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Ten Burning Questions
The LGS Team answers them
10/2/13 - By LGS Staff -

As the 2013-14 NHL season kicks-off, we compiled the ten questions that intrigue us the most about the Sharks. We introduce three new writers to our own lineup here at LetsGoSharks.com, joining returning scribes Mike Lee, Ken Smyth, Paul Krill and Steve Flores. New to the group are Ryan Hall, Zack Bodenstein and Gerard Bourbeau. Combined, we hope to bring you a lot more editorial pieces on the Sharks season this year. To kick things off, we bring you, Ten Burning Questions…

1)What player is poised to have a breakout season?

KS: Logan Couture will become a point-a-game player, and FINALLY get some real notice among fans around the league.

RH: It may seem strange to tag 7 year veteran, but I think Marc-Edouard Vlasic is poised to have a breakout season. Being tapped to go to the Team Canada orientation camp, and the lure of going to the Olympics should motivate Vlasic to take the next step in his career into a truly elite caliber defensemen.

PK: Brent Burns could have a big year as a power forward. His move away from the blue line increased his production last season and now he'll have a full season to go at it. (Funny thing - wasn't Burns brought in at a steep price to be our franchise's Big D-Man? Steep in terms of players we gave up and how much we're paying him? Oops.)

ZB: Tomas Hertl, the rookie is expected to play alongside playmaker Joe Thornton and power forward Brent Burns. Another choice is Matt Irwin, expected to play with Dan Boyle.

GB: Brent Burns as he becomes more acclimated to forward he could be a real monster and his linemates will prosper. I expect 25+ goals and 40+ assists and turn into an excellent 2 way player.

2)What player has to produce in order to keep his job?

KS: Three: 1) Nick Petrecki (in Woostah, again?), 2)Adam Burish- interview photo bombs are not enough, 3) Dan Boyle- great man but father time can be cruel.

RH: To me the obvious answer is also the right one - the ceramic scorer Martin Havlat. With all the talent he possess he simply cannot miss any more extended periods to injury or else his time with the Sharks, and perhaps his career, will be over. He has enough ability that for him health will translate easily into production.

PK: Nick Petrecki immediately comes to mind as a guy who can't seem to get it done. He was just re-signed, but why? At this rate, he'll be eligible for unrestricted free agency in his rookie year, if he can ever crack the Sharks lineup once and for all. He's the reincarnation of Shawn Heins and Vlasti Kroupa - much-ballyhooed young Sharks defensemen of the past who never amounted to much. (I saw Kroupa in "Lucky's" once. I asked him, "Are you Sandis Ozolinsh?" No, he never was.)

ZB: Jason Demers

GB: Adam Burish, cut down stupid mistakes that no veteran player should make and need more than one goal.

3) How do you see the new Pacific Division stacking up this season?

KS: LA should win if they stay healthy. They are deep at forward, but like almost everyone else they're in trouble if they lose a couple defensemen. If Jonathan Quick is hurt, then the Kings are in goalie hell like four years ago. The Sharks are with Anaheim, and Vancouver in the upper end of the division. Calgary is rebuilding so they nail down 7th. Biggest questions are whether Edmonton's> rebuilding includes defense and if Dave Tippet can work the mojo again with the Phoenix Coyotes. The three guaranteed playoff spots should be Kings, Sharks and Ducks.

RH: This is a Top 4 team easily, with only the Kings and Canucks matching up talent wise with the Sharks. I expect those 3 teams to qualify for the postseason with ease, and the real battle to be between Edmonton, Phoenix, and Anaheim for final 2 spots (as the Central isn't deep enough to send 4 teams).

PK: The Kings still have some great players and so the Ducks. But Vancouver looks to be on the decline. Edmonton is the one team that scares me (they're now in the same division with the Sharks.). All those #1 picks of the draft (Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) are going to start paying dividends, perhaps this year and perhaps at the Sharks' expense.

GB: Very tough possibly the toughest in the NHL. Four very good team ( SJ,LA,ANA,Van) a possible sleeper (Phx, great coach) and two constantly rebuilding teams (CGY, EDM).

4) What team will give the Sharks the biggest fits this season?

KS: In the division, Phoenix, hands down. Dave Tippet is the smartest coach in the division and he has some interesting players. Max Domi may have his dad's toughness and some skills as well. Overall, Chicago, no surprise.

RH: The Edmonton Oilers. The speed of the young legs on that team, plus an upgrade in coaching from Dallas Eakins, will pose fits for the slower Sharks.

PK: I'd have to say previously mentioned Edmonton as well as Chicago could very well own the Sharks this season. Chicago has what Sharks fans want - great players who get it done in the post-season.

ZB: Edmonton Oilers

GB: The Kings as both match up well and the Staples seems a tough building for SJ.

5) How safe is Todd McLellan's job?

KS: Not. If he's off to a bad start and a decent candidate is available the new owner might want to make a statement. A lot depends on what alternatives are available at the time. This is a veteran team and will need a proven coach.

