Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
San Jose has gone down in flames in consecutive conference finals. In the last two seasons, they are 1-8 in those games.
This summer, they may have finally found the pieces to put an end to those troubles. For the cost of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the Sharks acquired a blue-chip defenseman in Brent Burns and a high-skill offensive talent in Martin Havlat.
San Jose also acquired free agents Michal Handzus, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer, helping round out their defensive depth.
All told, San Jose quietly, uncharacteristically had one of the best offseasons in hockey.
Burns (pictured) fills a gaping hole on the blue line, one left by the retired Rob Blake. Though San Jose managed to win the Pacific in his first year of retirement, the loss was felt in the Vancouver series. Burns is an ace of a young defenseman, and San Jose immediately signed him to an extension after acquiring him.
Martin Havlat, too, is a good get for the Sharks. While he may not have the raw talent of Dany Heatley, the departure of Heatley may be addition by subtraction. Heatley's production has declined in three straight years and he was a playoff ghost last spring.
Michal Handzus is an underrated acquisition, and will make the Sharks' lower lines more defensively sound. Logan Couture takes Setoguchi's spot as a developing young scorer.
Though Los Angeles became stronger and the Ducks figure to be a player in the West, the Pacific became much weaker with the losses of Ilya Bryzgalov and Brad Richards. Phoenix and Dallas won't present the competition they did a year ago and figure to become easy wins on the Sharks' calendar.
The trades with Minnesota were of the blockbuster variety, but it was the quiet acquisition of role players later in free agency that helped the Sharks' solidify their roster from top to bottom.
San Jose should walk with another one-seed in 2011-12, and perhaps another President's Trophy.