Matt Nieto Should Replace Marty Havlat Now

Marty Havlat is a veteran of the NHL.  This is his 13th season in the NHL and has undoubtedly seen his best days already.  In sixteen games, he has only mustered five points with only two goals.  He has spent time on the Couture/Marleau line and now sees the majority of his time on the third line with Joe Pavelski.  Recent contests have exemplified Havlat’s struggles as well.  But there is a solution to all of this: replace the former All Star with rookie Matt Nieto.

Matt Nieto

The Marty Havlat experiment has failed (Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Nieto Enjoys Time in NHL

In the opening few weeks to this season, Matt Nieto played well for a rookie.  He played consistently down on the third and fourth lines but was very aggressive and effective with his linemates.  He spent most of his time with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels until that line was broken up in favor of Tommy’s surge.  He scored six points in 19 games prior to Havlat’s return.  Two of them were goals.  On Sunday, the line could have been reunited but for Todd McLellan shaking up the struggling Sharks forwards.

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Nieto’s rookie campaign will only get better with experience.  His success is dependent on who he his paired with, like any rookie, really.  The entire hockey world has seen how well Hertl’s pairing with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns has been.  The same can be said for Matt Nieto.  He would thrive on that third line.

Matt Nieto

Matt Nieto is hoping he won’t be seeing muc more of Worcester this season (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Havlat’s Struggles Continue

It’s always tough to talk about Marty Havlat struggling.  He is a hard-working and lovable guy in terms of his character.  But his contributions have diminished every season in San Jose.  He has been bounced from one line to another and his success has been very limited, even with his old buddies Couture and Marleau.  To say it’s been a rough season, is an understatement.  Havlat has had a game where he didn’t even record an offensive stat.  No shots, no blocked shots, nothing.

Marty Havlat has a big contract, but it is in its last years.  He would make great trade bait, but now, the Sharks should welcome any offer for him.  Right now, highlights like these are a distant memory for Team Teal.

The Fancy Numbers Do Not Lie

Matt Nieto

(Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

Prior to Sunday’s matchup against the Wild, in which Matt Nieto reinforced his case for the starting squad, the Corsi numbers also favored the rookie.  Through 19 games, Nieto’s Corsi On stood at 13.99 (sixth best on the team).  His play on the third line may have been against other third liners, but it is no less impressive.  Especially when compared with Marty Havlat.  The embattled veteran clocks in at a -3.31 Corsi On (only better than Andrew Desjardins among regular starters).

Want more proof?  Joe Pavelski is the skater on the ice the most for both Nieto and Havlat.  Their Corsi for percentages are very different.  Nieto and Pavelski have a 54.5% CF which means they are controlling the game more often than their opponents (>50%).  Havlat and Pavelski, on the other hand, are struggling down at a 46.2% CF.  Even more surprising, however, is that when Pavelski is playing apart from Nieto, his CF percentage actually drops to 49.7%.  Not only is Nieto better with Little Joe than Havlat, but Pavelski is worse off when Nieto isn’t around!  The rookie makes Pavelski better!

I may be turning into a broken record, but I don’t care.  Havlat can bring in something moderately valuable through a trade.  Anything really will be an improvement over his abysmal performances.  And Nieto’s experience will only make him better.

THW Sharks Contributor

  • EH

    Havlat hasn’t played his game since he went to the sharks, he’s a unique talent in the NHL when allowed to use it, which unfortunately, the Sharks are not that team that uses his kind of play. Yes, he slows the game down, looking to create, Sharks game is not an east-west puck possesion game, Havlat excels at that and has been a fish out of water in SJ. Wild and Hawks were great fits for him. With all his injuries, and also being a slow starter, would be great to see him on a finesse team again

    • Kenneth Laws

      First off, thanks for the read and the input!
      Second, while I agree Havlat has not been playing his game, I would venture to argue that it is less the style of the Sharks and more his nagging injuries that have neutralized him. His time with Couture and Marleau last year gave glimpses of hope, but nothing came of it once he was hurt again. Once again, thanks for the read and comment.

  • Max NG

    I think the biggest point in favor of this article is the shake up and re-design they started last year. The whole point was to build a faster, quicker, north south team. Well I’ve always heard people tout Havlat’s speed, but you know what, he doesn’t play fast. He likes to trail behind plays, he tends to be the last man, and he tends to slow the game down.
    Nieto is the exact opposite. That kid is fast, and he knows it. The best part is he uses it on a regular basis. I’ve seen Nieto get many breakaways off stretch passes where he just beat his man, and even when he doesn’t get a breakaway he always seems to be stretching the ice and pushing the opposing D.
    Havlat is a wonderful individual and an amazingly talented player, and I feel bad for the guy and all the injuries he’s had. But you know what, this isn’t about his injuries/recovery, this is about his play style, and it is all wrong for the game the Sharks are trying to play right now. Please, please, please keep Nieto on the ice.

    • EH

      he was fast about 9 years ago on the Sens, not now

    • Kenneth Laws

      Thanks for the read and comment! I believe this is true as well. The thing is, Havlat’s upside is dwindling every day. Nieto still has room to develop himself. Right now, Marty could top out as a 20 goal scorer, but he’ll need to hit a hot streak. Nieto contributes much more than just a goal scoring presence