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Post-Thornton, Post-Marleau Sharks look good, but good enough?
The team still looks like a runner-up when it comes to the Stanley Cup
3/19/18 - By Paul Krill -

For years, Sharks fans wondered what the world would be like once the Sharks no longer had Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on the ice. With Marleau having left via free agency after last season and Thornton out with an injury since late-January, we've finally gotten a glimpse of that world. And it hasn't been so bad.

We saw Tomas Hertl reach the 20-goal mark this past weekend. And the same for Timo Meier, who is finally looking worthy of having been the ninth overall pick of the 2015 draft. Other players, like Joonas Donskoi, Kevin Labanc and Chris Tierney, have stepped in to help fill the Marleau-Thornton gap as well.

And, of course, Evander Kane has been devastatingly effective for the Sharks, with 10 points in nine games, including a four-goal outburst this past weekend in Calgary. He's helped the team even when not showing up on the score sheet. Sharks GM Doug Wilson is going to have his work cut out for him deciding whether to pursue Kane or the Islanders' John Tavares in free agency in the off-season. (Maybe Wilson can snag both?)

With the exception of a dud game or two (see: Sharks vs. Capitals, March 10), the team has been looking pretty good. The pieces are coming together nicely for this now-younger Sharks team. Still, is it going to be enough? We look at the standings and we see Vegas several points ahead of the Sharks, having already beaten the Sharks twice, and Nashville having already clinched a playoff spots with several weeks to go in the regular season.

The last time the Sharks played Nashville, they were stomped upon, 7-1, in February. Also far ahead of the Sharks in the standings is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who beat the Sharks twice this season.

So, it looks like the more things change, the more they stay the same. We have a very good Sharks team that will win a lot of games and most likely make the playoffs. But a Stanley Cup victory just seems like too much to ask this season. The Lightning, the Golden Knights and the Predators (all post-Sharks expansion teams) look to be the cream of the crop when it comes to ranking the top teams.

The Sharks will have to pull off a big surprise if they are to advance far in the playoffs and beat out the aforementioned other three teams or the Boston Bruins for the Cup. Not to mention the Winnipeg Jets. Maybe Thornton will return in time to give the Sharks a needed playoff boost. It should be a fun post-season once that arrives in April.

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