys do the things the right way, they do the little things, win faceoffs, they check hard, they penalty kill.”

Bonino sounds like the perfect vet to guide the young San Jose Sharks back to the playoffs.

“He’s been a steady guy. A leader for us, I know young guys look up to. He’s one of the guys that we lean on to set the standard. That’s why they brought him in here,” head coach Bob Boughner shared. “I thought he’s done a great job of that.”

All that said, we have to face reality. Bonino’s skating is slowing down. Scouts have been telling me that since last off-season.

He’s not one of the league’s best third-line centers anymore – he either needs some dynamic wingers around him, or ideally, he should slide down to a fourth line.

But point is: Bonino can still play, and he can still help the Sharks.

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Whiskerz

Bones as 4C next year would be ideal, but not sure how we can get a bonefide 3C without trading someone and I don’t see anyone taking some of our big contract guys.

What would you budget AAV-wise for the 3C next season Sheng?

Whiskerz

Will have to try give it a listen when i get a chance

david barnard

if the Sharks end up not having the cap space to land an Andrew Copp to play 3C perhaps Bordeleau wouldn’t be such a bad option? he’s the only real obvious center in the pipeline with the talent ceiling to potentially pull it off. worst case in that scenario is that Bonino continues at 3C and Bordeleau centers the 4th line.

david barnard

he’s played 2 seasons against men. college players get more time to work on their bodies and perfect/practice their game outside of a busy game schedule unlike MJ players. he should be physically and technically ready to play, as it sounds to me from the scouting of him that his mind is already processing/thinking the game at a pro level. funny how your pro scout contacts see him as a “high end” 3C. he has to earn his spot in the Sharks line up, but i don’t see why (as long as his camp performance warrants it) you wouldn’t want… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by david barnard
Zeke

I’ve been favorable to Boughner coaching this season, but one of the criticisms I have is the frequent use of the line of Cogliano-Bonino-Nieto. Over 2,000 NHL games, including a ton of playoff experience. You’ve got 3 vets on that 3rd line. And on the 4th line, usually 3 guys with less than 100 NHL games. Younger guys should be playing with vets. Move just 1 of those vets to the 4th line (say Bonino) and now you’ve got a ‘coach on the ice’ sort which can help develop the younger guys. Obviously Cogliano was moved at the trade deadline,… Read more »

david barnard

he’s not being paid outrageous 4C money and he’s probably be 1 of the better one’s. still think he’s a “luxury” to keep next season? i made the argument he could bounce back more in line with his norm point production as there was evidence of some bad luck there. give him some young legs/skill to off set the declining legs and the Sharks could have a decent 4th line next season. is Dahlen headed back to Sweden? if so, it makes room for Balcers and Barabanov to keep playing in the top 9 (with Eklund presumably inbound). frees up… Read more »

david barnard

i think Copp ends up cheaper than Trocheck, but i do rem that his contract/pay was a major contention with the WPG front office, so i think he expects get paid this FA. i just don’t know where any of these middle 6 centers fall price-wise. have to wait for EW’s projections.

with the Dahlen situation resolved for now, i’m gonna have to factor him back into the players who’re going to have some potential contract issues this off season. not sure what will be left over to go after a good center.

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