SI Vault
 
7 SAN JOSE Sharks
L. Jon Wertheim
October 08, 2001
Unlike most everything else in Silicon Valley, the prospects for the Sharks remain bullish. For five years running San Jose has improved its point total from the previous season, finishing last year with 95 (40-27-12 and in the black, as it were, for the first time in franchise history). "For the past few years it seemed like whenever you played San Jose, they were better than you remembered them being the last time," says left wing Adam Graves, acquired in an off-season trade after spending the past decade with the Rangers. "Now it's scary how good this team can be."
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October 08, 2001

7 San Jose Sharks

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Inside

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

FORWARDS

5

Selanne and Nolan will be tough to contain

DEFENSE

7

Physical group; Stuart is potential game-breaker

GOALTENDING

15

Nabokov wore down a bit last year

SPECIAL TEAMS

9

Power play needs upgrade; PK aggressive, strong

MANAGEMENT

12

Balanced team thanks to G.M. Lombardi

Unlike most everything else in Silicon Valley, the prospects for the Sharks remain bullish. For five years running San Jose has improved its point total from the previous season, finishing last year with 95 (40-27-12 and in the black, as it were, for the first time in franchise history). "For the past few years it seemed like whenever you played San Jose, they were better than you remembered them being the last time," says left wing Adam Graves, acquired in an off-season trade after spending the past decade with the Rangers. "Now it's scary how good this team can be."

The Sharks have motivation aplenty after being expelled by St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs last spring. In that ill-fated six-game series, San Jose's veteran defenseman Gary Suter suffered a concussion 16 seconds into his first shift and never returned. Rightwinger Teemu Selanne, who was slowed by March knee surgery and a broken right finger suffered in Game 1 of the Blues series that necessitated painkiller injections between periods, failed to score a goal. Calder Trophy winner Evgeni Nabokov missed two games with a back injury. "We left for the summer with a bad taste in our mouths," says Selanne.

This season should be their Altoid. The Sharks are not the NHL's most talented team, but they have the foundation to make a credible run at Lord Stanley's chalice. A healthy Selanne and hale right wing Owen Nolan make for a respectable one-two punch. Underrated Mike Rathje and Marcus Ragnarsson anchor a defense that was tied for third best in the league in goals allowed last season. In the net, Nabokov, 26, is solid. This club is also endowed with exceptional depth and, in the mold of flinty coach Darryl Sutter, plays with grit.

Befitting a team from a state beset by blackouts, the Sharks' glaring weakness is the power play. San Jose's unit ranked 24th last season—the lowest of any playoff team—and was 0 for 22 in the St. Louis series. The Sharks hope that the right-handed shots of Selanne and rookie Jeff Jillson, a former All-America at Michigan who has seen time on the power play in the preseason, will spark an improvement.

The superior firepower of Detroit and Colorado will prove too much for San Jose in the end. However, the playoff waters will be infested with Sharks into May.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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