Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $4.25 million, signed through 2017-18
2014-15 year in review: In 70 games, Marc-Edouard Vlasic tallied nine goals and 23 points while his +12 rating was tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead. He missed four games in February with an unspecified upper body injury (not a concussion), and the final seven games of the season with a lower body injury.
The personal highlight for the defenseman came when he scored back-to-back game-winning goals on Jan. 5 and 6 at Winnipeg and Minnesota, respectively. He was just the third Sharks defenseman to achieve that feat.
He was paired with Justin Braun most of the season, but also spent a fair amount of time with Brent Burns.
2015-16 outlook: When it comes to defensive positioning and decision-making, few NHL defensemen are better than Vlasic. His modest salary-cap hit is one of the biggest bargains in the NHL, too, and he’s locked up for the next three seasons.
That being said, Vlasic wasn’t quite as strong as he was in 2013-14. That’s partly a function of Braun having a down year, too, and being on the ice frequently with a mistake-prone Burns.
Vlasic also acted as one of the team’s alternate captains, and that didn’t seem to play out as planned, either. While Vlasic has an abundance of skill and hockey sense, and is arguably the most indispensable player on the team, former coach Todd McLellan indicated late in the year that Vlasic had some “work to do” in terms of leadership. Whether he acts as an alternate again this season Peter DeBoer will determine in training camp, but part of the reason Paul Martin was added was to bring in a veteran presence on the blue line that had been sorely missing since Dan Boyle’s departure.
As for on the ice, Vlasic should be paired with Braun again to start the season, as Martin was brought in to skate with Burns. If Braun can return to the form he showed in 2013-14, and Vlasic remains his steady, reliable self, the Sharks will again have a formidable top pair that will be difficult to score against.