Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Flying-Under-The-Radar: David Schlemko

David Schlemko's deal was arguably one of the ''smarter'' signings this past summer. Sharks' GM Doug Wilson addressed his team's biggest need: a 3rd pairing on defense which was badly exposed during the SC finals. David Schlemko is a surefire improvement over leaving Roman Polak, and (he) might be able to put himself into a top4 conversation, too. Had he signed for one year less, the deal would have been almost perfect. That’s just the price Doug Wilson had to pay, though.

David Schlemko plays a smooth-skating, yet rather unspectacular game. He’s a good puck handler, above-average skater who can move the puck up ice as well as log some minutes on both the PP/PK. Additionally, he can play either side well which only increases his value. Despite being primarily known as a puck-moving defenseman, Schlemko is pretty effective defensively too. The same skills that Schlemko uses to generate offense, help him to keep the puck away from his net. Let’s take a closer look at how Schlemko performed last season:

Schlemko was brought in as a late addition to be a depth guy. However, he emerged as a solid, all-around top-4 blue liner. Devils took a flyer on the puck-moving defenseman and got rewarded. Any given team could have had him for pennies but instead often opted for a much worse (and much more expensive) option.

As the picture suggests, Devils were a much better 5 on 5 team with Schlemko on the ice. Devils generated more offense, shots and scoring-chances with him. While on the PP, Devils generated more scoring chances (per/60) with him on the ice than any other d-man on the team. And it wasn't particularly close. Schlemko managed to produce 50.31 shots-for (per/60) and 92.46% on-ice corsi-for percentage. In comparison with John Moore, who was also given a fair amount of PP minutes (101:22 TOI), Schlemko looks superior. Moore managed to squeeze just 37.88 SF and 66.89% corsi-for. The truth is Moore was used primarily as a 2nd unit point-man while playing with weaker quality of teammates but Schlemko performed very well during his tough minutes.

In saying that, he was equally impressive defensively as well. On the penalty-kill, Schlemko ranked 1st among Devils D in shot attempts allowed (per/60) and even ranked 1st in shot attempts for (per/60). Schlemko has really matured during his past two seasons. He was solid during his short stint in Calgary as well. In essence, Schlemko can definitely hold his own during 5 on 5, should be able to carry a 3rd pairing and move up the depth chart if necessary.

Remember, the player usage charts reflect a weighted average of the previous three seasons. As a result of that, Schlemko finds himself on the right (suggesting an offensive role) while facing a weak quality of competition. It’s more of a reflection of Schlemko’s Arizona/Dallas/Calgary days than a reflection of his true abilities.

Regardless of what you think, Schlemko’s big shaded circle suggests he has been an effective defenseman who might be ready for more if assigned a more challenging role. The A.Greene-Larsson pairing was given all the tough assignments which gave Schlemko and company a little breathing room. Schlemko might find himself in a similar situation in the SJS: the Vlasic-Braun combo is arguably the league’s best shutdown pairing. Then there’s that Brent Burns guy… Paul Martin is still a reliable, shutdown top-4 vet, but it makes you wonder how much he’s got left in the tank: especially after taking into account he recently turned 35 and played 100+ games last year. Schlemko might give Pete DeBoer another decent top4 option. Either way, Sharks’ defense can definitely match up against the league’s best and David Schlemko should be a positive producer in the #4/5 slot.

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