But it is these five under-the-radar players on the Sharks' roster that will likely determine just how well the they do this year in their quest for their franchise's first Stanley Cup appearance.
When Thomas Greiss started the 2011-12 season for the San Jose Sharks due to injuries to both Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, a lot of casual Sharks fans might have said, “who?”
And rightly so. Greiss has 20 games, a 8-5-2 record, 2.78 GAA and a .906 SV percentage to his NHL resume—all with San Jose.
On the international stage, Greiss, representing Team Germany, was the youngest goalie in the 2006 Winter Olympics, starting for his home country at the 2010 Games. But he has not gotten a chance to shine in the NHL.
The backlog at the Sharks’ net because of quality goaltenders is a compliment to GM Doug Wilson and his team. But it has not helped Greiss who typically was the third string netminder on San Jose’s depth chart.
Greiss could potentially be a starter on any other team. But with Niemi and Niittymaki coming back, Greiss will be relegated to the AHL's Worcester Sharks.
Breaking into the NHL in 2006-07 as a 19-year-old, Marc-Edouard Vlasic tallied just three goals and 23 assists. Not really headline grabbing numbers.
But Vlasic played in all but one game his rookie year, was plus-13 and averaged the second most ice time that year. Did I mention he was just 19-years-old the majority of the season?
The NHL and its fans focus on offensive numbers and Vlasic—affectionately known as “Pickles” to his teammates—isn’t going to win any awards there. But he’s a huge part of the Sharks’ defensive core and penalty kill unit.
Last season, Vlasic set career highs in shots with 116 and led the team in blocked shots with 147. He was second behind Dan Boyle in ice time and was third on the team at plus-14. In six seasons with the Sharks, Vlasic compiled 18 goals, 92 assists and is plus-51 in 390 regular season games.
Starting in his third season with Team Teal, fellow defenseman Jason Demers had a breakout year last season, scoring two goals and 22 assists. He was also the team leader with his plus-19 rating.
Demers missed the Western Conference Finals against the Vancouver Canucks last playoffs. Though it’s not like missing Dan Boyle, the Sharks still felt Demers' absence, having to replace him with not as defensively mature alternates.
Prior to being knocked out of the 2010-11 playoffs, Demers collected two goals, one assist and 20 shots in 13 games.
Two games into this season, the 23-year-old is even seeing some time on the powerplay unit. Expect the upward trend in Demers’ output to continue this year.
Thanks to his speed and his friendship with fellow fan favorite, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell also became a fan favorite as a rookie in 2007-08 season.
Mitchell finished his rookie campaign with 10 goals and 10 assists playing almost exclusively on the third and fourth line.
After missing all of 2008-09 and the beginning of the 2009-10 season due to a leg injury initially sustained during training camp, Mitchell fell off the radar.
He’s fully recovered from his leg injury and got his speed back. Last season, he netted a career-high in points with 23 (nine goals and 14 assists) in 66 games. He also tallied a goal and four assists in the Sharks playoff run last year.
With big names such as Brent Burns and Martin Havlat acquired during the offseason, the signing of Michal Handzus fell quickly from the radar.
But, Handzus is one of the NHL's best in the faceoff circle and works hard on special teams. Think of him as an upgraded Scott Nichol.
Handzus, who signed a two-year contract with San Jose, played in all 82 regular season games for division rival Los Angeles Kings.
The NHL veteran led the Kings in short-handed ice time for forwards and was also a big part of the reason LA was the fourth-best penalty killers in the league. He also collected 12 goals and 18 assists last season and 172 goals, 263 assists in 13 seasons.
So far this year for San Jose, Handzus has two goals.