After a late playoff run to the Western Conference finals in 2011, the 2011-12 NHL season has to be considered a failure for the San Jose Sharks organization. Headed into the 2011-12 season with Stanley Cup aspirations, team fell to the middle of the pack and struggled to make the playoffs.
Just days after the Sharks lost their opening round playoff series to the St. Louis Blues in five games, the ownership group declared their full confidence that General Manager Doug Wilson can make the necessary changes over the off-season to better the club for the 2012-13 season.
Top 10 Prospects:
San Jose has a few areas of concern that GM Wilson will need to address over the off-season in order to avoid this past season's struggles and failure in the NHL Playoffs. First, the Sharks lacked scoring depth after their top-six forwards and relied too heavily on Thornton, Marleau, Couture, and Pavelski this past season. Second, even though San Jose was one of the least penalized teams in the NHL, their penalty killing was an atrocious 76.9 percent, just missing last place in the league. Third, there's a lack of scoring and high-end talent at the AHL level to help the club in the near future.
After having disappointing seasons, the Sharks will need Ryan Clowe, Martin Havlat, and Michal Handzus to have rebound years and avoid injuries in 2012-13 NHL season. The team will be making changes to their bottom six forwards and on the defense corps but will also be expecting more improvement out of young players like Tommy Wingels, Benn Ferriero, T.J. Garliardi, Jason Demers, and Justin Braun.
The team has good quantity of big, physical two-way players and solid offensive talent at the center position in the organization's lower levels. Freddie Hamilton, Travis Oleksuk and Sebastien Stalberg will be continuing their development most likely in the AHL with the Worcester sharks.
San Jose has seen good all-round improvement from their offensive prospects on the blue line such as Konrad Abeltshauser, Sena Acolatse, Dylan DeMelo, and Lee Moffie along with the free agent signing of Matt Tennyson to an entry-level contract.
The Sharks have a wealth of good depth at the goaltending position at the AHL level and could use some these prospects to obtain better offensively skilled forwards.
The Sharks have an abundance of overly physical power forwards in their organization who have struggled to develop their scoring talents in the minors. The team has a real shortage of speedy, highly skilled offensive wingers after Matt Nieto, who is continuing his development at the NCAA level.
The Sharks will arrive at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh holding at least six selections; 17th, 55th, 138th, 168th, 191st, and 198th overall.
GM Doug Wilson has a tendency of making trades on draft day. Normally they are simple moves to move up or down the draft order, but in 2011 he sent NHLer Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle, and the Sharks first round pick (Zack Phillips) to the Minnesota Wild in return for defenseman Brent Burns. So Wilson is not afraid to use the draft as an opportunity to shake up his roster.
San Jose has a history of mostly selecting from North America but will take chances on Europeans players.
The big, well balanced centerman put up 25 points in 38 games for Slavia of the Czech league while playing against men. The talented playmaker was also one of the best players for the Czechs at the 2012 WJC tournament. He has good puck possession skills and protects the puck well with his big frame. While he doesn't have game breaking speed, he does have excellent balance, can forecheck really well, and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas to score goals.
It is Hertl's offensive potential that makes him such a valuable asset. Owning soft hands, he can really dangle with the puck, is a very good passer, reads the play well, and has above-average decision making skills. He projects as a top-six forward but will need to improve defensively to play at the NHL level.