Hockey fans in northern California have had to wait a long time for the San Jose Sharks to win their first Stanley Cup. They won't have to wait much longer.
The Sharks already had plenty of talent, particularly up front, but the work general manager Doug Wilson did this past summer to his roster and behind the bench has provided the boost San Jose had been missing in previous seasons. Those moves will deliver a long-awaited championship.
It began with the hiring of Peter DeBoer as coach on May 27. DeBoer, who guided the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, led the Sharks to the best road record in the NHL this season.
After finding his coach Wilson went to work on the roster, making key additions in goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Paul Martin and forward Joel Ward.
Jones, who never had been a No. 1 NHL goaltender before this season, went 37-23-4 in 65 games.
Martin, who battled injury problems during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, proved to be durable and alleviated some of the pressure on defenseman Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Ward scored more than 20 goals for the second time in his NHL career and injected much-needed grit. He also brings postseason experience; he had nine points in 14 playoff games for the Washington Capitals last year and has 35 points in 53 career postseason games.
Joe Thornton had a sensational season, finishing second in the League with 63 assists. He had 16 points in March to help assure the Sharks of a playoff berth after they failed to qualify for the postseason a year ago for the first time since 2003.
Joe Pavelski had his third straight 70-point season and continues to be an elite player despite the lack of fanfare. He also has a history of maintaining a solid offensive pace in the playoffs.
And then there's Burns, who must be in the Norris Trophy discussion for his dominant season. He set Sharks records for goals (27) and points (75) by a defenseman and averaged 25:51 of ice time per game, roughly two minutes more than last season.
The Sharks have been unable to win a championship and even have failed to reach the Western Conference Final on several occasions when they were favored to do so.
But all the ingredients are in place for a reversal of fortunes this spring that will ultimately lead to a Stanley Cup championship parade in downtown San Jose.