Vlasic may be one of the steadier blueliners in the League from a pure defensive standpoint, but he wants to make more contributions on offense. While Vlasic had to wait until game No. 28 to record his first point of the 2010-11 season, the offensive habits have been improving and the goal was inevitable.
“I’ve been shooting a lot lately and trying to contribute offensively,” Vlasic said. “I know it hasn’t been going the way I wanted to, but I’ve had many opportunities in the last 5- 10 games and it finally went in. I’ll keep skating, keep joining the rush and keep skating with the puck. Get more shots through, be active in the O-zone, trying anything to help the team.”
The results were a good reward for the efforts and they will be necessary for positive long-term team results.
“We’re a third of the way into the season already and we expect them to contribute production wise,” Coach Todd McLellan said of Vlasic and Douglas Murray
, who each scored a goal in Buffalo. “The players were happy for them. It was a moment on the trip where something good happened and the team was excited for it. We’re starting to see some offense from our blueliners which should open up space for the forwards.”
McLellan noted Vlasic’s determination to put his offense back to his traditional standards and the desire for more.
“I think he’s been coming along. There have been a couple of sit downs with him and a couple of things the coaching staff is trying to change in his routine a little bit,” McLellan said. “I do think we’re starting to see him be a little more assertive offensively -- wanting the puck a little more and jumping in at the right times.”
Vlasic understands and welcomes the challenges to do more as he knows it’s a compliment when NHL talent evaluators feel you can be even better at the game’s top level. It they didn’t think the talented, and still only 23-year-old, blueliner had more to learn, that would be harder to swallow.
Sharks fans looking at how long a defensive-minded blue liner can contribute consistently on offense can look at a couple of current NHLers. Ed Jovanovski of Phoenix didn’t total more than 26 points in a season until his sixth NHL year. Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger’s career-best point total was 36 after his fifth year. Vlasic hit 36 points two years ago. Patience is key with a young blueliner. But when one considers his poise and the fact he’s in his fifth NHL season, everyone can easily forget that Vlasic isn’t even 25 yet.
“It’s positive,” Vlasic said about people wanting more from him. “Your teammates and your coaching staff they care and every player on the team wants more out of themselves. You’ve got to be accountable to your teammates. I want more out of myself and I know the organization does. It hasn’t been going the way I wanted since the start (of this year), but lately I’ve been more aggressive and lot more confident with the puck.
“I’m not settling for (being just a defensive) defenseman, I want to be an all-around defenseman,” Vlasic added. “For me it’s not just offense or defense, it’s all-around. It’s a good plus/minus and I’ve got to get that up and contribute offensively.”
Defense is still the name of the position and Vlasic posted three consecutive plus games before scoring in Buffalo.
“If you want to be good offensively you can’t take anything away from your defensive game,” Vlasic said. “That’s what I’m doing. I’m just embellishing the offensive part and keeping my defensive game.”
“It hasn’t hurt his defensive game,” McLellan said. “That’s his forte, his strength. He defends very well against some of the quicker and more skilled people in the League. The (Chicago’s Patrick) Kanes and those types of people. He has very good stamina, he can get caught out there and still put himself in a good position to defend.”
Vlasic was just in Montreal where his father played for McGill University, but his earliest coach leaves the advice to McLellan’s staff and mostly plays a supportive role.
“I get text messages and voice mails here and there saying good game or too bad on the goal, just my dad being a dad,” Vlasic said. “No coaching.”
And the texts have been about good things this last stretch of games.
San Jose plays hosts to the defending Stanley Cup Champions for the second time in four home games Saturday night.
“It’s a big night for us,” McLellan said. “The way the League and the standings are structured, there aren’t any nights that aren’t big. You’ll hear coaches say it’s a big night, points are important, parity, all those words are going to be used. We’re a third of the way in and there hasn’t been much separation between the top and middle and the bottom. You can’t afford to go to sleep for three or four games because it hurts you. Vice versa, you have to find a way to string five or six together to try and create separation.”
The Saturday Chicago game will at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.