Sharks’ Tomáš Hertl Must Find Way to Pull Ahead of Pack

Tomáš Hertl has been a consistent face for the San Jose Sharks since 2014. Fans got their first view on the Sharks’ roster in 2013. However, just six years later, following an incredible run to the 2019 Western Conference Final, he seems to be on a slight decline. Nothing that yet causes concern so long as it is addressed. With the expansion draft coming up this summer, he is one that many fans do not want to see lost to Seattle. While everyone can speculate and make their own picks on who is protected and exposed during the expansion draft, nobody knows what will happen yet. There is still the possibility for trades this season but Hertl still has the opportunity to prove himself unexpendable to the organization.

Tomas Hertl San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks (Photo by Kavin Mistry/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the two years since the team’s impressive run, Hertl has found himself with increased responsibility on the Sharks’ roster. Unfortunately, the increase in duty has not been followed by enhanced success. While his season has not been awful, it has also not been one that stands out in fans and analytics minds. His season has been relatively middle of the road. It’s not bad, but truthfully, it’s not good either.

Hertl in a Bit of a Stats Slump

From 2014-19, Hertl had seen a steady increase in his average time on ice (aTOI). During the 19-20 season, Hertl saw his aTOI drop to 18:27. During the current season, the Sharks have been rotating players in and out of their lineup more often. As a result, he has returned to just around his 2018-19 aTOI. The Sharks have just passed the midpoint of the season, however, so this may still change.

Through 26 games this season, Hertl has a respectable 50.36 Corsi for percentage (CF%); however, it is well below his career average of 54 CF%. He can most definitely do better. While he is still in the top ten Sharks players in terms of CF% this season, the numbers put up by the Czech native in previous seasons would have landed him in the top three.

This season, Hertl has seen fewer offensive zone starts as well. This season, he is averaging 47.6% of his starts in the offensive zone. Over his career, he has averaged 49.9 oZS%. While this does mean that the coaching staff is trusting him with more defensive responsibility, he has seen fewer opportunities off the draw. Despite this, Hertl has been performing well and taking opportunities in stride.

Tomas Hertl #48, San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl #48, San Jose Sharks, Oct. 9, 2018 versus the Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

One thing that has stayed consistent for Hertl over the years is that he can win faceoff draws. The NHL shows him currently with a 53.58 faceoff wins percentage this season. In fact, the 2014-15 season was the only one that saw his FOW% drop below 50.

Plenty of Ways to Prove and Improve

With just under half of a season to go, Hertl has plenty of time to improve his stats. While 20 points in 27 games is a good season by all accounts, the Sharks may be looking to introduce some of the organization’s younger talent. If so, he needs to find a way to prove himself indispensable to the club.

What must be remembered is that he had a bout with COVID-19 earlier this month. (from ‘Tomas Hertl’s COVID-19 symptoms were bad. Having his wife, baby also test positive was worse’ Mercury News, 02/15/2021) Missing just about two weeks of the season, Hertl’s absence was noticeable. It just didn’t seem to change much in the overall team standings. Nobody is quite sure what the long-term implications are, but there may also have been some setbacks in his game that nobody could be aware of yet.

Timo Meier San Jose Sharks
Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the other hand, it may simply be a matter of finding the chemistry with a linemate or two. For instance, when skating with Timo Meier this season, Hertl sees an increase to a 53.99 CF%. When they share the ice, the two also see an increase in oZS%, up to 54.73. Across the board, Hertl has stat improvements when playing alongside Meier. The two have shared a majority of their ice time with each other, and it appears to be working. Now they need to build on it and find others who will help improve the team with them as well.

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