San Jose Sharks: Areas Still in Need of Improvement
When the San Jose Sharks were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the up-and-coming St. Louis Blues last season, fans and analysts alike speculated that the club would undergo some drastic lineup changes over the offseason.
A Cup favorite for much of the past decade, the Sharks have an aging core that is beginning to show signs of decline and could use an injection of youthful talent. Many believed that general manager Doug Wilson would shop veterans Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle in an attempt to change the culture of the team and bring in some young players to build around.
Despite the club's disappointing season, the Sharks have been remarkably quiet this summer. The NHL Entry Draft and the Free Agent Frenzy have come and gone, and San Jose's roster looks almost identical to that of last season's squad. The only additions to the roster thus far are defenseman Brad Stuart and gritty winger Adam Burish.
Needless to say, there are still several areas that the Sharks need to improve in before they can be considered Cup contenders again. Most notably, the team severely lacks speed. Outside of Patrick Marleau, T.J. Galiardi and the oft-injured Martin Havlat, San Jose has no above-average skaters in their forward ranks. They dealt one of their quickest wingers, Jamie McGinn, to the Colorado Avalanche last season, and lost speedster Torrey Mitchell to free agency on July 1st.
Speed is becoming increasingly important in today's NHL, and San Jose's deficiency in that category was heavily exploited by St. Louis in last season's playoffs. Doug Wilson would be wise to acquire a quick-footed forward or two by the end of the offseason.
The Sharks also need improved secondary scoring. Their top six is one of the best in the league, headlined by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. However, the team has very little in the way of offensive production beyond the top two lines.
As it currently stands, San Jose's third and fourth lines consist of T.J. Galiardi, Michal Handzus, Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish and James Sheppard. The biggest point-producer from that group last season? Michal Handzus, who managed an abysmal 24 points. While Galiardi is more than capable of putting up 40 points when healthy, none of the others will be big contributors on the scoresheet.
If Wilson addresses these areas, be it via trade or free agency, the Sharks will be poised to make a deep playoff run and claim their first ever Stanley Cup. If not, it could be yet another disappointing season for San Jose.
Sam Kelly is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @samkelly10.
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