Last week we talked about Joe Thornton and made some predictions about what will happen with him as well as his production. While I did make the lofty prediction of about 80 points, I was more making the point that it could definitely be possible given his abilities and possible line mates this season.
Which brought up the thought of who would be the San Jose Sharks’ most important player this upcoming season. My conclusion may surprise you, and I hope it provokes some thought as to how and I got got here. Since it is a surprise. we can rule obviously rule out captain Joe Thornton. But who else is there? No, it is not Antti Niemi, nor Logan Couture, nor even Patrick Marleau. Instead, I think that guy will be Joe Pavelski.
Sure, he’s probably not the guy most would expect, but he’s the right one. He’s the guy that constantly gets overlooked, whether it be on the power play, or even when looking at the up and coming young stars on the Sharks because most immediately flock to Couture.
One great facet to his game is his versatility. He can play anywhere on the top three lines at even strength or on the power play, and that allows Todd McLellan some flexibility when he starts juggling them.
Also, many teams will still want to stick their top defensive pair against either the Thornton or Couture lines. With the possibility of Pavelski centering his own third line to start the season, that leaves him matched up against a team’s third defensive pairing every night. Who wouldn’t want that mismatch? I guess that would be every opposing team this upcoming season.
When we look at last year’s stats as well, it’s easy to see he is great on both sides of the puck. Last season he had 16 goals and 15 assists in 48 games. He was even a point-per-game player in the playoffs tallying 12 points (four goals and eight assists) in 11 games.
Defensively, he is just as good. Pavelski ranked tenth in the league among forwards with four blocked shots during the regular season. He also ranked eleventh in the league in takeaways with 38, which is ahead of both Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, who are both considered great defensive forwards.
Also, he bested them in blocked shots during the playoffs with 15 and had only three less takeways than Thornton, with Pavelski ending at 12. So, not only can he do it offensively, he can do it on defense too.
In the end it is definitely Pavelski who can be that difference-maker for the team this year. He has all the tools and has been successful his whole career having won championships at the junior and college level, as well as winning silver with team USA in the Olympics. It’s no wonder he received a five-year contract extension from the Sharks right after Couture did, allowing the San Jose Sharks to have some continuity in the years to come.