Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes today that after a disappointing 2015-16 season, Tommy Wingels is no longer a guarantee to be on the San Jose Sharks roster to start the season. The gritty forward put up just 18 points last year after back-to-back 30+ point seasons. That level of output might not be enough this year to take a roster spot from one of the Sharks’ up-and-coming young players.
A 6th-round pick of the Sharks out of Miami (Ohio) in 2008, there were never any great expectations of Wingels. He was a high-energy guy who played a tough game and had the ability to dig the puck out of the corner and occasionally contribute a goal or two. His first few seasons in San Jose showed just that, as he put up mediocre numbers, but carved out a role for himself as a reliable bottom-six player. Then, in 2013-14 Wingels game took a huge leap forward. He scored 38 points for the Sharks that season, the second highest point total of his entire hockey career, going all the way back to juniors. Excited with his progress, San Jose signed Wingels to a three-year extension worth $7.425MM. Wingels was able to replicate his success the next year as well, with 36 points in 75 games, making the contract look like a bargain. He also became a key part of the power play, contributing four goals with his crash-the-net style. Although his once-stout defensive game struggled a bit, his newfound offensive skill and new role on the team made the change to his game an acceptable one.
However, 2015-16 told a very different story. Wingels came out flat last season, showing no sign of the point production of the past two seasons nor the two-way ability he was originally known for. Although he tried to remain an offensive presence while also turning up his physicality, it only resulted in a -10 rating and a career-high in penalty minutes. As the year dragged on for Wingels without much success, he began seeing less and less time under new coach Peter DeBoer. He ended up playing in only 68 games with his lowest average time on ice since his rookie season.
Now, Wingels has a tough road ahead of him to get back into favor with the Sharks and their fans. DeBoer has watched his team go all the way to the Stanley Cup with Wingels playing a limited role, and may decide that he can do without the forwards physical play if it means a promising young player doesn’t make the team. As it stands, the addition of Mikkel Boedker and the development of Joonas Donskoi and Chris Tierney have all but locked up the top nine in San Jose. It will be in Wingels’ best interests to come to camp with his regular high compete level and be satisfied with securing a fourth line role where his toughness and intensity can be put to good use. If DeBoer decides that he’s willing to pay nearly $2.5MM for an energy liner, than Wingels will keep his job and be on the road to redemption in 2016-17. If not, the majority of Wingels time in San Jose this season could be spent wearing a Barracudas jersey instead of a Sharks jersey.