The San Jose Sharks are once again one of the top teams in the NHL this season, and they have arguably their best all around roster in their 18-year history.
Top six forward wise, the Sharks have the most dynamic group they have ever had. Dany Heatley added to the mix this year, along with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, and either Ryane Clowe or Manny Malhotra, who will make up the top two scoring lines come postseason.
Furthermore, whichever top six caliber forward finds themselves as bottom six player, he will add scoring punch to a third line that has been money all season. San Jose may rely heavily on their top line for goals, but unlike years past, their third line has brought tenacity and energy all season long. With either Clowe or Malhotra skating alongside Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, San Jose's third line has been strong at both ends of the ice.
Finally, the Sharks have so much depth at the forward position this year that they could go many different ways with the fourth line come playoffs. Torrey Mitchell will be on the line one way or another, but the other two spots could be manned by any of the following: Brad Staubitz, Jody Shelley, Jamie McGinn, Frazer McLaren, or Logan Couture.
All five bring something different to the table, and it will be interesting to see who lands the most postseason playing time.
Goaltending-wise, the Sharks are set with Olympians Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.
However, while the performances in net and up front more than make up for the loss of defense from last season's squad, all around play from the defense is still a major area of concern.
San Jose is clearly an all around better team this season with the additions at forward, but the defensive talent is clearly inferior to last year's group.
Last offseason, the Sharks made a salary dump and gave up two of their top six defensemen in Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich, the latter of which was a solid physical force, and Ehrhoff brought offensive upside and speed to the table.
Without these two in the lineup, the Sharks were expecting big things from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but "Pickles" hasn't performed to the level the team expected him to reach this season.
Combine that with the fact defenseman Rob Blake has seemed to age five years since last season, and the Sharks defense has taken a serious hit this season.
Even with the improvement of Douglas Murray, the defense has significantly declined overall.
In order for San Jose to get over the hump and at least get past the second round of the playoffs this year they will need to add a top four defenseman.
To be more specific, a trade to acquire a left-handed puck moving defenseman would be ideal. A player of this caliber would be able to take over the offensive role that Ehrhoff filled last season.
Without further ado, here are the top five defensemen the Sharks should target to fill that role.