September 17, 2013 by andymisek
The San Jose Sharks enter 2013-2014 looking to clinch a playoff berth for the tenth consecutive season, and there is no reason to believe they won’t. Despite an aging core, young players like Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels look to take on a larger role. An off season groin surgery to Martin Havlat opens up the only question mark in the San Jose line-up. The Sharks finish 14th on our NHL Season Countdown.
The Sharks drafted Mirco Mueller, a Swiss defenseman, with the 18th overall pick in 2013. Mueller put up 31 points in 63 games for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. However, Mueller was a -10 with his plus/minus. He isn’t an offensive juggernaut from the points; he is more of a defensive defenseman. Mueller still has some time to develop before being NHL-ready.
Other than the draft, San Jose was relatively quiet during the off season. They acquired Tyler Kennedy from the Pittsburgh Penguins and moved TJ Galliardi to the Calgary Flames. Back-up goalie, Thomas Greiss, left to play with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Despite an aging core of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau, San Jose’s youth are looking to take larger roles this season. Logan Couture will be centering the first line while Evanston IL native, Tommy Wingels, has earned a larger role. Logan Couture has proven he can handle a larger work load but it is yet to be seen if Wingels can produce with top line minutes.
Brent Burns being moved to wing also adds depth up front for San Jose. Burns has proven to have some chemistry with Thornton as well as being an asset on the power player.
Another youthful face looking for a roster spot is Tomas Hertl. The 2012, 17th overall pick will be looking to crack San Jose’s line-up in a top six role. Playing alongside Joe Thornton will help him develop his all around game. Also Thornton’s elite play-making will allow Hertl to have every chance to succeed.
San Jose’s depth outside the top six is a little more impressive this year than previously. If Joe Pavelski is playing center, he will more than likely center a third line of Raffi Torres and Tyler Kennedy. Pavelski and Kennedy can play in the top six if Wingels doesn’t cut it with Couture. Adam Burish and Andrew Desjardins will also round out the roster on the fourth line. Burish has also proven to be a fearless penalty killer.
Average at best would be the best way to describe San Jose’s defense. Dan Boyle is a minute eater but at 37 years old, age is catching up with him. Matt Irwin and Justin Braun will be relied on more after Douglas Murray was traded before the 2013 trade deadline. Scott Hannon and Brad Stuart are a strong bottom pairing, but San Jose’s top four might be weaker than years past. Outside of Dan Boyle, the Sharks don’t have that big name defenseman who can eat big minutes.
Antti Niemi is a great goalie! He was in the top three in Vezna Trophy voting last year. Since leaving Chicago, Niemi has worked on his rebound control and consistency. He will play the bulk of the games for the Sharks. The new back-up, Alex Stalock, is a huge question mark, especially if Niemi were to get hurt. Last year in the AHL, Stalock posted a .912 save percentage. Admirable number, but will he continue to record similar stats at the NHL? Can he anchor a team if Niemi were to miss games with injury? These have to be questions San Jose fans are having right now.
San Jose Sharks are poised to record a tenth straight playoff berth. While the core of the Sharks is aging, a new younger core is looking to take hold of more important roles this year. More pressure rests on the shoulders of Couture, Wingels and Hertl. With the tutelage of Thornton and Marleau, they are in good hands. Look for San Jose’s new core to take over starting this season.