Today we hand out the virtual hardware for the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks. Not that these were much fun to debate, given the team’s combination of injuries and mediocrity. But awards need to be given and while the season isn’t officially over, it’s close enough.
2019-20 San Jose Sharks Awards
Most Valuable Player: Logan Couture
Last season’s winner: Brent Burns
Among the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks top eight scorers, seven were minus double-digits on the season. Couture was the lone player to dodge this result, somehow finishing even. Couture missed 18 games, but finished fifth on the team in scoring with 39 points and tied for third with 16 goals, including two short-handed. When the Sharks stood a fighting chance in the standings, it was Couture carrying the team, providing clutch goals in close games. The award wasn’t close, with Couture winning this honor for the second time in three seasons.
Kane gets consideration for his effective work on the power play. Of the team’s 33 power play tallies, Kane had 14. The next best among Sharks forwards was three. He was also effective on the penalty kill (the Sharks tallied four goals with Kane on the ice while down a man, and allowed only three). Alas, Kane was less effective at even strength and his penalties (some more fair than others) were far too frequent.
Karlsson started the season poorly, which was always a possibility given his off-season surgery. Still, he made too many mental errors and was a liability for the season’s first few months, compounding his physical limitations. But a couple of months into the season, he turned the corner and began generating the sort of opportunities expected of him. The team’s play with Karlsson on the ice was decidedly better for the middle portion of the season and Karlsson was the team’s best player. Alas, his season ended early, and given he’d underwhelmed for a chuck of it, he doesn’t get the award.
Dillon, everyone’s favorite defensive partner, deserves a spot on the consideration list. Every right-shot Sharks defenceman had their best Corsi when paired with Dillon. Dillon’s limited offensive contributions (14 points in 59 games) isn’t going to win MVP awards, but it is worth noting the Sharks top three right-shot defencemen were all negative players at 5-on-5 (two negative double digits), but each was a net positive with Dillon. Valuable is about making others better, which made Dillon a candidate for the award. The durable Dillon is also the lone player under consideration to play every game for San Jose this season –– up to the point when he was traded.
Rookie of the Year: Mario Ferraro
Candidates: Mario Ferraro
Last season’s winner: Radim Simek
It’s not a good sign when there’s just one candidate for top rookie, especially for team which counted on younger players to play meaningful roles. Such was the case for the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks.
The winner, Ferraro, wasn’t particularly good this season, but he was the lone rookie to make a notable impact. The Sharks made an investment in the left-shot defenceman, putting him in the line-up consistently, hoping he’d develop. The team didn’t make it easy on him, his top three partners (in ice time) were also left-shot defencemen. In all, he played in 61 of the team’s 70 games, averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time a game. He tallied 11 points. Ferraro won’t make anyone’s list of top rookies across the league, but his future looks promising. If nothing else, he belongs in the NHL, something no other Sharks rookie could credibly say. At age 21, he’s still young and given defencemen tend to evolve later than forwards, Ferraro’s future is one of the few good stories coming from the Sharks younger players.
Best Newcomer: Stefan Noesen
Last season’s winner: Karlsson
In addition to rookies, the newcomers can come from trades and free agency. It can also include the coaching staff. Returning individuals don’t qualify, which excluded interim head coach Bob Boughner (a former assistant coach) and the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer Patrick Marleau. It also excluded goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov, who made his debut as a Sharks assistant coach in December. Nabokov is hardly a newcomer, though he excelled in his new role.
This leaves the rookie Ferraro, Swedish import Joel Kellman and waiver wire pick-up Stefan Noesen. Noesen wins by a sliver. Though he only had eight points in 34 games, he scored six goals which put him tenth among the team’s forwards. Noesen came to the Sharks off waivers in December, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins. His hard-nosed style won him fans. Until Noesen arrived, the Sharks depth lines were regularly abused by opposing teams. Noesen didn’t put a full stop to it, but he did help the fourth line return to a semblance of competitiveness. In a season with a shortage of helpful newcomers, Noesen did just enough to capture the honor.
We touched on Ferraro before. He was the most impactful of the newcomers, just not the best. The most intriguing player amongst the finalists is Kellman. He tallied seven points in 31 games and looks like he can stick in the NHL. He plays a savvy game and finds ways to be effective. It is hard to see him as anything beyond a bottom six player and at age 25, his future upside is probably limited. A bit more seasoning and NHL experience may result in his becoming a positive asset in a lower line role. That may seem faint praise, but he was among the few Sharks bright spots this season.
Most Improved: Barclay Goodrow
Last season’s winner: Brenden Dillon
In the San Jose Sharks 2019-20 season, regression was the norm. It wasn’t easy to find players who upgraded their play. Only two stood out, and the winner is Barclay Goodrow, who delivered his best season. In virtually every role (and he had plenty), Goodrow met or exceeded expectations. With injuries to other forwards, Goodrow was, unexpectedly, team’s top line centre for a time. He played a substantial role on the penalty kill (the lone area where the team excelled), leading all Sharks forwards in PK ice time. He even received a bit of use on the power play. Goodrow tallied 24 points in 62 games, topping his prior best of 17 points in 82 games in 2018-19. From a team perspective, he seemed part of the solution, but was traded away in February. In return, the Sharks upgraded a mid-third-round draft pick to a late first-round pick.
Aaron Dell had a strong first season and a respectable second season. But a poor third season left him vulnerable. This season, his fourth in teal, started poorly. But with starter Martin Jones struggling, newly-named interim head coach Bob Boughner went with Dell in mid-December and Dell delivered. It was Dell’s first extended work in a starter’s role and he gave the Sharks quality goaltending over a sustained period. From his first start under Boughner through the remainder of the season, Dell posted a solid .914 save percentage. Though his record wasn’t particularly good (8-10-2), non-support was the issue, not Dell. The Sharks scored two or fewer goals in regulation in 13 of his 22 starts. This season might seem more of a bounceback season than a most-improved one. But given Dell carried a starter’s load for the first time in his career, he merited consideration for most improved.