2011-12 NHL Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

Key Offseason Additions: Jim Vandermeer, Brent Burns & Martin Havlat (both traded from Minnesota), Michal Handzus, Colin White, Andrew Murray, Thomas Greiss, Ben Guite, Sean Sullivan and Matt Pelech.

Key Offseason Losses: Devin Setoguchi, Ben Eager, Ian White, Niclas Wallin, Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol, Jamal Mayers, Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley

Last Season Ranking: 2nd in the West

Offense: After two consecutive Western Conference Finals losses, the San Jose Sharks made some major roster changes this offseason. The question is whether these changes will be enough to finally get San Jose over the hump and make them Stanley Cup contenders?

One of the biggest trades of the summer involved the Sharks sending Dany Heatley to Minnesota in exchange for Martin Havlat in basically a tit-for-tat trade. While Havlat always carries injury concerns, he is capable of roughly the same point production as Heatley. The major reason the Sharks pulled the trigger on Havlat, however, is his ability to score in the playoffs, an area that Heatley seemed to struggle in his two years in San Jose.

Havlat will join Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau as the big offensive guns on the team this season, but San Jose sports great secondary scoring in Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture, who is coming into his second season in the NHL and will look to prove that his 32-goal rookie outburst wasn’t a fluke. With players of this caliber rounding out your top two lines, San Jose remains one of the deepest offensive teams in the league and should have no trouble putting goals in the net.

Defense: The other big trade of the summer also involved San Jose and Minnesota. The Sharks sent forward Devon Setoguchi to the Wild just days after he signed a contract extension in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns. Burns is young, mobile and capable of providing offense while maintaining solid defensive pressure. He will help alleviate some of the burden from Dan Boyle and should pay immediate dividends for the Sharks on the blue line. A 50+ point season may not be out of the question for Burns, who posted 46 with the Wild last season.

While the Sharks lost three defenseman in Niclas Wallin, Kent Huskins and Ian White, the team still has Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers and Douglas Murray to help round out their blue line. It’s likely that Jim Vandermeer, Colin White and perhaps Justin Braun will all fight for the remaining spot on the ice.

The Sharks finished 10th in the league in goals against per game last season with an average of 2.54. Expect more of the same from the Sharks this season.

Goaltending: After a rough start last season, Antti Niemi emerged as the number one in San Jose and ultimately became the playoff starter as well. He posted solid stats in the second half of the season and was rewarded with a contract extension and pay increase. The number one job is Niemi’s to lose this year.

Behind Niemi is 31-year-old Antero Niittymaki, who had a decent season last year with a 2.72 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. The Sharks would probably like to see a better save percentage this season, but Niittymaki is a capable backup who should start 20-30 games and win 12-18 of those.

HWB Playoff Prediction: The Sharks are playoff bound no doubt. But will their offseason moves make them Stanley Cup bound?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *