Players nearing the end of their contracts or coming back from injury, especially when unproven or aging, always have the most to prove. The 2013 San Jose Sharks have 16 active players less than two years away from their contracts expiring.
Half of them will play their next contract on the wrong side of 30 years old. Seven of the other eight plus two more under contract beyond the 2013-14 season have had uneven productivity thus far in their careers, and one more is coming off an injury that kept him from even skating for months.
This makes sense on a team that must prove it did not have the most wasted talent in this millennium. The Sharks are one of only three teams (Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers) to reach the conference finals three times in the last nine seasons, but the only one not to win it, with just three combined games won.
But listing almost every player is pointless. Some entered the season with much more to prove than others, and some have been added or removed from the list depending on their play thus far.
For instance, goalie Antti Niemi came off a weak year and had essentially two streaks of about 40 games in his career that separated him from a journeyman. But after finding out he was not healthy last season and seeing him almost carry the Sharks in 2013, there is more to confirm faith in him than doubt.
For others, they have less to prove because less is expected of them. Michal Handzus is not providing the secondary scoring the San Jose needs. But he was signed to play defense and is doing so much better than last season.
However, these five Sharks cannot escape the pressure of proving they are worthy of being part of things moving beyond 2014...