| Ten Burning
The LGS Team answers them
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
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
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
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.
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).
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,
4) What team will give the Sharks the biggest fits
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
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
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
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
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
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.
dimension of the Sharks game will stand apart from the rest
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.
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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