Tuesday, August 23, 2011

San Jose Sharks' Focus Should Be On Antti Niemi and the Third, Fourth Lines

There is no hiding the fact that the San Jose Sharks were busy this offseason. The dealings between San Jose and the newly befriended Minnesota Wild have been well-documented, as have both teams' chances at their respective runs in the playoffs next season.

For the Sharks, they needed to address two problems they encountered last season: Speed and defense.

With the help of the Wild, Sharks' GM Doug Wilson managed to pull both off by acquiring speedster Martin Havlat and All-Star defenseman Brent Burns.

Problem solved.

However, what now plagues San Jose may be a tad picky to some, but still remains important if the Sharks intend on advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their history.

The team did just slightly improve on the offensive side, all the while acquiring worthy defensemen, which has some calling this the best defensive squad San Jose has ever had.

But let's get picky, shall we?

Third & Fourth Lines

The Sharks top two lines are two of the best in the NHL, but how they compare with the team's bottom two lines is what has some questioning this squad.

Currently, the third and fourth lines set up as Torrey Mitchell, Michal Handzus, Jamie McGinn, and Andrew Desjardins, Andrew Murray, Benn Ferriero, although nothing has been confirmed.

How those lines complement a second line like Clowe, Couture and Havlat is yet to be known.

On paper, this is a major dent in their quest to become the best in the Western Conference.

It is yet to be revealed as to whether GM Doug Wilson is done dealing, but those third and fourth lines could be important in whether or not the Sharks are one of the elites in the NHL.

With stable third and fourth lines, the Sharks are the best in the West. Without those stable lines, they will remain the second or third best team in their conference.

Antti Niemi

Along those same lines comes the notion that the Sharks will only go as far as their goaltender takes them.

Antti Niemi emerged as the No. 1 man in net last season and proved he belonged there by hitting strides mid-season that propelled the Sharks to the second seed in the Western Conference.

This season, along with the third and fourth lines, comes the questions surrounding whether or not Niemi can do it again.

This season will be different. Niemi has already been handed the keys to this team, as compared to last season when he split time with Antero Niittymaki. What he intends to do with those keys is still up in the air.

With training camp starting on Saturday, the Sharks still have several wildcards situations on their roster. It is how those wildcards resolve themselves that will reveal how far San Jose plans on advancing this season.

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