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San Jose Sharks

Will the Real Sharks Please Stand Up?

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The 2023-24 San Jose Sharks have seen highs and lows like no other.

They started off by tying an NHL-worst record with 11 straight losses to start a season. 0-10-1 with a -42 goal differential, 0-fer in October, they were called the worst hockey team ever created.

Over the next 11 games, the Sharks won their first games, and things stabilized with a 5-5-1 record.

Finally, in the last 11 games, it’s been highs and lows — several multi-goal comebacks highlighted a six-game road trip, but they’re currently on a four-game skid. They’re 4-6-1 in their last 11.

What is this team right now, and what offensive numbers are sustainable for the San Jose Sharks?

When splitting the season into three parts, in some ways, there isn’t much difference between the Sharks’ 0-10-1 start and the team now.

Time FrameGames PlayedCorsi For 5v5Corsi Allowed 5v5Corsi For % 5v5xGoals For 5v5xGoals Against 5v5
Oct 10 - Nov 61140.4554.5542.14%1.82.57
Nov 7 - Nov 301138.725441.76%1.542.29
Dec 1 - Dec 211145.2755.3644.98%1.982.72

Comparing the 5-on-5 stats, there isn’t much of a difference between the 0-10-1 Sharks and the most recent vintage, which has been much more competitive the last few weeks. The shot attempts per game have gone up during the Sharks’ most recent stretch of play, but they’re giving up more expected goals per game, suggesting that they’re also ceding a greater volume of high-danger scoring chances at the same time.

So why have the Sharks been more competitive in recent weeks than at the start of the season?

Some call it puck luck, I’ll call it regression to the mean.

Time FrameGames PlayedGoals ForShooting %Power Play%Power Play
League Ranking
(In Time Frame)
Oct 10 - Nov 611124.3%18.2%19th
Nov 7 - Nov 3011249.2%21.4%14th
Dec 1 - Dec 21113311.6%30.0%7th

Last season, the NHL had 8,248 goals on 81,990 shots during the regular season. That averages to a 10.06 shooting %.

The Sharks started this season shooting 4.3%, which is worse than Noah Gregor’s 2021-22 season, where he shot 5.1% for the entire year. That was the second-worst shooting percentage for a forward that season, of 156 forwards with 150-plus shots.

Add poor shooting percentage combined with the least amount of shot attempts per game, and you get the 0-10-1 start. Over the last 11 games, the Sharks have been shooting above-average at 11.6%. That, by the way, is right at Mike Hoffman’s career 11.8 shooting %. Hoffman is a six-time 20-goal scorer.

Neither the 11.6 nor the 4.3 are sustainable percentages for the Sharks. While they are a talent-poor team overall, they’re not “2021-22 Noah Gregor bad” or “Mike Hoffman good” at scoring.

Another big reason for the Sharks’ recent winning “spree” has been the power play. With Mikael Granlund as the point man, the Sharks have seen their power play improve. Calen Addison, acquired on Nov. 9, specifically to help run the power play, has also contributed to that.

Last year, the Sharks’ power play finished 25th in the NHL at 18.4%. This year, the Sharks are currently at 20.9%, good for 16th in the league. Despite not having Erik Karlsson running the unit and Logan Couture yet to take a single shift, the 2023-24 Sharks have been an average power play unit this season.

An improved power play has been a David Quinn calling card. With the New York Rangers, they improved from 17th in the league at 19.38% in 2018-19, his first season behind the bench there, to the seventh-best unit in the league at 22.91% in 2019-20.

A few more power plays could help: The Sharks have had a league-low 86 power play opportunities this year. Of course, their lack of puck possession, suggested by Corsi, confirmed by micro-stats — per SPORTLOGiQ, they’re dead-last in the NHL in OZ Possession Time in All Situations with 5:11 per game — has something to do with that. If you’re not putting offensive pressure on your opponent, you’re not as likely to draw penalties.

They are making the most of the few opportunities they’ve had so far. 

So what does this all mean for the San Jose Sharks?

They are not the worst hockey team ever assembled, nor the Cardiac Sharks that can keep coming back down multiple goals. The realistic expectation for the Sharks is probably the team from the middle 11 games that can stay close in most games but needs a near-perfect effort or exceptional goaltending to pull out a victory.

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