Sink or Swim: Three San Jose Sharks That Need to Step Up to Win the Stan

Cale LoneyCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2010

Sink or Swim: Three San Jose Sharks That Need to Step Up to Win the Stan

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    The San Jose Sharks have had years of success in the regular season. Over the same span, the San Jose Sharks have had some playoff mistakes as well. The problem for the Sharks is that their big guns in the regular season are often silenced come the postseason.

    Last year saw the Sharks come ever so close to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for the Sharks, they came up against future cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.

    While the Sharks saw more success last season, the same problem persisted. Why is it that when most of the league's best offensive players turn it up a notch in the postseason, San Jose's big guns turn it down?

    The following players hold the keys to the Sharks swimming all the way to the cup finals this postseason.

No.3: Dany Heatley

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    One of the top pure scorers in the league, Dany Heatley has had a significant amount of success in his career. Heatley is also no stranger to playoff success, coming to the Sharks with 34 points in 34 career playoff games.

    Last postseason, Heatley was having difficulties scoring but still managed to put up a solid 13 points in 14 games. The problem is Heatley had the second worst plus/minus of the Sharks in the playoffs at -7.

    For the Sharks to make it to the cup finals next year, Heatley needs to either significantly step up his offensive game or play better in the defensive zone. The Sharks simply can't afford a scorer who isn't scoring but getting scored on.

No. 2: Antti Niemi

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    After leading the Chicago Blackhawks over the Sharks in last year's Western Conference Final, Antti Niemi has changed his colours.

    The former Stanley Cup winner brings a winning pedigree on paper but still needs to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. After signing at the bargain price of two million, if Niemi wants to cash in he needs to solidify his status as a top 10 goalie in the NHL.

    For the Sharks, Niemi represents a significant upgrade over Antero Niitymaki. Both player are signed at two million and will push each other for ice time. This competition is exactly what the Sharks are looking for. If Niemi establishes himself next season, the Sharks will be dueling for Lord Stanley.

No.1: Joe Thornton

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    Joe Thornton lead the Sharks in points this past season with 89 points in 82 games. Tied for second highest on the team in plus/minus at +17, Thornton had a great season.  Thornton's success can be attributed partly to the wonderful chemistry that he has with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.

    Like Heatley, Thornton played great in the regular season then quieted down in the playoffs. After having the second best plus/minus on the team in the regular season, Jumbo Joe had a significantly less successful playoffs.

    Thornton had only 12 points in 15 games, the lowest amount of the Sharks' big-three up front. To make matters worse, Thornton led the team in plus/minus only this time in the minus category at -11. If the Sharks truly want to contend for the Stanley Cup, Thornton like Heatley, needs to change things up.

    Ultimately, the Sharks best forward has to continue being the man if they want to do anything besides win the Presidents' Trophy.