San Jose has improved this season.
Gone are the inconsistent Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley.
In is the explosive Brent Burns who should provide ample scoring from the blue line.
The Sharks are a team that both trades for and develops great players—the paramount reason they are a perennial contender.
The following are five players to watch in 2011-12.
Andrew Desjardins, an undrafted free agent, had only one goal in 17 games with the Sharks last season, but showed up when he got his number called in the postseason.
He had a goal in three playoff games last year.
This year he matched his total from last year with two goals against the Coyotes in the team’s opening game.
Desjardins may have gone overlooked throughout his career, but he’s thrust himself into the limelight with dual tallies in the season opener.
Listed at 6’0”, 190 lbs, Tommy Wingels isn’t going to be running anyone over anytime soon.
However, hard work and quick feet made the Wilmette, Illinois native a standout at Miami (Ohio) University—the same school that produced teammate Dan Boyle.
Wingels is a utility player that will take the ice each game knowing that he’ll have to fill a different void on a nightly basis.
If Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki do not play at 100 percent when they return from their injuries, Thomas Greiss could see some serious playing time in net.
Greiss, who grew up near the Alps in Fussen, Germany was loaned to a Swedish team last year and greatly improved.
This is his audition to prove he’s worthy of playing in the greatest hockey league in the world.
Pavelski, who joins Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on the team’s top line, is expected to top his career-high of 25 goals this year.
The Big Pavelski is known for coming through in the clutch. He has 20 goals and 38 points in 58 career postseason games.
San Jose brought in Burns from Minnesota to shore up a defensive corps that was problematic at times last year.
The Barrie, Ontario native has had concussion issues in the past, but is worth the risk.
Last year he had 17 goals in 80 games, a career-high, for the defensive-minded Wild last year.
In the Sharks’ offense-focused system, Burns could easily score 20-plus from the blue line this year.
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He covers hockey and baseball.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.