San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson can't wait for the puck to drop on opening night this Thursday for the 2006-07 season. He is ready for his team to build on the experiences, some fans will say bitter experiences, and lessons learned of the last two seasons.
"Over the last two seasons," said Wilson, "only three teams have played five or more playoff rounds--Tampa Bay, Calgary and us."
Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004 (four rounds) and was bounced in the first round last season. Calgary, as many astute Sharks fans remember, knocked San Jose out of the Western Conference finals in 2004 and lost to Tampa in the final series (four rounds) and did not survive the first round last year either.
In Wilson's estimation, his club is as prepared, focused and ready as any of the other 29 teams in the NHL. The Sharks core group of players is envied around the league. That core group has learned valuable lessons in defeat the past two seasons that has given rise to a remarkable sense of preparedness that can only produce positive results for the 2006-07 season and beyond.
There are several new faces on the roster. Those players were brought in for a purpose to improve several areas of the club.
First and foremost, an improved penalty killing unit, and strong faceoff man in Curtis Brown, as well as other special teams alterations, will have a positive impact on the team's fortunes.
The Sharks arguably have the largest group of forwards in the league. Among the top six, Patrick Marleau
, Joe Thornton
, Steve Bernier, Milan Michalek and Mark Bell, all come in at more than 220 pounds. The only player smaller than that is Jonathan Cheechoo at 200 pounds and he seems to hold his own just fine at that weight. There will be no issues regarding size, strength and grit in the current version of the team, especially when battling in the corners or in the slot.
Unparalleled depth at every position on the roster is another huge benefit enjoyed by the Sharks. Several players who played regular shifts in the past or have been mainstays on the roster are no longer here, having given way to younger, bigger and talented players, a situation that created serious competition for roster spots at training camp. Players like Patrick Rissmiller who arrived from the AHL, seem poised to use their size and skill to remain with the big club.
All in all, it is a recipe that should have Sharks fans licking their chops for a very entertaining and rewarding season.
MARLEAU ON CHAT
Fans looking to chat online with Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau can chime in with questions by clicking here. The chat is set for 3 p.m. PST on Wednesday.
Winger Grant Stevenson cleared waivers on Tuesday and will join the Worcester Sharks, San Jose’s top development affiliate.
Now that Marc-Edouard Vlasic is officially a member of the San Jose Sharks, he has shed the 67 he’s worn for the preseason in favor of 44. Other Sharks to have worn 44 are Matt Bradley, Shawn Cronin, Kevin Evans, Michel Picard, and most recently Christian Ehrhoff, who wore the number this past season.