2010-11 San Jose Sharks Season Preview
It’s that time of year again.
Time for Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” to welcome the Sharks onto the ice, time for a power play to elicit a natural chomp reaction and time to proclaim that real men (and women) wear teal.
The San Jose Sharks ended the regular season last year 51-20-11 and as Pacific Division champions. They fought through the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings but were swept in the Western Conference Finals by the Chicago Blackhawks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The 2010-2011 season marks the organization's 20-year anniversary. Coming off five consecutive, unsuccessful postseason berths, the Sharks have made some big changes that they hope will pay off come April.
Dan Boyle has been a consistent force on the ice for the Sharks, proving to not only be a strong defenseman but an offensive threat. With 15 goals and 43 assists last season and over 10 years of experience, Boyle will lead the defense. He will also wear an “A” on his sweater this season, serving as the alternate to newly named captain Joe Thornton.
Jason Demers, the 22-year-old defenseman out of Quebec, has big shoes to fill this season. Those shoes belong to former captain Rob Blake. Blake decided to end his career and enter retirement after 22 years in the league. With four goals and 17 assists Demers showed promise last season and must take on a bigger role this year.
"We think he's going to be a very good puck-moving, point-producing [defenseman] who had the benefit of watching Rob Blake last year," general manager Doug Wilson said.
The team just released Andreas Lilja, showing Mike Moore, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman, that they have confidence in his shutdown defense even though he doesn’t have the size that the Sharks are famous for.
Douglas Murray, who had four goals and 13 assists last season, is known for his tenacity and acts as a brick wall on the ice for San Jose. The 30-year-old from Sweden isn’t known for his scoring but will be invaluable when it comes to his 240 pounds of force against the boards.
You can also expect solid blue-line contributions from Marc-Edouard Vlasic (nicknamed “Pickles”), Kent Huskins and Niclas Wallin.
Big Joe Thornton is a beast and this year the Sharks are his team to run. The captain scored 20 goals with 69 assists and 89 points last season, making it his seventh consecutive season with 20+ goals and 50+ assists. It will be up to Big Joe to take control of the team and turn them into a postseason powerhouse.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 100-point season from the 31-year-old center who was drafted first overall by the Boston Bruins in 1997. Thornton will lead the second line with Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe.
Former captain Patrick “Patty” Marleau led the team with 44 regular season goals. He also had eight playoff goals and 39 assists. Being stripped of his captaincy sparked a fire, so expect the left wing to pick up right where he left off. He joins Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski on the Sharks' top line.
Thirty-nine goals and 43 assists last year proved that Heatley is one of the Sharks' top offensive players. Precise shooting and playmaking ability make him an offensive key. With the experience of two 50-goal seasons and Thornton’s leadership another could be coming.
Logan Couture spent much of last season shuttling back and forth between San Jose and Worchester. The time he did spend with the Sharks was well spent and clinched his spot as a starter. As quiet and shy as he is off the ice he’s aggressive and skillful on it.
"He really stepped up last year," Wilson said. "When he came up, he played really, really well for us, so i think you're going to see him jumping right away and replacing Manny Malhotra. We're very high on him."
Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski will also add to the already commanding offense.
In probably the biggest move of the summer the Sharks let Evgeni Nabokov walk in order to open up cap space. Nabby, as fans affectionately called him, was a consistent force in front of the net with a .922 save percentage, but he couldn’t produce in the same fashion when it came time for the postseason.
They always say keep your friends close and your enemies closer and the Sharks did just that. After signing Antero Niittymaki from the Tampa Bay Lighting to take Nabby’s spot, the Sharks got an opportunity they couldn’t refuse.
Enter Antti Niemi.
San Jose signed the former Chicago Blackhawk to a one-year, $2 million contract.
Niemi, who has a .910 save percentage, was a big reason the Sharks were shut out in the Western Conference Finals, and the boys in teal are hoping to use his experience to their advantage this season. The Finnish-born goalie is big, takes up a lot of net and gets down fast to the pads. Only time will tell if he can produce the same kind of success with the Sharks that he did with the Blackhawks.
The Sharks are infamous for their stellar regular seasons and lackluster post seasons. With Niemi in net, Thornton, Marleau and Heatley leading the offense and Boyle commanding the defense, the Sharks will breeze through the regular season. Although a Stanley Cup Championship may be a couple seasons away, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Western Conference Championship banner hanging from the rafters of HP Pavilion at the end of the year.
The Sharks will start their season overseas in Stockholm, Sweden playing back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Come Oct. 16, the Sharks are back stateside and will play their home opener against the Atlanta Thrashers.
To reach writers Sara Ramsey, click here.
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