Truth be told, I had a really hard time deciding over which team would take the third spot in this list for the Western Conference.
And this is why I believe this team can win this season; they have changed a major position in their roster. Having decided not to offer Nabokov a contract was probably the best thing the team could've done.
Yes, I know I've said it's not good to rate goaltenders with just one (or half in this case) good season, but face it, Niemi is good. He will have less of a load, since they also acquired Antero Niittymaki, who is a good, but not great, goaltender. The latter has also proved to be a good backup.
It's a great combination if you ask me.
Offensively, there hasn't been much doubt, I believe, that they are talented.
That won't change this year, in fact, they will only get to be more comfortable.
Defensively, it's a sound team with very little improvement needed.
Look at the team, and you say: the only thing that has changed is the goaltender. And that's why this team will perform very differently this year. It's not that Nabokov wasn't a good player, he was, and San Jose is talented, but it's not mandatory that they were to work well together.