Revisiting 3 Bold Predictions for the Sharks 2021-22 Season

After a disappointing season in 2020-21, their second consecutive missing the playoffs, the San Jose Sharks were looking to bounce back in 2021-22. They made several offseason moves like bringing back James Reimer, acquiring Adin Hill, and signing Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano, and Matt Nieto. While these names weren’t enough to engender beaming confidence from the fanbase for the upcoming season, moving on from Martin Jones was cause for some optimism as he’d been one of the worst goalies in the league for his final two seasons in teal. 

Martin Jones San Jose Sharks
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There was also optimism for the maturation of some of the Sharks’ prospects who were unable to contribute much in 2020-21. After another year of maturation paired with William Eklund looking like he could contribute and Jonathan Dahlen ready to become a regular NHLer, there were some positive signs.

Related: San Jose Sharks History of Black Hockey Players

With all that in mind, back in early October, I made three bold predictions for the Sharks’ 2021-22 season. Remember, these aren’t supposed to be predictions that will likely come true. In fact, they are the opposite. They should have plausibility to come true, but are ultimately unlikely to materialize. Now that the team has passed the halfway point, it’s time to check in and see how these takes have fared so far.

Bold Prediction #1 – Mario Ferraro Leads the Team in Ice Time

This prediction certainly wasn’t the boldest of the three. In his first season with the Sharks in 2019-20, Ferraro played an average of just 15:53 per night. Over that season and the subsequent one, his game improved dramatically and his role with the team grew. He finished the 2020-21 season by averaging 22:25 minutes, a jump of over seven minutes. Not only that but he went from the defender with the fifth-most ice time to third behind Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.

Mario Ferraro San Jose Sharks
Mario Ferraro, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I had a feeling Ferraro’s ice time would continue to grow, though I knew he couldn’t add another seven minutes on average. I thought that soon-to-be 37-year-old Burns would slow down and Karlsson might stay in a similar range, but that turned out to be wrong. Burns is averaging slightly more ice time this season than last, which is frankly astonishing and probably speaks more to the lack of blue-line depth on the Sharks than how good Burns has been. Karlsson has struggled with injuries this season, but even on a per-game average, his ice time is slightly down this season.

San Jose Sharks Mario Ferraro’s 2021-22 RAPM Chart courtesy of Evolving Hockey.

Ferraro is second in ice time behind Burns by three minutes and 13 seconds, so this prediction did not come true. However, if you take away the power-play time that Burns enjoys, his lead dwindles to just one minute and 13 seconds. Much closer, but still incorrect. At least I was correct that Ferraro’s ice time did continue to grow. One variable that might have affected this is the injury to Nikolai Knyzhov who had a massive breakout in 2020-21, but hasn’t played at all this season due to an injury. Perhaps Knyzhov would have taken some of Burns’ even strength minutes and this prediction would have been correct. According to the regularized adjusted plus minus (RAPM) chat from Evolving Hockey, the Sharks might be better off not playing Ferraro as much as both his offensive and defensive metrics are unflattering.

Bold Prediction #2 – Sharks Have a Calder Trophy Finalist

This prediction started out strong, along with the team who won their first four games and six of their first nine. I pointed to three possible candidates to be in this conversation in Eklund, Dahlen, and Ryan Merkley. Eklund had four points in those nine games and Dahlen had six in the same number. The Sharks were looking good, but unfortunately, that would be one of their best stretches of the season. I think if Eklund had stayed in the NHL all season, he would still be in the Calder race, but it wasn’t meant to be.

William Eklund San Jose Sharks
William Eklund, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After Eklund was sent back to Sweden, Dahlen kept up his pace for a little while until he injured his shoulder on Nov. 20, 2021. Up until that point, he had nine points in those 16 games for a 46-point pace and he was definitely in the Calder conversation. He hasn’t really looked the same since returning and his season point pace has fallen to 36 points. He was also recently demoted to the fourth line and been a healthy scratch.

Jonathan Dahlen San Jose Sharks
Jonathan Dahlen, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Merkley was forced into action on Oct. 30 when the Sharks were enduring their COVID-19 outbreak. It wasn’t the ideal situation for him to make his NHL debut, but he made the best of it. He even scored his first NHL goal in his second game, though it was definitely a fluky one. It took him 12 more games to register another point. Merkley has had a strong season for the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League with 17 points in 25 games, but that offense hasn’t translated to the NHL with just those two points in 17 games so far. That might be largely due to that Sharks’ lack of scoring on a whole. In the end, this prediction is extremely unlikely to materialize, but oh what could have been if Eklund stuck around.

Bold Prediction #3 – Sharks Make the Playoffs

This one started out looking pretty good as well. The Sharks were in a playoff spot with that hot early season run, but that was primarily due to several teams who hadn’t played as many games. A strong historical predictor of who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t is which teams are in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving. At that time, the Sharks were just on the outside looking in and seemed destined to remain there.

At this point, the Sharks have just over a two percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Money Puck. The 2021-22 Sharks are certainly an improved group from the 2020-21 squad, but better is still not good enough. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but this one is definitely not going to come true either. It will be interesting to see what the team does at the trade deadline — I’ve made my case for a full rebuild, which I know is not a popular opinion.

Making bold predictions is fun, especially when they come true or are at least close. All of these had some plausibility, but in the end none of them will likely materialize. I wonder if any of you had bold predictions about the Sharks that came true. Hit me up on Twitter if you did.

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