| What not to expect in
Here's where the Sharks won't
The Sharks kick off the 2010-11 regular season in
less than a week and there is no shortage of questions heading into the season
opener with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Every pre-season prognosticator from the
here to New Foundland will be sharing their predictions on where the Sharks
will finish this season, so Ive decided to simply throw darts at the
things that really matter. Ill be predicting all the things that have
nothing to do with where the Sharks finish this season.
Ive given up trying to guess. If the Sharks are good at anything,
its doing the opposite of what you think will happen. When theyre
supposed to win the Stanley Cup, they get ousted in the first round by an 8th
seed. When theyre supposed to be a playoff afterthought, they make it to
the Conference Finals.
After 19 seasons, its easier to just say
that I have no idea what this team is going to do. That unfortunately makes for
blandly short article, so Ill fill it with everything but where the
Sharks will finish this season. Here are my pre-season predictions:
Thats Captain Boyle to you
GM Doug Wilson and head coach
Todd McLellan will name the franchises 8th captain in team history,
preferably before the regular season opener, and that selection will be
defenseman Dan Boyle. The veteran blueliner has four years left on his contract
and Boyle has been the most vocal of the experienced players in the Sharks
locker room, but more importantly hes a defenseman.
might be a bit biased toward the back line, but more importantly, he
understands that his forwards dont need the distractions that the
captaincy brings with it. Defenseman dont have the same pressures,
because they dont have the constant report card called the stat sheet
Boyle might be a bit outspoken at times, but
hes been in the league long enough to know how to push buttons in the
locker room. Hes also not a stranger to his teammates, so he knows how to
handle each one.
How Swede it isnt
Look for the
Sharks to get out of the gate slowly. With the season starting 4,000 miles away
from home, their trip itinerary will have more to do with a sluggish start.
Theyll will have gone ten days before facing NHL caliber action when they
kick things off on Saturday in Stockholm, then another week will pass before
they return home, get acclimated to the Pacific time zone, and square off at
home against the Atlanta Thrashers.
The league threw them a softball
by scheduling the Thrashers once they get back but theyre only home for
three more days before hitting the road again to play the Colorado Avalanche,
who will have something to prove against the team that knocked them out of the
playoffs last year. Thats followed by back-to-back games against Edmonton
Scheduling these international games should be conducted
at the beginning of the pre-season, with ample opportunity to balance the
playing field with teams that arent trekking half-way around the world.
Whats a yoot?
Not unlike any other franchise in
the league, the Sharks will need to rely on prospects to round out its roster.
The economics of todays game will make it a priority for San Jose. The
Jamie McGinns and the Derek Joslins arent new to the rodeo, but
theyre not seasoned vets either. Logan Couture actually still qualifies
for the Calder, because he only played in 25 games last season. Whats
more important is the fact that he was able to play in 15 playoff games last
What youre likely to see this season is the
revolving door the Sharks used to ship prospects back and forth all of last
season. It afforded the Sharks with a way to deal with the tight cap situation
and gave multiple prospects with a taste of the NHL. Assuming Andreas Lilja
lands a roster spot, that means fewer spots for other young players.
Tommy Wingels still creates an interesting option for Wilson, but hes
likely to be a platoon option with Frazer McLaren and John McCarthy until the
Sharks return from Sweden. At that point the Sharks will hopefully establish a
roster that has some continuity to it.
What you see is what you
One thing that last year taught is that Wilson is comfortable
with his roster and is willing to let his youngsters cut their teeth in the
playoffs. With big dollars tied up in the current roster, dont expect to
see any blockbuster moves from Wilson.
Wilson also doesnt have
much to bargain with. Draft picks arent exactly big bargaining chips for
San Jose. Teams that continuously finish atop their respective divisions tend
to have late draft picks. Players like Nick Petrecki and Alex Stalock are
likely untouchable, so dont count on them being used to bait any deals.
Wilson is more likely to utilize his development organization to plug
With so many big name
players on the roster, its easy to say that a Patrick Marleau or a Joe
Thornton will have a big year. This is the season that Devin Setoguchi breaks
out and makes his mark on the roster. The fourth year player will rebound from
what was perceived by many as a down year last season. His offensive numbers
were cut in half from the prior season, but injuries played a big role in
Its easy to forget that hes
only 23-years old, because hes been a fixture on the roster for so long.
This is the year he becomes a player that McLellan leans on to pick up the
slack if other teammates flounder. Setoguchi was 7th in scoring for the Sharks
during last Springs playoffs, but he ranked 3rd in goal scoring for San
Jose in the teams 15 game jaunt during the second season. Look for
Setoguchi to make his mark and become more of a fixture for San Joses
offense this season.
Old Rivalry, New Rivalry
has run roughshod over the Pacific Division the last three seasons, but
theres been no shortage of competition. The biggest threat for the
division crown will come from the south, but not in Anaheim or Phoenix. The Los
Angeles Kings have quietly been stockpiling young talent and are the verge of
Their 46 wins last season caught some by surprise, but
the up and coming roster will be a force to reckon with this year. A solid
foundation based on talented young defense and goaltending will make the Kings
the team that will be breathing down San Joses necks in the pursuit for
the Pacific division crown.
Who let the elephant in the room?
The goaltending platoon of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki
wont sort itself out anytime soon because neither player has established
any consistency. Part of that has been attributed to the fact that both are new
to the organization and havent had a chance to establish any rapport with
Dont expect a clear #1 to surface before
January 1. Sorting out who gets the majority of starts heading down the stretch
will require more than a handful of starts.
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