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Wes Goldstein's Take

They've looked to be on the edge of greatness for the last several seasons, but after the Sharks failed to take advantage of an incredible run down the stretch, it was obvious some key changes were necessary. San Jose didn't waste much time, dumping Ron Wilson as coach and hiring rookie Todd McLellan, an assistant on the Stanley Cup-winning Red Wings, to replace him. But the Sharks didn't stop there, in large part because they were unable to re-sign one of the league's top puck-moving defenseman Brian Campbell, who ended up with Chicago. That could turn out to be a bonus since San Jose used the money to sign Rob Blake and trade for Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich. San Jose had to move another solid veteran in Craig Rivet to accommodate the newcomers in the salary structure, but their blue line crew on the whole is better and more balanced now than it was last season. And the Sharks didn't have to throw captain Patrick Marleau into any of the mixes.

Blake is a former Norris winner and a heavy hitter with a booming shot who can put up points. Boyle is as good as they come in starting transitions. They'll head up a revamped blue line that stacks up with any in the league. Up front, the Sharks have twin towers in Joe Thornton and Marleau, several wingers with sniping potential. The goaltending is solid as well with Evgeni Nabokov, who was the runner-up for the Vezina last season and should be better this season if backup Brian Boucher, a late season addition, can keep him from appearing in 77 games again.

For all the talent up front, the Sharks have trouble scoring, which forces them to rely a great deal on Thornton. That might change under the new coach if he finds a way to coax more out of the forwards, several of whom dropped off precipitously last season. A better effort at crunch time wouldn't hurt either, which might happen if the special teams, which were among the best during the regular season, don't fall apart again at playoff time the way they did last spring.

Figuring out if this is the year. The Sharks seem to have everything in place each season, and yet find a way to fall short by the second round of the playoffs. One of these days, they'll have to find a way to break through the barrier.

Burning Question

Is this the year of the Sharks? Last season was probably the toughest to swallow for the Sharks, who were nearly unbeatable down the stretch and won the Pacific Division title before limping home again after two rounds. That led to changes over the summer and a lineup that is arguably the most balanced and deepest lineup San Jose has had. San Jose will again head into the new season with the potential to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and a pretender.

On the Hot Seat
Patrick Marleau, C
Marleau is still here and his nemesis, former coach, Ron Wilson, is not. He has to prove the Sharks made the right choice.
Save the Date
Oct. 25 vs. Tampa Bay
Boyle faces the team that tossed him aside for the first time.
View From the Stands
Nirky says:
[On the Heatley trade] "When a team which has a glaring inability to score in the playoffs gets a premiere scorer, it can only be a good thing. It was a good trade, basically standing pat with last year's deer-in-the-headlights playoff team made no sense. Another trade or two are probably warranted also."
Join the discussion!
The Sharks landed two-time, 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley in a trade in mid-September. (Getty Images)
2008-09 in Review
Record: 53-18-11 for 117 points
Finish: 1st in West, 1st in Pacific; Lost Conf. Quarterfinals
Goals/Game: 3.06 (7th) Goals Against/Game: 2.43 (3rd)
Power Play: 24.2% (3rd) Penalty Kill: 83.3% (5th)
Fantasy Projections
CJoe Thornton8223771002254
CPatrick Marleau77253863230
DDan Boyle75223961552
LWMilan Michalek812530551850
RWJonathan Cheechoo792725521250
20Evgeni Nabokov392422.30.9065
Complete Fantasy Projections
Generation Next
Logan Couture, C, 20
Couture is a well-rounded playmaker who plays a strong positional game. Although he is not an outstanding skater, Couture is regarded for his consistent effort, two-way play and lunch pail work ethic. The pivot rebounded from an injury-riddled season by leading his junior team with 39 goals last year.
Ottawa (OHL) - 62GP-39G-48A-87PTS
In the System
No. Player, Pos., Age 2008-09 Team, Stats
1 Thomas Greiss, G, 23 Worcester (AHL); 2.47 GAA-.907 SV%
2 Jamie McGinn, LW, 21 Worcester (AHL); 47GP-19G-11A-30PTS
3 Derek Joslin, D, 22 Worcester (AHL); 63GP-11G-19A-30PTS
Expert Picks
No. Goldstein Brown Devonport Hurcomb Cercel
Complete expert picks
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