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Western Conference: Pacific
Michael Farber
October 08, 2007
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October 08, 2007

Western Conference: Pacific

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LAST SEASON 51-26-5 (fifth in West); lost in second round to Detroit

KEY ADDITIONS C Jeremy Roenick

KEY LOSSES LW Mark Bell, D Scott Hannan, G Vesa Toskala

While the Sharks have played in as many playoff series since 2004 as any other NHL team (seven), San Jose has kicked away at least two sterling chances to vie for the Stanley Cup in the past three seasons. "We're not going to know if we've turned the corner until we get back to the same spot and are faced with it again," coach Ron Wilson says. "There's something there, a glass ceiling or whatever, that we just need to break through."

Confronted with a swift, skilled and physical team that seemed to lose its way at the most inopportune times, G.M. Doug Wilson stifled any impulse to blow it all up and instead locked it all up. Wilson extended the deals of his one-two punch at center, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, as well as up-and-coming winger Milan Michalek, one year after granting extensions to goalie Evgeni Nabokov and winger Jonathan Cheechoo. Says Ron Wilson, "I think we have the right mix of players, who in most cases are hitting the primes of their careers, and other young players who are trending up."

Indeed, Thornton thinks the team's window of Cup opportunity extends at least through the 2010-11 season for a team that boasts 15 regulars whom the Sharks drafted or who made their NHL debuts with San Jose.

If these Sharks have an underbelly, it is a backline corps that lacks, unlike division rival Anaheim with Chris Pronger, a prototypical franchise defenseman. But the late-season addition of Craig Rivet and the continued development of Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic should prove to be a sufficient buffer for Nabokov, who might not be the top´┐Żfive goalie his G.M. contends but who is certainly capable.


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