San Jose Sharks: If the Season Started Tomorrow...
In the world of sports, the phrase "dog days of summer" is usually used in reference to professional baseball. After all, baseball is the only major U.S. sport in mid-season during the summer months.
But more specifically, the use of "dog days" refers to (give or take) the final four-six weeks of summer, centering around the month of August.
And with August 2010 now under way, fans of playoff contending baseball teams around are hoping their teams can stay in contention through arguably the toughest month of the season.
Now while baseball is in midseason form, hockey fans have essentially the same right to complain about the month of August.
Or in their minds, they have a larger reason to complain about August since it is the least exciting month of the year for them.
Of all the offseason months, August is clearly the down time for hockey fans. Furthermore, the Bay Area hockey fans who follow the San Jose Sharks know just how long it sometimes takes for big hockey news to arrive during the offseason.
San Jose GM Doug Wilson has a penchant for taking his time when finalizing his biggest offseason moves and who knows if the much anticipated trade for a defenseman will come to fruition before the end of the month.
Last season, the Dany Heatley trade wasn't finalized till mid-September and Wilson always talks about his team not being 100 percent put together until the mid-season trade deadline.
Right now, for Sharks fans, the game isn't just wait and see, it's more like: wait, wait, wait, and then see.
While it is fair for Sharks fans to be a bit impatient with the lack of big moves thus far over the offseason, the smart ones know that eventually a move will be made.
And considering Wilson has brought them the likes of Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and the aforementioned Heatley via trade, Sharks fans should feel comfortable that the trade to bolster the blueline will come...eventually.
But as fans play the wait, wait, wait and see game, why not just take a gander at what the Sharks starting lineup might be if the season started tomorrow.
At forward, the Sharks seem pretty much set even after losing Manny Malhotra to free agency.
If they were to play a game tomorrow, the forwards would probably look as follows:
Pretty similar to last season right? Not much of a drop of when you consider the fourth line is improved from last season, and Couture is bound to make strides in his second year of professional hockey.
And for those Sharks fans (like yours truly) who are thinking that a mix up of lines to start the year would be ideal, an interesting option remains.
Couture, San Jose's ninth overall selection in the 2007 draft, is an offensive player and his potential is in top-six, not bottom six. So perhaps moving him up to the second line and subsequently creating a faster third line would be a smart move.
Those revamped lines could look as follows:
Either way, the Sharks have plenty of talent up front, and will be just as prolific offensively as they were last season.
Defensively however, the loss of Rob Blake to retirement is still a huge void that hasn't been filled.
At this point the starting six defenders would probably be as follows:
It isn't rocket science to figure out why Sharks fans and the GM himself have been interested in adding more talent to the blueline.
The group is missing that true shut-down defender with decent offensive production. That said, if the Sharks don't trade for a defenseman prior to the season, seeing how Demers handles playing with Vlasic on the second pairing could be a decent fall back plan.
Demers played in 51 games as a rookie and posted an impressive 21 points. In the postseason he played all 15 games and posted five points. Offensively, Demers was a significant force all year long.
Of course, with the positives come the negative and Demers was at times awful in his own end as a rookie and the rest of the time he was merely below average.
But if we outsiders know that, you can be certain Demers knows that and he might just be the most motivated player on the team to improve upon his individual play from last season.
Obviously the Sharks are looking to upgrade their top-4 defense group and common sense would suggest Demers is still two-three seasons away from taking on that role, but perhaps the second year defenseman proves ready for that role earlier than expected.
If the season started tomorrow, first-year Shark goaltender Antero Niittymaki would start between the pipes.
With Thomas Greiss backing him up, it is obvious team teal is going with the lesser known goaltenders in hopes that they can catch lightning in a bottle as other teams have in recent seasons at the goaltending position.
Between the two netminders, San Jose has plenty of options to find the right man for the playoffs.
While pessimists will say the Sharks are clearly worse off with Niittymaki than they were with Nabokov, the fact remains that keeping around Marleau and Pavelski was more important.
The goalies currently on the roster can suffice for the regular season and the Sharks will still be a top-5 seed in the Western Conference next season.
And who knows, maybe Greiss will be the starter come the postseason and a rookie goalie will end up winning the Stanley Cup for a second straight season.
Since the calendar reads August, all we hockey fans can do is speculate.
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