It took the San Jose Sharks 25 years to get to the Stanley Cup finals.
Even though they failed to win the Cup, the Sharks showed they have what it takes to be an elite team. They have veteran stars in Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. They have young talented players in Martin Jones, Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney. Peter DeBoer did a great job coaching the team after arriving from New Jersey and general manager Doug Wilson has drafted well and pushed the right buttons when it came to acquisitions.
But the Sharks know they are swimming in deep waters in the NHL Western Conference as the season begins on Wednesday with San Jose hosting the Los Angeles Kings.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars are regrouping to make a strong run. Same for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues also figure to have a say and in Calgary, GM Brad Treliving made some shrewd moves and drafted well to warrant watching the Flames this season.
It’s a loaded conference. How loaded? If Minnesota and Arizona got hot at the right time and keep their stars healthy, the Wild and the Coyotes can be right in the playoff mix. And even the young Edmonton Oilers, who are moving into a new home downtown, Rogers Place, and have one of the game’s rising stars in Connor McDavid, will not be easy to play against.
Colorado changed coaches in the middle of the summer and Jared Bednar, who replaced Patrick Roy on the Avalanche’s bench, got off to a good start in the preseason. Whether the Avs can carry that success when the real bullets begin to fly is going to be interesting to see.
Add it up and it’s going to be a dogfight from opening night. The smart teams will value whatever points they get in October because they’ll count as much as the ones they accrue in late March-early April.
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj
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