Undervalued Player - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Corey S.
November 09 2012 02:48PM

Ivanmakarov at en.wikipedia from Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the last lockout, the San Jose Sharks have always seemed to have a lot of big names in their defense corps. Over the last half-decade, the Sharks blue-line corps has seen players such as Dan Boyle, Christian Ehrhoff, Brent Burns, Rob Blake and Brian Campbell play big minutes, and with a cast like that, there are bound to be some players who get overlooked. On the Sharks, that player is Marc-Edouard Vlasic. This isn’t to say that Vlasic is completely overlooked because most hockey fans know that he is a solid player, but what might get overlooked is just how good he is.

The tough minutes

Vlasic has been around for quite a long time but he is still only 25 years old and has 471 games worth of experience thanks to him entering the league at the very young age of 19. He was given a pretty big workload in his rookie year, as he ranked third among San Jose defensemen in minutes played per game and was trusted with significant ice-time on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Vlasic turned in a decent offensive season with 26 points in 82 games but since then, he has blossomed into one of the better shutdown defenesemen in the NHL.

Year

TOI/G

OZ%

QoC Def Rk

Corsi ON

Corsi Def Rk

2007-08

21.6

49.3

2

3.24

6

2008-09

23.9

49.2

2

6.49

4

2009-10

22.08

43.3

4

.2

4

2010-11

20.85

46.6

3

7.99

3

2011-12

23.15

47.4

2

5.89

3

Throughout his entire career, Vlasic has been trusted with playing 20 minutes a game while facing tough competition and he has managed to stay in the black in terms of the amount of shot was on ice for. When you consider that Vlasic was in his early 20’s during this time, it’s very impressive that he managed to control play at even strength so well. Defensemen normally take years to develop, but Vlasic was able to be a useful top-four option and shutdown defenseman after only three years of junior hockey. His development has been coming along very nicely these past few years, too as he seems to get better every season. This is evident when you look at his corsi ON ratings in the table above and the amount of shots he was on-ice for at even strength. He was also San Jose’s best defenseman through January last season in terms of zone-start adjusted scoring chances, showing that he was able to control possession despite playing a much tougher role than his peers.

Defense and offense

Year

SA/60

Def Rk

2007-08

23.48

3

2008-09

28.49

7

2009-10

30.96

6

2010-11

27.06

2

2011-12

26.79

3

Vlasic has been one of the three best San Jose defensemen in preventing shots and he was facing tougher assignments than the players in front of him in both 2010 and 2011. Thus, it’s pretty easy to conclude that he has been the Sharks best stay-at-home defenseman over the last few years. San Jose GM, Doug Wilson, clearly saw the value in Vlasic, as he decided to sign him to a five-year deal worth $4.25 mil. per year. Under the current salary cap, this is fair for a shutdown defenseman and it could provide great value down the line considering what Vlasic brings to the table.

Some may disagree because Vlasic has never put up terribly impressive counting stats, but it is worth noting that he is underrated offensively. Granted, he hasn’t been able to produce many points since his 36-point season in 2008-09, but he is usually among the Sharks top defensemen in terms of the amount of shots he is on-ice for.

Year

SF/60

Def Rk

2007-08

25.64

7

2008-09

33.77

1

2009-10

32.12

2

2010-11

32.65

2

2011-12

31.9

3

This might be the result of Vlasic getting a lot of ice-time with the likes of Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and San Jose’s top-six, but he has still shown some offensive potential in years past. This isn’t too big of an issue, however, because the Sharks haven’t counted on Vlasic to produce points in a couple seasons. With guys like Boyle, Burns, Demers and now Brad Stuart on the team, Vlasic doesn’t need to provide a lot of offense.

What Vlasic is counted on for is to provide a stable, stay-at-home presence on the Sharks blue-line and he has been able to do that for the majority of his career. He is one of the better shutdown defensemen in the league and his best years are only ahead of him. San Jose’s blue-line always seems to change things up a little bit every year, but Vlasic’s play is the one thing that has always remained consistent.

Stats courtesy of Behind The Net

 

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Corey runs the Carolina Hurricanes blog www.shutdownline.com where he tracks scoring chances and writes about all things related to the Hurricanes and the Southeast Division. He is also a staff writer at www.canescountry.com and is a regular on the NHL Numbers Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @Shutdownline
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#1 Eric T.
November 09 2012, 10:09PM
Trash it!
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