Anti Niemi had a truly fantastic season in goal, and never really put together a string of bad games, which helped San Jose stay competitive as Marleau came crashing back down to earth. While you can make a strong case that Niemi was the team's MVP, I have to give that award to Logan Couture, who clearly jumped into the elite tier of players this season (especially in the playoffs) and has earned a place in the conversation for Canada's 2014 Olympic team. This guy can score, and he scores big goals. He gets open and has a quick release. With the right setup man, he could be a 50 goal scorer very soon.
It was interesting that the Sharks went into selling mode at the trade deadline, moving out Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray. Yet those two subtractions seemed to make the team better, if not faster. Matt Irwin benefited by Murray's departure on the blueline, and looks to be a very solid asset for the future. Brent Burns was excellent when moved into a power forward position. There are enough young players on this roster to stay competitive while they re-build, assuming that they do indeed decide to re-build.
Preseason Rank: 10
Midseason Rank: 16
Final Rank: 14
GM Grade: B-
1st Star: Logan Couture
2nd Star: Anti Niemi
3rd Star: Joe Thornton
UFAs: Raffi Torres, Scott Gomez, Tim Kennedy, Scott Hannan, Thomas Greiss
RFAs: TJ Galiardi, James Sheppard, Andrew Desjardins, Jason Demers
Best Contract: Logan Couture 1 more year at $2.875M
Worst Contract: Martin Havlat 2 more years at $5M
What I said about them in preseason: Why does it feel like every year I think this team has a chance to win the Cup, but yet they're never able to sustain post-season success? Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me 7 times, well you can't fool me 7 times. Smart money says their window has passed, but in a shortened season, I'm telling you there's a chance...
There will be some difficult decision to make next season with both Joe Thornton and Marleau becoming free agents in 2014. Should they try to re-sign them, move them at the trade deadline, or push all their chips to the middle and risk letting them walk? Buying out the last two years of the Havlat contract seems like an easy enough decision, but the emergence of Couture, Pavelski and Burns is keeping that window propped open ever so slightly; and I would be shocked if the Sharks folded their hand and let two prized assets leave.