In the NHL, change is the norm. And Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson was very direct in his post playoff talks that the Sharks would do what was necessary heading into 2009-10.
With the season opening in two days, one glance at the roster shows that Wilson stuck with his plan. Nine players who dressed in the playoffs are no longer with the organization. Whether it was from trades, free agency or retirement, there is no doubt things have been shaken up.
Departed players include Jeremy Roenick, Milan Michalek, Claude Lemieux, Mike Grier, Brad Lukowich, Christian Ehrhoff, Travis Moen, Jonathan Cheechoo and Marcel Goc.
Changes took place all over the roster. The Sharks had trouble scoring in the postseason, so Wilson brought in one of the most prolific scorers in the league: Dany Heatley. With Heatley, there will be one new face on what many expect to be the top six of forwards Joe Thornton
, Devin Setoguchi, Patrick Marleau
, Ryane Clowe
and Joe Pavelski
“There’s been quite a bit of turnover from last year’s personnel,” said Marleau. “It’s a good feeling. We have good character guys and that helps the team. Going from last year to this year, we have a lot to prove.”
“It’s definitely different,” said Jody Shelley. “The pulse of the team is still the same with the guys that know what we went through last year. It’s exciting and I think the new guys realize the urgency here.”
On the third and fourth line, San Jose was looking to add some edge to their game. Since last spring, they’ve strengthened their tenacity up the middle. With Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol centering the third and fourth lines, Sharks fans can expect to see a ramped up intensity level from the checking groups. It’s quite possible the third and fourth lines will have four, and even five, players who didn’t skate in the postseason last year.
“I think we will be hard to play against,” said Thornton. “We have more grit on the third and fourth line. We’ll be more tenacious.
“The retooling of the third and fourth lines gives us a little different character and a little more tenacity,” added Thornton. “Maybe we’re a little bigger and a little more rugged.”
On defense, one-third of the group will be skating in their first Sharks game on opening night. Whether it’s Kent Huskins and Joe Callahan or Derek Joslin and Jason Demers
, the blueline will have a different make up.
“It seems different,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. “We have a lot of new and young guys. There will be three new guys on D (counting the seventh defenseman on the roster). We’ll be a young, fresh team.”
“Young players have good days and rough days,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan, noting he wasn’t too worried about any difficult learning curves. “Rob Blake had those days too when he was a rookie. They need some time.”
In goal Evgeni Nabokov will handle the bulk of the load again, but Thomas Greiss
will be the option on other nights.
With all these alterations, San Jose’s team could be its best ever. But the team still needs to meld together.
“Time will tell,” said Dan Boyle
. “The core of the team is still here. We’re a better team than last year and have new blood.”
“It’s a good feeling. It’s too early to tell right now,” said Thornton about when everything would come together.
San Jose will use their remaining two practices before opening night to fine tune some areas.
“We’re going to take a few days and learn the system a bit more,” said Marleau. “Then we’re going to jump right into it.”
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan noted at practice that a captain and two alternate captains will be named prior to opening night and they will wear the letters for the season.
“We’re close,” said McLellan. We’ll pick three from the group.”
The Sharks final roster will be announced on Wednesday.
San Jose will play Colorado in their season opener and it will be an emotional evening as the Avalanche will be honoring their long time captain Joe Sakic.
San Jose will visit Colorado on Thursday night and the game will be available on Versus
at 6:30 PM (Pacific).