Under perform. fold under pressure. wither in the lime light. All these phrases had one thing in common; they helped describe the San Jose Sharks Prior to 2009. After being defeated by the eighth place Ducks in 2008, the Sharks put together a quality 2009 campaign that resulted in a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Then, coming back down to earth,or reverting back to themselves, they were swept by the soon to be champion Chicago Blackhawks. With the trip to the finals, the play-off monkey is squarely off their backs, but with another years comes hyped expectations and the challenge of living up to them.
Team Make Up: Offense
If you were to look on paper, this Sharks team seems similar to the one that was in place last year. Thornton, Marleau and Heatley return and look to continue posting solid numbers. Thornton lead the team in scoring with 89 points and was fairly present in the playoffs, accounting for 12 points. The emergence of Joe Pavelski means yet another capable scorer that will make this Shark's offense potent and high scoring. There defensive staff also is keen on scoring and will add additional dimensions to their attack. They will need that because on the other side the Sharks have clear deficiencies.
Team Make Up: Defense
There is no question that defense is a question mark for the Sharks. Dan Boyle is back as the anchor of the defense, but questions still loom as who will make up for the loss of Rob Blake both on and off the ice. Blake Averaged over 21 minutes per game and was the team's captain. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a complete player and is an excellent blueliner for the Sharks, as well as Douglas Murray, and both will have to step up in order to fill those minuets vacated by Blake. This along with the goalie situation means the Sharks will need to score in order to win games
Team Make Up: Goalie
For most teams, losing your star goalie would be a crushing blow to your championship aspirations.For the Sharks, it's the complete opposite. The team elected to let go of Evgeni Nabokov who was drafted by San Jose back in 1994. Thank the lord. Although Nabokov put up solid regular season numbers, he never failed to falter in the playoffs. Nabokov went 8-7 in the playoffs and let up on average nearly a full goal more a game. The Sharks brought in Former Black Hawk Antti Niemi as well as Antero Nittymaki to replace Nabokov and hopes are high that the duo can more than make up for Nabokov's absence.
Players to Watch:
Look for Joe Pavelski to continue with his run he had in the playoffs. "Mr. Clutch" will be a huge factor in whether the Sharks make it to the Stanley Cup finals or not. Another player to look out for is 22-year-old Jason Demers. Demers played in 51 games last year and racked up 21 points. He's a quality defender who many liken to a young Dan Boyle.
The Sharks have a good mix of experience and talent. The big three are still in their prime while youngsters like Pavelski and Setoguchi have stepped up and started to produce. Their offense should be strong and will need to be in order for them to make up for a iffy defense and goalie situation. I see the sharks finishing first in the Pacific Division and challenging for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Yet, with that said, unless some moves are made before the trade deadline, I don't see the guys in Teal hoisting up Lord Stanley's cup this year.