RH: He's got one of the best win/loss records among active coaches, and the Sharks are built to play his style of game. Unless they fall to the bottom of the league and languish until December, McLellan is untouchable.

PK: Since Doug Wilson hired him and is not one to pull the trigger quickly, McLellan's job is safe as long as the team wins a reasonable amount of games and gets to at least the second round of the playoffs. All bets are off if one or two of those things does not happen.

ZB: Very safe. He does all he can and makes this team effective.

GB: Safe as long as they make into the WCF.

6) What dimension of the Sharks game will stand apart from the rest

KS: PK and PP will be very good, but 5-on-5 scoring will depend on how well defense can move the puck up, and may disappoint unless Boyle plays like 2011-12 and not 2012-13.

RH: Paired with my Breakout Player answer, I'm going to answer defense. A motivated Vlasic, another year of experience for Braun and Demers, plus Hannan for a full season will lead to this being strength. Add in Boyle and Stuart, and this crew will finish Top 10, maybe Top 5, in the league.

PK: I'm hoping it will be the goaltending again, with Antti Niemi repeating what he did last year, backed up by rookie Alex Staylock. Niemi once took Chicago to the Promised Land (A championship). Can he get the Sharks to the same place?

ZB: The powerplay, it's probably the top PP unit in the game.

GB: The PK should be much improved, if not bye bye TMac.

7) Don't be surprised to see...

KS: a) Martin Havlat's new kegels DVD, b) Jason Demers become more of an offensive defenseman or be sent packing, c) Alex Stalock playing a bigger role than expected, d) Brad Stuart run out of gas, though he will finish the year.

RH: The Sharks start off quickly. Maybe it's the water, maybe it's coaching, but San Jose is usually lethal in the first 15 games of the season. That won't change this year.

PK: Huge drop-offs in production from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. They are approaching their mid-30s if they are not already there. Marleau turns 34 this Sunday, the same day Dolphins Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino turns 52. Neither Marino nor Marleau ever won a title. At least Marino got to the Super Bowl, though. Marleau has never been to the NHL's equivalent championship round.

ZB: Pavelski producing on at the 3rd line C role.

GB: The league suspension process develop into a more of a mess.

8) What prospect do you expect to make the biggest splash in training camp this season?

KS: Tomas Hertl, though I'd temper the enthusiasm. He's been playing against the second string a lot. As for raw prospects, if Freddie Hamilton can look less like a practice squad lineman playing fullback (wearing 75 does not help) and learn to move his stick and feet in coordination near the goal he could work into a Tomas Holmstrom style net agitator.

RH: Tomas Hertl is the easy answer, and I think he'll impress enough to make the squad out of camp. However, I think the most eyes will be opened by Konrad Abeltshauser. I've seen the kid play, and at 6'5 225 he moves well and plays a complete game. He's a couple years away, but he'll garner attention at camp.

PK: I hope it's Thomas Hertl. He's been playing in Europe. Let's hope he's ready to take on some of the workload that has been carried by Sharks' players who are getting older - Pavelski, Thornton, Marleau.

ZB: Tomas Hertl

GB: Hertl for sure but Mirco Mueller seems to made quite an impression just needs seasoning.

9) Who is most likely to be wearing a non-Sharks sweater by the end of the season?

KS: I don't expect a change in the core group, but a defenseman like Braun or Demers or a young third-liner (think Desjardins or McCarthy) could easily end up somewhere else. Contracts and NTC's will tie Doug Wilson's hands.

RH: Anybody on the Bottom 6 is fair game to be traded or released, but if you pressed me I'd say its Raffi Torres. He's another player with talent and skill, but he's one brain lapse away from sitting for a month due to suspension. If that happens, he'll be released - and picked up by someone else.

PK: If the Sharks' season starts heading south, any of the old players - Dan Boyle, Thornton, Marleau - could be dispatched to a contender in return for draft picks. Perish the thought of such a scenario but it's a definite possibility.

ZB: Jason Demers

GB: Burish need to say no more.

10) and last but not least, how deep a run do the Sharks make this season?

KS: Lose in 2nd round. Not enough gas in the tank from the old guys and Logan Couture will be heavily checked. Curse you, Nashville.

RH: This is a solid team, but one that is starting to show some of its age. That being said, there is enough in the tank for one last deep run, and I see the Sharks being Conference Finals bound for the 3rd time in 5 years. Once there, it'll depend on health and match-ups.

PK: If Tomas Hertl delivers the way Logan Couture and Pavelski have, and Thornton, Marleau and Niemi give us productive years, the Sharks might finally break on through to the other side and give us reason to hold a Stanley Cup parade in San Jose. If these players all slip, we could be looking at a lottery pick in next year's draft.

ZB: At least WCF, with a full lineup.

GB: WCF appears to be a good bet and the finals if they get a bounce or two from the puck or the refs.




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