Things did not go as planned for the defense of the San Jose Sharks in 2011-12.
A 2011 offseason that was highlighted by the addition of Brent Burns and an offensive scheme to a weak defensive unit saw that strategy go severely underwater.
The defense was not consistent, and the penalty kill was the biggest weakness of the team last season.
GM Doug Wilson went out and acquired defenseman Brad Stuart during the offseason in hopes of adding a veteran influence to a unit without a real leader.
We should see a real difference in the way this unit approaches each game with Stuart in the locker room, Burns with another year in San Jose under his belt and a healthy Dan Boyle.
Also, the addition of the new assistant coaches should play a real difference on defense this season.
Jim Johnson and Larry Robinson were brought in for their experience and defensive knowledge, and we should see that pay dividends for players like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns.
There will be little doubt about this pairing when the 2012-13 season gets underway.
Boyle is getting up there in age, but he will start this season fully healthy—a condition we saw him in for just a portion of last season.
Paired with the aging Boyle is Vlasic, who has grown in talent every season he has played in.
With a new contract, he should feel very comfortable on the ice this season and possibly breakout into that all-around defenseman he is set to one day become.
Brent Burns is a monster talent, but seeing him score 37 points in his first season with San Jose while being relatively quiet when it counted down the stretch was a bit of a letdown for some.
We can expect a good deal of production from him in his second season with the team.
As for Murray, he will not produce on an offensive level by any means.
What he will give the Sharks, and the second line on defense, is his big body and big strength that he consistently supplied last season.
Burns should be a big service to him in the many aspects Murray does not produce in, but pairing Murray with Burns gives the team a strong defensive unit that has much to prove this season.
***Do not be surprised to see Brad Stuart on this line with Burns at points this season.
Burns' offensive mindset and Stuart's physical play could pay dividends for this possible pairing.
I like the veteran presence mixed with the young talent in this situation.
Stuart will play a leadership role on this team, and pairing him with Justin Braun—who was a nice surprise on defense last season—is a good roster move for coach Todd McLellan.
Braun still needs some seasoning, which is why playing alongside a gritty veteran like Stuart is the best thing for him.
Whether McLellan carries seven defensemen on this team to start the season is a decision he will have to make.
Demers is the obvious choice to be left out of the starting lineup on defense, based on his production in San Jose to this point.
However, he does have a lot to prove, which is why he might be a moderate surprise if an injury occurs to this unit.
For now, he is the seventh man on a six-deep defense that has their starting lineups pretty much intact.
Follow me on Twitter @ScottSemmler22