At the time of the season-quarter mark, the San Jose Sharks find themselves in the playoff picture. This came as a surprise to many who had predicted the Sharks to be one of the worst teams in the Pacific Division. At this point in the season, I think it will be fun to see who would take the team award if they were given it now. I’ll take a look at the most valuable, most surprising, best rookie and most disappointing players.
Most Valuable Player: Logan Couture
Without a doubt the most stable player this season for the Sharks has been their captain Logan Couture. After previous captain Joe Pavelski left, it took a while for Couture to become the leader and player in the new role. Like the rest of the team, he has struggled over the past two seasons, but his determination appears to have been renewed. Of all the bulky long-term contracts the Sharks have, he is probably the one that will age best based on current output.
If his current pace is maintained, Couture will finish with the best total of his career. His current 74 point rate is fueled by a slightly high hit rate and engagement, but most of his remaining score is consistent, so if a setback is imminent, that shouldn’t knock him too far. This team ultimately feels as if they are playing in the mold of their captain. They are agile, compete hard and rarely quit. Two seasons ago it didn’t look like his team, but now it certainly is.
Most Surprised: James Reimer
Sharks fans welcomed the two new goalkeepers at the start of the season with open arms. After years of suffering with Martin Jones’ inconsistent play and not finding answers with Aaron Dell, Devan Dubnyk, Josef Korenar, and a few others, fans are ready for a change. When the Sharks traded Korenar with a second pick in 2022 for Adin Hill, it was thought he would be the number one goalkeeper, and he entered camp that way. Since then, however, Reimer has won the job away from Hill.
Reimer did look calmer and more confident in the net. His tackles were measured, and I don’t remember much if there were any “bad” goals. Most of the games where he didn’t play well, you can also blame the team. The numbers prove this too, as he saved six more goals than expected, according to Evolved Hockey. At this point he is the obvious number one goalkeeper and Hill will have to steal starts from him with stellar play if he is to get back in the fold. The fans are so grateful for an NHL-caliber goal, no matter who it comes from.
Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Dahlen
In a year in which so many young Sharks players have played meaningful roles for the team, Dahlen stands above the crowd. According to Money Puck, the Coutre-Dahlen-Timo Meier route is fifth in the league in expected goals per 60 minutes for all routes with at least 120 minutes together. Not only is he a member of one of the best teams in hockey, but he’s also a valuable contributor, not just a passenger.
We’re not sure what to expect from Dahlen in his first sustaining role in the NHL. If he was a consistent NHLer who contributed a few points here and there, you could consider his season a success. Instead, he was a front-line winger whose contributions were crucial to the team’s success. He’s fifth on the team in terms of pace for strikers, which is fantastic for someone who wasn’t even on the team last season. Frontline wingers don’t grow on trees, and the Sharks are lucky to have Dahlen achieve such great early success. Hopefully, for the Sharks’ sake, it will be maintained.
Most Disappointing: Erik Karlsson
If Erik Karlsson doesn’t hit the Sharks’ cap 14.1% per season through 2027, he probably won’t be too disappointed. His 62-point pace isn’t terrible, even considering he’s consistently hit or above 65 runs between 2011 and 2019. What’s annoying is that according to Evolved Hockey, Karlsson is an excellent defender. Saturdays in Corsi every 60 minutes. This means he’s one of the worst on the team at limiting his shot attempts. Even Marc-Edouard Vlasic is struggling and rookies Jaycob Megna, Jacob Middleton, Ryan Merkley are better than Karlsson.
On the other hand, Karlsson is by far the best in terms of goals expected per 60 minutes among the team’s defenders. He is also the best at turning those expectations into realistic goals. He’s got almost twice as many secondary assists as he does main, which means scoring is likely to fall further back. He shoots almost twice his career standard and, according to Money Puck, has nearly three more goals than expected. All is not bad, but there are serious signs of a recession coming. If expectations weren’t so high, he might not have won this award, but because they were the biggest disappointment.
What does the future hold?
It’s hard to say if these picks will hold up for the season. Maybe Reimer’s playstyle recedes, and Hill begins to succeed. Reimer was never really a starter for a long time. His most appearances in a single season were 44 during the 2017-18 season with Florida. He is 33 years old, so it is conceivable that he and Hill share most of the starting time for the rest of the season.
I would be remiss not to mention Meier’s stellar start to the season. While he’s been great, we’ve been expecting this from Timo for a while, and I still think Couture is worth more. Couture doesn’t just give points and has been instrumental in helping Meier get most of the points he has. Hopefully for Sharks fans, Karlsson will improve his defensive play without sacrificing the offense he can contribute.
Victor Nuño is a physician in private practice in Santa Cruz and an associate professor of osteopathic medicine at Touro University in California. He’s been a huge fan of hockey since the San Jose Sharks joined the NHL in 1991. He plays, watches, and consumes everything hockey-related, but especially the Sharks and its affiliates. AHL, Barracuda. In addition, he is the father of two beautiful young girls and the husband of a wonderful wife. Follow me @ VictorNuno12
https://thehockeywriters.com/sharks-quarter-season-team-awards-2021-22/ San Jose Sharks 2021-22 Quarter Finals Team Award