FanSided’s Around the NHL in 30 Days finally has come home to The Tank in San Jose to spotlight our Sharks. The expectations have never been higher for this hockey club, and many (including the writers at Blades of Teal!) feel that this will be the year that the Sharks meet those expectations. In other words, the Stanley Cup will be won by Team Teal this year. Let’s take a look at why the Sharks are primed for their first ever Stanley Cup Championship:
General Manager Doug Wilson (D.W.) is a smart hockey man. Being a smart hockey man means sometimes you have to make tough hockey decisions. This offseason D.W. shook up the Sharks lineup in a big way. He sent snipers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for sniper Martin Havlat and big-time defenseman Brent Burns. Some were shocked at these changes. I mean, the team has won 4 straight Pacific Division titles and been to 2 straight Western Conference Finals. What is missing is the all important Stanley Cup Finals berth. D.W. is hoping that this shakeup will put this team over the hump.
Brent Burns, Defense: big puck moving defenseman, already making a name for himself in San Jose thanks to his tweets, will be looked upon to share the offensive defenseman role with Dan Boyle.
Michal Handzus, Center: veteran player, excellent defensively, should help improve the penalty kill.
Martin Havlat, RW: offensive minded sniper, is an upgrade over Dany Heatley in the speed department, has 28 points in his last 26 playoff games.
Jim Vandermeer and Colin White, Defense: big and nasty D-men who will make life hard for opposing forwards, D.W. realized that this team needed more grit if they are going to raise the Stanley Cup.
Andrew Murray, LW; Ben Guite, Center: not making headlines this offseason but these players will contribute to the Sharks’ most important season.
Dany Heatley, RW: struggled last year offensively, was non-existent once again in the playoffs, which likely contributed to his trade.
Devin Setoguchi, RW: young offensive player, has scored some big playoff goals, you will be missed Seto!
Scott Nichol, Center: gritty veteran who plays his heart out, your hard work will also be missed Scotty!
Ian White, Defenseman: journeyman who always provides solid play, no matter what team he is on. Good luck in Detroit.
Kent Huskins, Defenseman: longtime Shark who has been solid on the blue line.
Ben Eager, LW: tough winger who is not afraid to crash the net and throw his weight around.
Jamal Mayers, Center: veteran player who is a good influence in the locker room.
Overall Strengths and Questions
Strengths: (1) Impressive offensive punch from the forward group; (2) Beefed up blue line; (3) Shutdown center in the form of Michal Handzus
Questions: (1) When will Havlat be healthy enough to contribute?; (2) Can Antti Niemi return to the playoff form he had during Chicago’s championship run?; (3) How will the third and fourth lines pan out?
This is the least of the Sharks’ worries this year. Just look at the names that this team has playing for them: Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Couture, Clowe. These are big time players putting up big time numbers. Add in a healthy Martin Havlat and this offense is downright scary. The team will be looking for Torrey Mitchell to contribute some solid numbers in his possible third line role.
We finally got bigger and meaner this offseason. D.W. managed to add in more grit with Vandermeer and White, and at the same time add more offensive punch with Brent Burns. I am excited to see how Burns and Boyle do while quarterbacking the power play this year. Those Sedin twins are gonna get punished this year by our boys on the blue line!
Antti Niemi is the main man between the pipes. He put up some good numbers last year for the Sharks and backstopped them to another Western Conference Final. He has the playoff experience and the championship ring to prove his worth. With the Sharks’ improved blue line, look for Niemi to have another strong statistical season. I also hope that the improved defense will lead to Niemi having more gas in the tank come playoff time so he can lead this team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
You know how we feel here at Blades of Teal… another Pacific Division crown and then our first ever Stanley Cup Championship! Go Sharks!
Check back tomorrow for more of FanSided’s Around the NHL in 30 Days.
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