This is it. No more excuses. It’s put up or shut up time in San Jose, and that means the time to win the Stanley Cup is now.
Actually, if you ask most San Jose fans, Cup expectations have run rampant through San Jose for the last several seasons. However, despite winning five Pacific Division titles over the last seven seasons (four straight heading into 2012), the Sharks have nothing to show for their brilliant regular-season performances. The Sharks made it through to the Western Conference Finals the last two seasons, but they have yet to make it to the final dance.
GM Doug Wilson wasn’t just going to stand by and hope that the 2011 roster would simply figure things out in 2012. Wilson shook up his team with a pair of significant deals, both with the Minnesota Wild. On draft night, he dealt young forward Devin Setoguchi—a player he had signed to a three-year contract one day earlier—along with 2010 first-round pick Charlie Coyle and his 2011 first-round choice for defenseman Brent Burns. Less than two weeks later, he sent two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley to the Wild for forward Martin Havlat.
The deal for Burns dramatically increases the defensive depth of the Sharks, an area where they were outplayed last season when they were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals. And while sending away Heatley may have surprised a few, the 30-year-old only managed to put up 26 goals last season, and that, along with a poor showing in the postseason, just wasn’t going to cut if for Wilson.
Wilson also raised a few eyebrows when he opted not to re-sign a pair of useful defensemen, Ian White and Kent Huskins, as well as forwards Ben Eager, Jamal Mayers, Kyle Wellwood and Scott Nichol. The result figures to be a chance for a lot of the Sharks’ young talent—players such as Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero and Tommy Wingels up front and Justin Braun and Jason Demers on the blue line—to step up into major roles.
However, to ensure some added depth, San Jose also brought in checking center Andrew Murray, who could slot in on the fourth line, as well as veteran defensemen Colin White and Jim Vandermeer to help solidify their blue line.
Once again, the Sharks should have no problem coasting through the regular season. Antti Niemi is expected to be solid once again between the pipes, Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic will continue to elevate their games on the blue line and captain Joe Thornton, playmaker Patrick Marleau and big man Ryan Clowe will lead the team on offense.
However, if the Sharks can’t bring Stanley to San Jose in 2012, expect major changes to take place, beginning with the firing of head coach Todd McLellan.