|1st in Pacific Division|
|1st in Western Conf.|
|GM: Doug Wilson|
|COACH: Todd McLellan|
|$58,378,000 ($1.7M below cap)|
The San Jose Sharks won the Pacific Division for the third straight season… and once again, they were ousted before reaching the Stanley Cup. The franchise has been a model of consistency, notching up at least 99 points each of the past six seasons and positioning themselves with a good seed for a deep playoff run. Yet once again it was another team representing the Western Conference in the Cup finals, as Chicago swept the Sharks 4-0 in the conference finals.
They play on with largely the same roster that took them to the Western Conference final last season, hoping that their few subtractions and additions (most notably in net) are enough to drive them back to the top of the conference and into the franchise’s elusive first-ever Stanley Cup berth. With two elite scoring lines that are the rival of any top-six grouping in the NHL, the Sharks will be able to score with anyone. But question marks on the back end — especially after the retirement of Rob Blake and decision not to resign Evgeni Nabokov — still leave plenty of uncertainty about whether this can finally be the year for San Jose. After all, they say defense wins championships… and that has always been the Achilles heel for the Sharks when it comes to postseason hockey.
|29||F||Ryane Clowe||6′ 2″||225||27|
|39||F||Logan Couture||6′ 1″||195||21|
|15||F||Dany Heatley||6′ 4″||220||29|
|12||F||Patrick Marleau||6′ 2″||220||30|
|F||Jamal Mayers||6′ 1″||217||35|
|64||F||Jamie McGinn||6′ 0″||195||22|
|17||F||Torrey Mitchell||5′ 11″||190||25|
|21||F||Scott Nichol||5′ 9″||180||35|
|8||F||Joe Pavelski||5′ 11″||190||26|
|16||F||Devin Setoguchi||6′ 0″||200||23|
|19||F||Joe Thornton||6′ 4″||230||31|
|22||D||Dan Boyle||5′ 11″||190||34|
|60||D||Jason Demers||6′ 1″||195||22|
|40||D||Kent Huskins||6′ 3″||210||31|
|28||D||Jay Leach||6′ 4″||220||31|
|3||D||Douglas Murray||6′ 3″||240||30|
|44||D||Marc-Edouard Vlasic||6′ 1″||200||23|
|7||D||Niclas Wallin||6′ 3″||220||35|
|1||G||Thomas Greiss||6′ 1″||210||24|
|G||Antti Niemi||6′ 2″||210||27|
|30||G||Antero Niittymaki||6′ 1″||190||30|
MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Joe Pavelski (forward) — Pavelski really came on in last year’s playoff run, putting up 9 goals and 8 assists for more than a point a game in the three rounds the Sharks played. He was also a +6, five points higher than his season average. The 26-year-old Pavelski must make that leap to the next level and continue his progression into one of the great pivots of the game. If he can continue to mature, it will take a lot of heat off the Heatley-Marleau-Thornton line and allow this team to get even deeper on offense than it already is. He needs to play like he did against Colorado and Detroit rather than the anonymous game he brought to the Blackhawks series if the Sharks have any hopes of being more than regular-season tycoons and playoff paupers.
KEY ACQUISITION: Antii Niemi (G – FA from Chicago) – There was one man who had this squad as constructed for last year’s postseason run who truly figured out the Sharks when it came to stopping the pucks from passing him. So if you can’t beat ‘em, reward the backstop who gave ‘em their first championship in two generations with a generous offer and the goal of trying to pick off the team that jilted him. San Jose is taking the gamble that they are better off without longtime netminder Nabokov… and that Niemi’s performance was more than merely a flash in the pan for a man who has been a journeyman most his time in the NHL.
KEY DEPARTURE: Rob Blake (D – retirement) — The twenty-year veteran of the NHL finally hung up his skates this offseason after a career that saw him win the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001. His final two years were spent in San Jose, and while Blake was not an all-82 sort of player the kind of veteran leadership he brought to the blueline was something not to be scoffed at lightly. Now it is up to a defensive corps dependent on guys like Dan Boyle and Niclas Wallin — guys who are decent enough at what they do but are themselves aging — to shore up any deficiencies left by the departure.
KEY YOUNGSTER: Devin Setoguchi (F/23 years old) — After a breakthrough performance in 2008-09, the kid regressed last year. He was one of the firstt people shuffled to the front lines last year but couldn’t capture his earlier form. With so many deficiencies on the defensive end, it is imperative that the Sharks score and score often. Setoguchi has the speed, the hands and the vision to link up with Pavelski for years to come. Both are going to instrumental to any Cup surge the Sharks might experience. After all, it’s guys like Setoguchi — that ever-constant cycle of young burgeoning stars — that will have to bring their A-games if the Sharks are to remain at the top of the Western Conference elite from here on out.
OUTLOOK: The Sharks will surely be right there in the hunt for the top seed in the playoffs; whether or not they fall short on that front will be dependent on some variables completely out of of their hands. The one thing San Jose can do right now is sit back and wait for the season to start. With a tough division getting tougher around them all the time, the ability to slow the pace and call upon their previous experience as division champions is going to come in mighty handy for this squad. Todd McLellan proved he can coach last year in getting the team through two playoff rounds; now the task is to add two more to get to 16 wins and hoist a Cup.
The Pacific is getting better and better, with young teams like Phoenix and Los Angeles right in the Sharks’ rearview mirror. But the only thing that can really stop the momentum in San Jose would be either A) a complete meltdown by Antti Niemi, B) significant loss of man-hours or C) lack of defensive stability. All are always in the back of the mind, but in reality there’s no reason to expect the Sharks to be at the top of the division once April rolls around and playoff seedings are drawn up once again…
- 52 wins
- 111 points
- 1st in Pacific/2nd in Western Conference