San Jose Sharks
Another year brings high expectations again for the San Jose Sharks. That makes sense for a club that has tallied over 100 points in six of the last seven years, the only other season finishing with 99. They’ve won four straight Pacific Division crowns and haven’t finished lower than second in the division since 2002-03. Yet even with all their talent and productive seasons year after year, the Sharks have still be unable to win a Stanley Cup.
The question facing the Sharks heading into the season is whether or not the offseason moves they made were made for the sake of change, or if they really made San Jose a better hockey club.
Gone are forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. In is veteran forward Martin Havlat, and bruising defenseman Brent Burns. Setoguchi’s production had dropped dramatically since his breakout year in 2008-09, but the potential is still there. Heatley’s numbers also dropped last season, even in a year he still accumulated over 60 points. So in steps Havlat, a player whose production in recent seasons doesn’t match Heatley’s, but will be expected to integrate nicely into the Sharks lineup.
While many can have differing opinions on the Sharks offseason moves, the question still remains whether or not this team has the mental fortitude to find a way to play their best hockey come playoff time. For years now they’ve been unable to match their regular season level of play in the post season, and have also been unfortunate in some of their playoff matchups.
Logan Couture will return for his second NHL season, after scoring 32 goals in his first full season. Consistency from the sophomore will give the Sharks great forward depth alongside Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Clowe, Joe Pavelski, and Havlat.
The defense will be strong with the addition of Burns alongside Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Dan Boyle.
Antti Niemi returns for his second season in net for the Sharks. Niemi posted a 35-18-6 record and a 2.38 goals against average. Niemi should get plenty of offensive support from one of the best offensive lineups in the league.
The first 82 games of San Jose’s season should be pretty irrelevant. The Sharks have all the talent required to win another Pacific Division crown (although it will be interesting to see how much the Los Angeles Kings have improved), be a top three seed in the Western Conference, and compete for a Stanley Cup. Whether or not this season is a repeat of so many that have come before, or one that ends in a title will be all that matters to Sharks fan come April.