Defending Their Honor

These NHL defensemen are searching for a bounce back season

Defensemen Searching for a Bounce Back Season

Sinking Sharks: For someone who used to be known as a top defenseman in the league, Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s stock has shrunk in recent years. Over the past three seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Vlasic dropped from 25 Points and a +/- of -6 in 72 Games (0.35 Points Per Game [PPG]) in 2018-19 to only 6 Points and a +/- of -8 in 51 Games (0.12 PPG) in 2020-21. At 34 years old, five years left on his contract, and a cap hit of $7 Million, the Sharks are certainly hoping he can get back up to standard.

Similarly, another San Jose star’s stock has fallen. Erik Karlsson’s productivity has halved from 2018-19 to 2020-21, going from 45 Points and a +/- of +6 in 53 Games (0.85 PPG) down to 22 Points and a +/- of -18 in 52 Games (0.42 PPG). With the Sharks struggling and Karlsson wanting to win, maybe a change of scenery is all he needs. However, with a cap hit of $11.5 Million for six more years, moving him is easier said than done.

Speaking of a change of scenery, a number of players are in new places and hoping their move will get them back to peak performance. One such player is the Montreal Canadiens’ David Savard. While he did manage to win the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he had a really poor showing last season, tanking from 24 Points and a +/- of +19 in 82 Games (0.29 PPG) in 2018-19 to 6 Points and a +/- of -27 in 54 Games (0.11 PPG) in 2020-21. Given his trajectory, the $3.5 Million, four-year salary is a bit of a head scratcher for us.

On not nearly as steep of a decline but a decline nonetheless, Nate Schmidt will be joining the new-look defense corps of the Winnipeg Jets, where he hopes to turn things around next season. After having produced 30 Points and a +/- of +22 in 61 Games (0.49 PPG) in 2018-19, Schmidt dropped to 15 Points and a +/- of -7 in 54 Games (0.28 PPG) in 2020-21. While he is rather expensive at $5.95 Million for four more years, as far as the Jets are concerned, things could be worse ...

Left on a Jet plane, never to come back again: Talking about the new-look Jets defense, looking back on how things have played out, some of their losses might actually have been gains. Consider one of their most recent departures, Ben Chiarot. Having put up 20 Points and a +/- of +6 in 78 Games (0.26 PPG) in 2018-19, Chiarot sunk to 7 Points and a +/- of -16 in 41 Games (0.17 PPG) in 2020-21 with the Montreal Canadiens. But with all that went wrong for Chiarot, at least he made it to a Cup Final.

Conversely, for someone who was supposed to become a superstar defender, nothing has gone right for Jacob Trouba since moving to the New York Rangers. In fact, this past year, he only put up 12 Points and a +/- of +3 in 38 Games (0.32 PPG) versus the 50 Points and +/- of +8 in 82 Games (0.61 PPG) he had in 2018-19. At cap hits of $3.5 and $8.0 Million, respectively, I’m sure the Jets are happy the two are not on their tab.

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