An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the San Jose Sharks:
Can they re-establish their home-ice advantage?
The Sharks were 18-20-3 at SAP Center last season, one season after finishing 19-17-5 at home. What once was a huge home-ice edge for the Sharks has mysteriously vanished. The Sharks had a 29-7-5 home record three seasons ago and were 17-2-5 at SAP in the lockout-shortened, 48-game season in 2012-13. San Jose had the NHL's best road record last season (28-10-3) but can't count on being that dominant away from home again.
What will goaltender Martin Jones do for an encore?
In his first season with the Sharks and as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL, Jones was 37-23-4 with six shutouts, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. The unflappable Jones then raised his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was 14-10 with three shutouts, a 2.16 GAA and .923 save percentage. The Sharks learned firsthand what having an elite goaltender means, especially in the playoffs. The challenge for Jones this season will be to not regress amid rising expectations.
Video: SJS@VAN: Jones gloves puck, shuts down scoring chance
Will they wear down after a long playoff run and short offseason?
San Jose made its longest playoff run in its history, reaching the Final for the first time. After all that extra work, the Sharks had a short offseason to recover. Seven San Jose players also took part in the World Cup of Hockey 2016: Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker, who signed with San Jose as a free agent on July 1. Coach Peter DeBoer likely will cut back on practice time in an effort to keep the Sharks healthy and energized.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Burns opens the scoring early
Can they fix their penalty kill?
San Jose's play shorthanded has ranked in the bottom third of the NHL each of the past two seasons. The Sharks' penalty kill ranked 21st last season at 80.5 percent, and was 25th at 78.5 percent in 2014-15. That two-season stretch followed back-to-back seasons when San Jose's penalty kill ranked sixth in the NHL (85 percent in 2012-13; 84.9 percent in 2013-14).
Will they start faster in Year Two under coach Peter DeBoer?
The Sharks were 14-14-1 in their first 29 games last season and lost six straight adjusting to new systems under DeBoer. San Jose was 32-16-5 the remainder of the season. The learning curve won't be nearly as steep this season, which should translate into a better start.