Monday, August 15, 2011

San Jose Sharks: 5 Players We Can't Wait To See On the Ice Next Season

The San Jose Sharks will be throwing a whole different team out on the ice next season. This summer, it seemed GM Doug Wilson and the Sharks were a little fed up with back-to-back Western Conference Final defeats, and they decided to re-tool.

While many teams would be content with making it to the third round of the NHL playoffs two years in a row, GM Doug Wilson evidently was not. He made that clear when he traded sniper Dany Heatley and young talent Devin Setoguchi to the Wild this past offseason.

In return, the Sharks acquired speed and defense, making them a force to be reckoned with for yet another year.

Here are five Sharks we cannot wait to see on the ice in October.

5. Jim Vandermeer

The Sharks acquired defenseman Jim Vandermeer this offseason in order to help solidify the third line and promote a more physical style of play on the defensive end.

His strengths were clear weaknesses for the Sharks last season. They were hits and blocked shots. Vandermeer is able to fill those holes.

It will be interesting to see how much Vandermeer will be apart of this defense. As it stands, San Jose is looking to carry seven defensemen to start the season, with Demers, Vandermeer and recently-acquired Colin White to switch off on the third line.

4. Michal Handzus

Handzus specializes in three things that the Sharks will be happy to welcome to the team this next season. The 36-year-old plays in a ton of games, is great on the penalty kill and thrives in the face-off circle.

Losing Manny Malhotra last offseason was a clear blow to the Sharks in the face-off circle and Handzus helps to bolster that area for the Sharks.

He will also be greatly appreciated on the penalty kill. After losing PK-extraordinaire Scott Nichol during the offseason, Handzus should fill the void left by the pesky forward.

The former LA Kings forward is able to play so many roles for the Sharks that he is expected to be a major focal point on how San Jose is able to contend against the better teams in the Western Conference.

3. Colin White

Colin White is a big boy. Let's make that clear.

The Sharks acquired him for the sole reason that they need someone to get physical in the trenches right in front of the net. White certainly does that, and at 6'4", 220 lbs., he will do that will a little emphasis behind it.

He will be fighting for time on that third line with Demers and Vandermeer, but when the Sharks need a defensive stopper with power, you better believe coach Todd McLellan will have White on the ice.

2. Martin Havlat

The Sharks traded Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat this offseason, and he is set to change the tone of San Jose's offense.

While Heatley brought a scorer's mentality, Havlat brings speed and finesse to the second line for the Sharks.

He is set to play with two other crafty players in Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture.

Keeping up with the opposing team on the ice became a problem for the Sharks last season and it was obvious in the playoffs. Havlat solves that problem for the Sharks.

The 30-year-old is set for a big season, stats-wise.

In Minnesota, the offense was stagnant at best last season. On the Sharks, offense comes in flurries and Havlat should benefit in a large way from that.

We can expect around 25 goals and close to 70 points from him next season.

1. Brent Burns

For the occasional Sharks fan who does not know about Brent Burns, I will say that they should get familiar with him.

Burns is 6'5" and 215 lbs with moderate speed, physical play and a giant shot from the point. The only thing he needs to do is prove it on a winning team. Thanks to the Sharks acquisition of him in the offseason, Burns will get that chance.

The 26-year-old takes a part of the Sharks' game that was a huge weakness for them, ever since the retirement of Rob Blake, and turns it into a clear strength.

Burns will be playing on the second line with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and the two young defensemen should be able to play off each other and turn it into a shutdown second pairing.

Make no mistake about it, when the power play is on and Burns is on the ice, it will be sheer entertainment watching him get open for a shot and then letting it fly.

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