San Jose Sharks Goaltending and Team Preview for 2010-11

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San Jose Sharks Goaltending and Team Preview for 2010-11
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Antero Niittymaki

Let's take a look at the San Jose Sharks upcoming year and see where they will end up after the departure of a few players.

These departures include Captain Rob Blake, Manny Malhotra, Brad Staubitz, and most notably long time net-minder Evgeni Nabokov who ended a long 10-season tenure with the Sharks after GM Doug Wilson resigned snipers Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Nabokov ended up signing with a team back in Russia. There wasn't enough room left under the salary cap for 'Nabby,' and Doug Wilson also wanted to try a change of pace. Only time will tell where this leads the Sharks.

Let's break down the Sharks netminding this season now with Nabokov gone.

The main reason Nabokov is gone, besides the salary cap issues, was because Wilson wanted a change after another playoff disappointment, being swept by the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals. A good portion of Sharks fans also were tired of all the postseason failures, which can't all be pinned on Nabokov, but that's another story.

The Sharks have signed Antero Niittymaki to a two-year, $4 million deal. Niittymaki is a decent netminder but isn't proven. He hasn't played on very solid teams—like the Tampa Bay Lightening. He led Finland a few years earlier to a silver medal in the Olympics. Not bad, right? With a solid San Jose defense, Niittymaki's numbers from last season with Tampa Bay(21-18-5, .909 Sv.%, and a 2.87 GAA.) are sure to improve.

But there's more...

The Sharks have also just signed Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year deal, worth $2 million. Niemi is fresh off a playoff berth with the Chicago Blackhawks—the team that ousted the Sharks in the WCF. It may seem ironic, but Niemi was keen on being a part of the Sharks. Although Niemi had a VERY solid year last year, he's not exactly proven, even though he won the cup, he was a rookie. If things don't pan out for Niemi, they still have Niittymaki or probable third goalie Thomas Greiss.

Greiss is a home-grown young Shark. He was supposed to be partnered with Niittymaki, but with the addition of Niemi, is likely to be the odd-man out of the trio. When Niemi was signed, Niittymaki and Niemi himself wanted to make sure they were both included as the Sharks men-between-the-pipes. 

Greiss wasn't so thrilled. "I was hoping to make the next step. It's understandable they're bringing in a Stanley Cup goalie, the first time they have that in the organization. At this point I understand that. From the other side, I want to play as much as I can." I honestly can't blame him, but it's for the good of the franchise.

The Sharks hope to get another really good season out of long-time Shark Patrick Marleau, who scored a career high 44 goals last season. They're hoping for Dany Heatley to add to his 39 goals and for Joe Thornton to have another solid season, preferably 100 points. With rising stars like Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, and Ryane Clowe, they have a solid second line. If they can play consistent, they'll be a force.

The Sharks defense, after losing Rob Blake, probably won't suffer as much as fans make it out to look. Dan Boyle, leading in the Sharks defense scoring and one of the best defensemen in the league, will lead the defense corps, along with rising youths Marc Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers.

Overall, I'm sure the Sharks will have another big season and probably finish second or third in the Western Conference, atop the Pacific division. With goaltender additions and young player maturity, they'll hope for that final Stanley Cup push as well, as they sure are capable.

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