Finally! The lockout is over and we can stop blaming Fehr and Bettman for an agonizing lockout that seemed to drag on for no apparent reason. But, that’s a different story. More importantly, hockey is back and we in the bay can start talking Sharks’ hockey again!
The San Jose Sharks come into this season, for the first time in a few years, as perhaps the second best team in their division behind the Stanley Cup winning LA Kings who might even be considered a favorite again this year to win the cup.
With that being said, the Sharks’ window to win a cup of their own is closing. During the offseason they failed to land big fish Rick Nash amidst tons of trade rumors about him going to San Jose because the asking price (Logan Couture) was just too high.
Instead, their biggest signing of the season was former Shark Brad Stuart, who signed a 3-year, $10.8 million dollar contract to help beef up the blue line that already includes big names Boyle and Burns.
They also signed Adam Burish to a 4 year, $7.2 million dollar contract to provide depth on third and fourth lines and resigned restricted free agents Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, T.J. Galiardi and Justin Braun. San Jose also managed to lock up arguably their best defensive d-man in Marc-Edouard Vlasic to a contract extension worth 5 years and $21.25 million dollars. He faces top-notch opponents game in and game out and should help San Jose’s version of the Killer B’s on the blue line focus on offense.
Another key acquisition for the Sharks was former assistant coach from the New Jersey Devils Larry Robinson, who had been with them for some time. This move could do wonders to help the abysmal penalty killing of the Sharks where they ranked 29th (at 76.9%) in the league out of 30. In comparison Robinson was part of the staff for New Jersey that was number-one in the league, killing 89.6% of all penalties.
Another Shark’s coach will be the focus of some attention this year as Todd McClellan may be on the hot seat. He was brought in from the Red Wings with his puck possession style of offense to quell San Jose’s postseason woes. All he’s done is…well the same, just a little bit better. McClellan has led the Sharks to 2 conference finals and two quarterfinals before being ousted pretty handily in those series’. He was supposed to be the one to elevate the Sharks to the next level after former head coach Ron Wilson was fired when he failed to take the team past the second round in three consecutive playoff runs.
There are a few guys I’d like to point out for this season that I’ll be keeping an eye on and I’d like to start with Ryan Clowe. He comes into this season in the last year of his contract and as such management, fans, and even Clowe himself will be looking to improve upon his previous campaign where he failed to reach the 50 point mark for the first time in four years.
Another forward to keep an eye on will be Martin Havlat, who spent a majority of the 2011-2012 season injured and as such only played 39
games. More so, because of the injuries, was really unable to gel and find any chemistry when he did play. He’ll be looking to stay healthy in this season’s shortened campaign and the Sharks hope he can reverse the advantage the Wild have at the moment in the Heatley-Havlat trade.
On defense I’d like to key on one of most recent acquisitions of the Sharks in Brad Stuart. Interestingly, Stuart will play with the guy he was traded for (Joe Thornton) when he was dealt to Boston in 2005. He will look to be an immediate impact on the Sharks blue line that is very offensive minded. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stuart plays with Burns on the second defensive pairing for the Sharks and if he does will be the stay-at-home guy of the two (no surprise there).
All in all a great signing for the Sharks and he could have a huge impact considering (once all guys are healthy) the defense will be these six guys: Boyle, Burns, Stuart, Demers, Vlasic, and Braun/ Murray. Aside from option six, that’s a great list any team would love to have.
And the season itself? Well, only time will tell. Sharks fans have been pretty spoiled in the fact that we have been accustomed to the team making the playoffs every year with ease.
Well, that was the case until last year when the Sharks were in a dogfight for essentially the second-half of the season not only in the division but the conference as well. I’d have to say this season will be similar with the 48-game schedule. In such a short amount of time anything can happen, and if a team stumbles out of the gate it could mean missing the playoffs altogether. I expect San Jose to be fighting the LA Kings for tops in the division and to be in the playoff hunt once again. Who knows, this could FINALLY be the year!
Tags: Andrew Desjardins Brad Stuart Brent Burns Dan Boyle Doug Murray Jason Demers Justin Braun Larry Johnson Logan Couture Marc-Edouard Vlasic Martin Havlat Rick Nash Ron WIlson San Jose Sharks T.J. Galiardi Todd McClellan Tommy Wingels