As you know the Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in the Organization's 25 year history last season. The question that has been asked many time since they lost to the Penguins in game 6 of the finals last season is can they make another deep play off run again, and can they do it in this 2016-17 season? My answer is a cautious yes. I believe that the Sharks are capable of returning to the playoffs, possibly making it through to round 3 maybe even to the finals again this coming season. However that being said a lot of things will have to go their way.
Most importantly they need to keep their first and second line guys healthy and injury free. Having Logan Couture out with a fractured fibula for a good part of last season hurt them. If something like that were to happen again this season to him or Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Brett Burns, Joel Ward, or Martin Jones it could be a catastrophic season or at the very least an end to the dreams of making back to the final. Historically one of the Sharks biggest weaknesses has been their lack of depth. They have generally had a great first line and a strong second line, but after that they fall flat. In order to have a successful playoff run this season they need to put together a much stronger third and fourth lines.
The Sharks have worked in this off season to improve their depth by adding a few new players to their lineup by acquiring Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen, and Mikkel Boedker. Meier is a physically dominant right winger who has been described as the Patrick Marleau the Sharks always wanted. In other words he has the potential to be every bit as strong and effective a player as Marleau while having the advantages of being much younger, being faster on the ice, and more physical if the situation calls for it. This is quite possibly Marleau's last season in the NHL as he is in the last year of his contract. At the age of 37 he is now on the older end of the scale for a professional athlete and his performance has been declining noticeably in the past few seasons. This being the case it is unlikely that he would be able to negotiate another contract for the same $6.67 million a year that his current contract gives him. So having Meier on hand to step into his place could not have happened at a more fortunate time for the San Jose Sharks organization.
Marcus Sorensen was signed be the Sharks in May. He is a strong left winger who played most recently in the Swedish Hockey League. Las season he was with Dhugardens IF where he scored 15 goals and made 19 assists in the 47 games he played. Sorensen at 24 years of age is a bit old for an NHL rookie but his success and experience in the SHL put him in a good position to compete at an NHL level. He is described as an offensively skilled forward, a fast skater with good puck handling ability who gets involved in the game physically.
Mikkel Boedker is a strong and talented young forward who the Sharks signed on July 1st of this year. He has previous NHL experience with both the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche. He scored a career high 51 points last season with 17 goals and 34 assists. Boedker brings his tremendous speed and creative puck handling abilities to the Sharks, which will make him dangerous in front of the net. Of these 3 new players the Sharks recently signed he is the only one scheduled to play in tonight's season opener. Boedker will be on the 2nd line left wing as well as part of the 2nd power play unit in tonight's game against the Kings.
With the addition of Meier, Sorensen, and Boedker the Sharks have effectively added a whole new offensive line to their roster. This fills much of their lack of depth issues from previous years. These players also all add speed to the Sharks team, a component that they were seriously lacking in their Stanley Cup Final round with the Penguins last season. This addresses one of their biggest road blocks to performing well deep into the playoffs, but by no means makes them a sure thing. The main weakness I still see for the Sharks team is their defense. Brett Burns is an excellent player but he is only one man. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is also a strong player who has performed very well for the Sharks, but beyond that their defensive lines are still weak. This is especially detrimental for the Sharks because they have a hard time recovering from behind if they are down by more than one goal during a game. Even with this weakness however the Sharks were able to make it to the final round last season so I am cautiously optimistic that they can do so again provided that they stay healthy and play at least as well as, hopefully better than, they did last season.