The San Jose Sharks moved quickly during the NHL’s free agent frenzy this past summer to address the organization’s needs. The Pittsburgh Penguins exposed the Sharks’ lack of speed during the Stanley Cup Final. General Manager Doug Wilson stepped in quickly, adding Mikkel Boedker to the roster on a relatively affordable four-year, $16 million pact with the fleet-footed winger to help the need for speed in the San Jose lineup.
Third Team of 2016
Originally drafted by the then-Phoenix Coyotes eighth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Boedker matched his career high of 51 points last season, which was split between the Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche.
The Coyotes showcased Boedker heavily on the power play and his 3:57 of ice time with the man advantage ranked eighth in the league. With the Sharks’ top man-advantage unit set, he’s seen his special teams time drop to just over two minutes per contest, which Boedker still sees as an advantage.
“I bet any player in the league would tell you they would love to play two minutes on the power play and give themselves the best chance to score goals,” Boedker joked when asked about his reduced power play time compared to last year. “It’s one of those things when you sign with teams you believe you can win with you got to take some ice time away maybe from guys who are used to playing a lot more. It’s nothing I think about on the ice.”
World Cup Meant Less Time to Adjust
Boedker’s participation in the World Cup of Hockey delayed his arrival in San Jose. He was a healthy scratch for Team Europe until the final games of the tournament. While not ideal, it is in the past.
“Obviously when you come into a new club you want to get as much practice time and as much time around the guys as you can to be part of the group,” Boedker said. “Coming in late it wasn’t the best of starts, but we keep on grinding towards it, and hopefully we can gain some success shortly.”
That delay in adjusting to a new system, new teammates and new style of play have all contributed to the slow start. Boedker has only scored a pair of goals through the Sharks’ first 13 games. While wanting to have a bigger impact on the scoresheet, the 26-year-old native of Brondby, Denmark knows that there are plenty of games left on the schedule.
“Confidence comes with points and goals, we all know that,” said Boedker before the team departed on its six-game road trip. “I’d love to have 20 points by now, but reality is that I don’t. I have two. We have to keep working and going to the right places and making good things happen. All that will sort itself out over a long season.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals, head coach Peter DeBoer again mixed up the lines, moving Boedker back down the lineup to San Jose’s third line along with Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau, while moving Joel Ward to the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
To his credit, Boedker did not point to the continuing line experiments as an excuse. Rather, he felt that on such a deep, skilled Sharks roster, it is a nonissue.
“It’s not tough, every player in this lineup is a good player. It’s just about getting the opportunity and taking advantage of it,” Boedker said of his movement throughout the Sharks’ forward lines. “I’m back with Hertl and Marleau now. I think we had a really good period together there; we created some offense. Hopefully, we can continue doing that. They are both really high-end talents so hopefully we can have some chemistry. But again every player in this lineup is a good hockey player. It shouldn’t be an issue when you play with good players.”
“I think [Boedker] can slot anywhere, but we’re trying to get everyone going. He’s not the only guy we’ve moved around. He’s new to the group so we’re seeing if there is any instant chemistry and if we see a spark we want to try to let that develop. But right now nobody is scoring so that’s why you see the deck continually being shuffling here until we get that going.”
So far, Boedker has shuffled throughout the Sharks’ top three forward lines, including over 41 percent of all 5-on-5 shifts with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Despite the changing line combinations and whatever line Boedker is part of, the expectations of the team and himself are static.
“It doesn’t change,” said Boedker. “You still have to do the same things. Every line is relied on to be a successful line, and again every player is a good player. It shouldn’t change dramatically. Obviously, we have to go out and work hard and do the things that are requested of us to do and required of us to do. We got to make sure other lines can rely on us.”
“Now it’s just for me to get comfortable,” he continued. “And for me to keep on working on my game and making sure I put pucks on net and making good things happen. And once we do that, the points will generate after that.”
DeBoer Patient With Boedker, Roster
Like Boedker, DeBoer is not panicking about the lack of points or the search for the right combinations.
Mikkel Boedker, who scored 80 goals in 445 games with the Coyotes from 2008-16, scored his 2nd goal of the season
— Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) November 2, 2016
“Sure,” said the Sharks bench boss when asked if he’s spoken with his new winger about his role and the lack of scoring. “But he’s a positive kid generally. I think he gets it, but we’ve had some conversations. He’s on the right track. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We didn’t sign him for four years to have him peak in October. He’s heading in the right direction.”
DeBoer has liked what he’s seen in Boedker, who DeBoer coached in his final season behind the bench in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers, even if the points have been slow to materialize. And despite the lack of point production, Boedker’s Corsi-for percentage, in a small sample size with San Jose, has jumped nine full percentage points from a career average of 47.9%. Boedker is also currently sporting a PDO of 90.5, just ahead of perpetually snake bitten fourth-liner Matt Nieto on the entire Sharks roster.
|Corsi (All)||PDO (All)||Zone Starts (All)|
“I think you see his speed, his ability to create offense. I like how he’s fit in with our puck possession mentality. He has the puck in the offensive zone. He gets it, he escapes, he’s hard on it. I think he’s created at least one really good look a night for himself. They just haven’t gone in,” DeBoer said about what likes in Boedker’s time so far with the Sharks. “I think he’s being a bit harder on himself than maybe he needs to be. He’s played seven years a certain way in Arizona. He’s reprogramming himself because we do things differently here and that isn’t easy to do. So he’s working his way through that.”