49-23-10, 2nd in West; lost in second round to Stars
D Rob Blake, D Dan Boyle, D Brad Lukowich, Coach Todd McLellan
D Matt Carle, LW Patrick Rissmiller, D Craig Rivet, Coach Ron Wilson
THIS TALENTED team has a maddening habit of failing to fulfill its promise. After seeing the Sharks flounder in the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season, G.M. Doug Wilson set out to change the mojo, bringing in coach Todd McLellan and adding Cup winners to the blue line. Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich played on Tampa Bay's 2004 champion; 38-year-old Rob Blake won a title in '01 with Colorado.
San Jose needs a rejuvenated Blake, who often seemed uninterested while skating for also-ran L.A. last season; a young forward, such as winger Milan Michalek, to emerge as a consistent scorer; and tighter play at both ends to take pressure off superb goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The Sharks are led by center
Joe Thornton (above), whose 96 points were 41 more than any teammate's but who scored only twice in 13 playoff games. That was the latest disappointing postseason for Big Joe, who has become an apt symbol for a team that keeps exiting before its time.
47-27-8, 4th in West; lost in first round to Stars
D Steve Montador, C Brendan Morrison
LW Todd Bertuzzi, C Doug Weight
COMING OFF an opening-round playoff loss, which happened one year after they won the Stanley Cup, the Ducks face a rebound-or-rebuild season. Only nine players are signed beyond 2008--09, among them just one defenseman, captain
Chris Pronger (above). The challenge for G.M. Brian Burke—who's rumored to be jumping ship himself, to Toronto, after this year—has been to construct a second line to follow the top threesome of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz. With that in mind, Burke gave a one-year contract to free-agent center Brendan Morrison, although Morrison, typically a 20-goal guy, slipped to nine last year while missing 43 games with knee and wrist injuries in Vancouver.