Hockey World Blog Season Previews 2010: San Jose Sharks

Key Offseason Losses: Evgeni Nabokov, Manny Malhotra, Rob Blake

Key Offseason Additions: Jamal Mayers, Antero Niittymaki, Antti Niemi

Last Season Ranking: 1st in West


Rumor has it that the NHL is considering a change to the All-Star game format. Instead of East versus West, they will make it the San Jose Sharks versus the world. Yeah, they’re pretty good.

The Sharks will again be anchored by the offensive production of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau who scored a combined total of 103 goals and 254 points last season. It’s not so much a question of whether or not these three will thrive; it’s how much they will thrive. And the sky seems to be the limit for the Sharks’ trio of stars.

As if those three weren’t deadly enough, the team also witnessed the coming out party of 26-year-old Joe Pavelski during the playoffs last season where he led the team with nine goals and 17 points in only 15 playoff games. The team will look for Pavelski to be a huge pivot on the offense this season and pick up right where he left off in the playoffs. Pavelski certainly gives the team more options but it definitely makes them a greater threat and harder to contain in the offensive zone. Add in the offensive capabilities of Ryane Clowe and you have one of the most threatening offenses in the NHL.


Don’t believe for a second that the offense gets to have all the Tampa+Bay+Lightning+v+San+Jose+Sharks+KdfVbJtUBzSlfun. In fact, defenseman Dan Boyle was fourth on the team in points last season with 58, including 43 assists. But what really works for this team is the fact that everyone helps out on defense. The Sharks were not only 8th in the league in goals against per game last season, but four of the top six players in plus/minus on the team were forwards. Only two players who skated in 50 or more games produced minus stats. This team not only knows how to put the puck in the opposition’s net, but they know how to keep it out of their own, too.

Look for Marc-Edouard Vlasic to have a big year as he gets called up to the top defensive pairing alongside Dan Boyle to help replace the recently retired Rob Blake. Vlasic tied for the team-lead in plus-minus with a plus-21 and is capable of chipping in 30 or more points. Vlasic could have a career year this season.


San Jose’s biggest changes in the offseason came in goal. The team decided not to extend an offer to unrestricted free agent Evgeni Nabokov and instead signed Antero Niittymaki to take over starting duties. In 49 games with Tampa Bay last season, Niittymaki had 21 wins and a 2.87 goals against average. While Niittymaki’s numbers aren’t terribly by any means, they should drastically improve with a much better defense in front of him.

Still, as insurance, the team also added Stanley Cup winner Antti Niemi to compete for the starting job. Niemi finished the season last year for the Chicago Blackhawks with 26 wins and a 2.25 goals against average before backstopping the Hawks to the Stanley Cup.

It’s still unclear whether or not both goalies will share duties in net or if coach Todd McLellan will designate a number one starter. The most likely scenario will have the starts going to the hot goaltender who is playing well.

Season Outlook:

There’s no reason why San Jose shouldn’t be at the top of the Western Conference rankings again this season. They are a great regular season team and can score goals with flair and style. Been there, done that. When the pressure is on and the intensity turns up come playoff time, the Sharks sink. Sure, Thornton, Heatley and Marleau may have led the team in points during last year’s postseason, but they certainly need to be better than the collective minus-21 that they exhibited. Unless San Jose’s top players can step up and be the best players throughout both the regular season and the playoffs, the Sharks will continue to be a great regular season team and a sub-par playoff performer.

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