Getting knocked out early and “choking” has added pressure for them to bring the cup to Northern California. That pressure is being felt by Doug Wilson, the general manager, who is not satisfied with two consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals, and he made big changes this offseason.
Why is this year different from the past?
Here are five reasons why this is the year the Sharks will finally win the Stanley Cup.
The offseason additions of Brent Burns and Martin Halvat will pay off and make Doug Wilson look like a genius at the season’s end. Not only is Burns a great defender and Havlat a great winger, but they both are great on the other end of the ice.
Brent Burns is another Dan Boyle-type defenseman who can move the puck into the offensive zone and create scoring chances, resulting in less pressure on the forwards to score. Having Boyle on the same line as Marc-Edouard Vlasic gives the Sharks the luxury of pairing Burns with Douglas Murray and allows them to have two offensive-minded defensemen on the ice for the majority of the game.
Martin Havlat has been a nice fit for the Sharks so far, starting his career in teal with a four-game point streak and tallying eight points in his first 11 games. Havlat should finish with 20 goals and 40 assists, but he could show how valuable he really is on the defensive end, where he has been stellar thus far.
He uses his speed on both ends of the ice and knows where to be at all times, helping create chances on offense from his solid defense.
This is the best set of defenders the Sharks have ever had on their roster. The top four of Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns and Douglas Murray are as good as any in the NHL, but the talent does not stop there.
The young talent of Jason Demers, who had an impressive postseason last year before hurting his ankle, and Justin Braun to go along with the two veteran free-agent acquisitions of Colin White and Jim Vandermeer give them depth to overcome an injury or two and allow them to stay fresh for a long playoff run.
The Sharks have the privilege of being able to shuffle lines to create a matchup nightmare with any team in the NHL. Opening night, their top line included three centers: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski.
Add sophomore stud Logan Couture and you have four quality centers which you can insert on any of the top three lines, giving an opposing team a tough task to match up with that kind of depth.
They can also match up with any team in the NHL given their size and speed.
Once in the playoffs, the Sharks will not need to rely on the big names of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle anymore.
They have Joe Pavelski who has played like a superstar in the last two postseasons to go along with Logan Couture, who looks to build off his outstanding rookie season.
These two players can create scoring chances and help the big guys put points on the board, bringing offense from the second and third lines.
The Sharks finally have a team with no weaknesses. They have a good defense, plenty of firepower on offense, a Stanley Cup winning goaltender, a power play that can be lethal and a solid penalty kill unit.
They also have room for a move at the trade deadline if they need to add another piece to the puzzle. According to CapGeek.com, they have just over $1.8 million in salary cap space which could come in handy if anyone on the current roster gets hurt.
In the past, their defense has been soft at times, hurting them in the playoffs, but Brent Burns helps solve that problem. Another new face, Martin Havlat, adds a player to the roster who has had career postseason success which should be an upgrade from Dany Heatley, who battled injuries in the last two postseasons, causing him to play at a subpar level.
The captain, Joe Thornton, was a monster in the playoffs last year, raising his game to a level which it has never been at before.
With the addition of two-way players, an improved blue line, versatility, young talent, cap space and a determined captain, the Sharks will take their turn hoisting the Cup in 2012.