The Burger Line of Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton looked like one of the best line in hockey. All three produced at a point-per-game pace and finished 8th, 14th and 16th in the scoring race. With their padded ratios and strong powerplay time the three looked great on any fantasy roster.
This team plays a slightly top heavy game during the regular season which has gotten them in trouble in the past. Lucky for us, Thornton is an absolute beast during the regular season and makes both of his wingers excellent producers.
Unlike their past seasons, other lines also produce.
Joe Pavelski certainly came into his own during the playoffs after a strong season and standout Olympics. With steady linemates like the speedy Devin Setoguchi and gritty Ryane Clowe the playmaking center finds open areas of the ice and the back of the net. Due to their age and proven ability, the young Sharks have no real reason to regress.
Their lone wildcard may be the top young player in the AHL: Logan Couture. After Manny Malhotra signed with Vancouver, the young Couture may be slotted for third line duties but has potential for so much more.
The rest of the forwards essentially fill the roster. Out of the remaining five players projected to play on the bottom six, only Torrey Mitchell held any fantasy relevance when he played top line with Thornton in his rookie year.
Dan Boyle scored 58 points which almost doubled the 30 points of their next best offensive defenseman. Those 30 points belonged to the recently retired Rob Blake. Now that Blake no longer logs minutes during the powerplay, young and promising blue liners Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers will increase their totals. Both of those players could put up 30 plus points with excellent plus minus ratios.
In the pipeline, Nick Petrecki looks like a fantastic prospect but will bring no offensive impact.
The Sharks chose to let their longterm star netminder Evgeni Nabokov walk and eventually fly to Russia. His replacement will be Antero Niittymaki who may be this years Craig Anderson or Michael Leighton. The veteran goaltender could be the answer or the way for the team to work in their homegrown option: Thomas Greiss. In eleven starts the 24-year-old managed a solid seven wins and posted similar ratios to Vesa Toskala and Miikka Kiprusoff when they apprenticed for the position under Nabokov.
In addition, the team could be looking for a netminder and would probably love to get their hands on Antti Niemi. They already made an aggressive offer to Nicklas Hjalmarsson around the same salary Niemi would probably command but this would just be speculation. Both current Sharks goaltenders will come with a cheaper price tag than Nabokov would have and therefore could help a team even more. Things look good for Niittymaki and Greiss but these things change all the time.
Under head coach Todd McClellan the Sharks have won the President’s Trophy and made it to the Western Conference finals. He came over from Detroit where he managed the forwards and the powerplay, so this seasons playoff win must have felt great. As long as he coaches these talented forwards they will continue to post excellent statistics. Things may not bode well for any defenseman not named Boyle with so many forward options on the first unit, but losing Blake certainly helps the youth gain time.
The Bottom Line:
Until the Sharks play below standards, they will be one of the teams to beat in the Western Conference. A third straight Division title also seems likely. As far as betting on teams go, these guys appear to be safe.