Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

Another excruciatingly long summer is (almost) over. Actual hockey games are on the horizon. Because this is the 265th most widely read hockey blog on the internets, MYFO felt a deep obligation to our dozens of readers to prepare this series of previews telling you about every single team in the NHL. By “prepare” we mean, we found other people to write many of them for us. We were looking for people who (unlike us) might have an actual clue about these teams, but were also eager/willing/ enough to work for free. Within those constraints, we think we did an admirable job. Your San Jose Sharks preview is brought to you by Mr. Plank of We Bleed Teal.

It’s no secret- the Sharks have had a helluva time getting past the second round the last three years. Every single season Teal Nation (we really don’t call ourselves that- it’s sort of a rip off of “Raider Nation“, the Oakland Raiders fanbase in the National Convicts League) gets more excited than me on prom night about the chance to finally score the big one. Also like my prom night, the ending is the same-an early exit, people laugh, you retire from your career as a human being and start up a blog. It’s a rough life.

Based off these facts, I’ve decided to go into this year with more of a realistic mind set. The following is a list of seven reasons (which represents a playoff series, yes I am original) of why the Sharks are less likely to pull a Mama Cass in the second round.

1) Todd McLellan

First off, that’s one helluva photoshop.

Ex-Sharks coach Ron Wilson was notorious for being unable to motivate the team come playoff time. Rumors that he had lost control of the locker room surfaced after the year, and it was all but a guarantee he was done.

After Wilson got fired, Detroit’s power play coach Todd McLellan was brought in. He’s had success both at the AHL and NHL level (most notably winning the Calder Cup in 2003 with the Houston Aeros), and the consensus in Northern California is that he will inject life into the frustratingly static power play. We’ll touch on other parts of the team in more detail, but let it be clear- McLellan is the Sharks’ biggest addition in that he immediately and immensely changes the offense.

2) Ryane Clowe

I’m convinced Detroit’s success on the power play centers around Tomas Holmstrom’s ability to mindfuck goaltenders every time his rear is hanging around in the crease. As much as we hate the guy, his ass gets more press than J-Lo’s, and for good reason: He gives opposing netminders more breakdowns than Britney Spears.

There’s no one else on the Sharks who can get in front and disrupt the goaltender like Clowe. He was a big contributor in the first-round series against Calgary (4 goals, 4 assists) and established such a solid presence in the crease that it’s difficult to fathom how the Sharks posted the league’s second-best record without him. His skill set has lots of upsides- 6’2″, 225 pounds, and good hands. [Ed.: Ladies…]

The one concern with Clowe is his inability to stay healthy and/or sober. He missed a majority of the regular season with a knee injury (and has never played a complete NHL season). There was also the little matter of the DUI he picked up while on the IR. But whatevs- do you like drinking? Hell ya I like drinkin’; who da hell don’t?

3) Patrick Marleau

Patty had a lot of differences with Ron Wilson, and that reflected on his play last year. Rumor has it (and no, my source isn’t Eklund the human joke mobile) that the Sharks Captain didn’t speak to Ron Wilson for a six month period. Marleau posted a paltry 48 points (19 G), and was involved in trade rumors all year long–an obstacle he won’t face now that a NTC kicked in after the entry draft.

Up until last year’s postseason, Marleau was tied with Jarome Iginla for most postseason goals (20) in the previous three years. He banged the twine more than Magic Johnson banged…. well you get the point. And he’s healthy, which is more than you can say for….yeah, you get the point.

4) Cup Rings

It’s no mystery as to what Doug Wilson’s plan was this offseason-bring in players with Stanley Cup experience. With a roster that has aged considerably over the summer, that goal has been achieved. The Sharks went overnight from a fairly young team to one that now is looking at a rapidly closing window of opportunity.

Rob Blake-Old and overpaid. Blake’s purpose will be solely to provide support on the powerplay and do towel whips in the locker room, keeping the squad loose. Whatever that means.

Dan Boyle-After Brian “Soupy” Campbell (who will be referred to as “Poopy” on We Bleed Teal for the remainder of his wretched life) bolted for the Windy City, Wilson replaced him with Boyle. Boyle’s coming off an injury-plagued 07-08 year, so his $6.66 M/year contract that runs through 2013-2014 could be a bit of a gamble. However, it gives me so many opportunities to use cliche headlines such as “Sharks Begin To Boyle As They Win Third Straight.” That stuff is important people.

Brad Lukowich-Lukowich won a Cup with the Lightning back in 03-04. He’s basically a solid defenseman who’s going to eat up minutes and not score a lot, but provide enough to earn his minutes. McLellan will probably pair him up with Boyle at the beginning of the year, solely based off the fact that is the role they played in Tampa.

5) The Power Play

The Sharks power play was a goddamn circus last year. Although a quick glance at the stats may tell you the Sharks were a respectable 10th in the league last year, don’t believe it. They were frustrating as hell. Basically the plan of attack would consist of feeding the puck to Big Joe on the sideboards, him waiting around for a few seconds, and then firing an errant pass at the front of the net. As this was occurring, yours truly would be beating his dog while the pass got broken up. Rinse and repeat.

Todd McLellan’s expertise promises to change all that. He’ll be able to work with weapons such as Joe Thornton, Marleau, Milan Michalek, Blake, Boyle, Clowe, and Joe Pavelski to make teams pay for taking penalties against San Jose.

6) The Defense

Although losing Craig Rivet was a blow to both squad and fanbase, Doug Wilson’s hand was forced because of cap troubles. All of the acquisitions in number four soften the blow, but the opportunity to press a little more in the offensive zone will be a welcome addition to the Sharks repertoire. Coupled with 2008 Vezina Winner Runner-Up Evgeni Nabokov manning the pipes, the Sharks will once again be one of the league’s best defensive teams. Hell yeah I’m already counting my chickens.

7) Go Sharks.

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