2014/15 Season Preview – San Jose Sharks

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/04/Joe_Thornton2.jpg/640px-Joe_Thornton2.jpg

2013/14 Season Record – 4th in Western Conference, 2nd in Pacific Division

W

L OT PTS GOAL DIFF.
51 22 9 111

+49

2013/14 Season Recap

Who’d be a Sharks fan? Once again, they were one of the Regular-season powerhouses of the Western Conference, finishing 2nd in the Pacific and 4th in the West, 111 Points and among the favourites for the Cup. We all know what happened next. A 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings became a 3-4 1st Round exit for San Jose and the label of “Playoff Chokers” was more firmly attached than ever.

In truth, (although this doesn’t ease the pain, I’m sure) there was no shame in losing to the eventual Champions and there still isn’t all that much wrong with the Sharks. However, San Jose’s offseason has been…unusual.. to say the least.

Projected Roster

LW C RW
Tomas Hertl Joe Thornton Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau Logan Couture Tyler Kennedy
Andrew Desjardins Tommy Wingels James Sheppard
Marc Nieto Adam Burish Mike Brown
LD RD
Brent Burns Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers Justin Braun
Scott Hannan Matt Irwin
G
Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock
EXTRAS
Mirco Mueller
John Scott

Top Prospects

  1. Mirco Mueller
  2. Nikolay Goldobin
  3. Matt Tennyson

Key Additions

  • John Scott

Key Subtractions

  • Martin Havlat (Buyout)
  • Dan Boyle
  • Brad Stuart

Roster Thoughts

The Sharks top-six is extraordinarily powerful: in whatever combination they throw out Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski,Logan Couture and teenage wunderkind Tomas Hertl, they’re going to be fast and dangerous. Despite the opprobrium being thrown their way (and more of that later) Thornton and Marleau are the leaders of this attack and Couture & Pavelski are more-than-able lieutenants. It will be exciting to see if Hertl builds on his injury-shortened but thrilling rookie season, where, if he’d have stayed healthy, he’d have pushed Nate McKinnon hard for the Calder. The problems for the Sharks begin after that top-six.

For reasons best known to himself, GM Doug Wilson decided the solution to losing a Game-7 to the eventual Champs was to start hinting at a blowup of the team. Althought this didn’t happen, in came a useless face-puncher in John Scott, while he switched Brent Burns back to Defense and bought out the oft-injured Marty Havlat. This meant the loss of two top-9 forwards with no real replacement. Now, Raffi Torres is out indefinitely (and likely long term) and suddenly the 3rd and 4th lines are looking… well, they look like a shambles. You feel there will be a move once Torres goes to LTIR (I hear that George Parros is free these days, Doug!), but the lines I’ve suggested above are pure guesswork at this stage.

The aforementioned Brent Burns rejoins the Defense, presumably to replace Dan Boyle. The Sharks finished 5th in the NHL at 2.35 GA/G last year and have, in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, one of the best defensemen in the league. With Boyle allowed to leave as a Free Agent and the trade of Brad Stuart to the Avs, the Sharks have got younger and faster at the blueline.

Jason Demers had a career year and signed a $6.8m/2yr extension this summer, after years of maddening inconsistency. However, he did his best work when paired with Vlasic and serious doubts remain around the like of  Scott Hannan. That said, the relative defensive solidity exhibited by the Sharks last year seems likely to continue.

Antti Niemi had a year to forget: his .913 Regular Season Sv% was bad enough, in the playoffs that plunged to .844, he was yanked twice and lost his net to Alex Stalock for Game 6. There are now calls in the Sharks fanbase for Stalock to become the #1. These calls are wrong, but it’s not adding to the stability of the situation.

Key Player

Joe Thornton. They may have stripped the Captaincy from Jumbo Joe but (unless McLellan really does put him on the 4th line, as has been mooted) he’ll still be their spearhead. The various humiliations that have been heaped on him by his own management will also be a test of his character. I’d bet on him coming through.

I have to mention Hertl here, too, just because I adore that goofy kid (fun must be alwalys!). His exuberance, phenomenal talent and sheer joy in the game reminds us of why we love Hockey. He also annoys idiots like Don Cherry, which is a big plus.

2014/15 Expectations

I couldn’t begin to guess. This is almost the same team that did so well last year (and in years before), yet the Sharks front office seems determined to throw as many spanners into their own works as possible. Put bluntly, this is madness from Wilson. That said, the team is still more than good enough to get one of the three automatic Playoff slots in the Pacific.

What they do from there is anyone’s guess, but hasn’t that always been the case?

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