The San Jose Sharks made some deals this offseason, to say the least. GM Doug Wilson traded in offensive prowess for speed and bulky defense, giving this San Jose team a whole different look and feel heading into this season.
On paper, the Sharks look to be at the top of the Western Conference yet again. Even more, they have turned their biggest weakness into possibly its greatest asset.
San Jose's lackluster defense in during last season, and evident throughout the playoffs, has now been replaced with a stronger, more physical blueline that has some calling it the best in the franchise's history.
Credit Wilson with that. Not many GM's can turn a team around in just one offseason. Especially a team that has two consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals.
Significant changes were made in San Jose. We will wait and see if they were for the better or not.
For now, here are the top new-comers that have the most affect on whether or not the Sharks go deep into the playoffs.
4. Colin White
White is essential to the Sharks' playoff aspirations this season.
Think of him as a slightly lesser version of Douglas Murray. Both will get physical in the defensive zone and neither will hesitate to drop the gloves.
It is for that reason that White will play a huge role for San Jose this season. The Sharks lacked a defenseman that could play in the trenches in front of Antti Niemi and move traffic. It cost the Sharks a few goals during the playoffs last season.
White will solve that problem rather easily, and he should look really good paired with Jason Demers on that third line.
3. Michal Handzus
Handzus is important to this team because of all the roles he will play for the Sharks this season.
The NHL veteran will be involved on the power play, penalty kill and face-off zone throughout the season. Not many players can say that.
He is the Swiss Army knife of the NHL.
He will also be important to the growth of young players like Tommy Wingels and Torrey Mitchell, who are set to line up with him to start the season the third line.
Being a veteran presence may be his greatest asset to this team this season.
2. Martin Havlat
Havlat's health may be mot important to this team.
On paper, it would seem that the Sharks offense was depleted this offseason with the departures of Setoguchi and Heatley.
Havlat adds speed to this team, as well as a nose for the puck, which will come in handy when playing with Logan Couture, or even sharing time on that first line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
Speed is what San Jose lacked in last year's playoffs and Havlat fills that crucial void.
1. Brent Burns
This one was not hard at all because of the fact that Burns fills the void that has plagued the Sharks ever since they lost their captain Rob Blake a few years ago.
San Jose will only go as far as their defense will take them, as proven by back-to-back Western Conference Final defeats.
Burns brings lockdown defense and physical attitude to the blueline, something that will be essential to the Sharks' Stanley Cup aspirations.
It is up to Burns to produce and be the total package on defense this season. If he does not fill that crucial void, the Sharks are just another team short of the Stanley Cup once again.