Cup or Bust: This time for real

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All of us Sharks fans remember how last season ended. A Game 6 loss in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual Stanley Cup champs St Louis Blues, after a rollercoaster of a season.

The Sharks went to hell and back against the Vegas Golden Knights in round one. In Game 7, San Jose scored four unanswered goals in a five minute span following a major penalty and eventually won the series in overtime on a Barclay Goodrow goal. Then they went through the Colorado Avalanche, in another series that went the distance. The Sharks were no stranger to the powerful Blues squad, with young goaltender Jordan Binnington, who finished the playoffs with 16 wins, 10 losses, a .914 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average, along with one shutout. Unfortunately, the Sharks injuries plagued them throughout the series, and they lost the series in the aforementioned Game 6. Now we fast forward to this season, where the Sharks will try once again to hoist their first Stanley Cup. Here is what to expect for the 2019-20 season.

New year, new look Sharks

This offseason was kind of rough for the Sharks. They went 1-5 in the preseason, which doesn’t seem promising for the regular season, but usually in the world of sport, the preseason doesn’t matter. But before the puck even dropped for the preseason, major moves were already made. The first and most significant move was re-signing Erik Karlsson to an 8 year deal, which is key because the defense has been an issue for a while now. With that move came two significant losses for Team Teal. Joonas Donskoi, who was a key part of the defense last year signed a deal with division competitor Colorado Avalanche on a 4 year deal, and former captain Joe Pavelski inked a deal with the Dallas Stars for 3 years. Aside those losses, they brought back Joe Thornton on a 1 year deal, his 22nd year in the NHL, and his 14th with the Sharks. The Sharks also added Dalton Prout from the Calgary Flames, Jonny Brodzinski from the Los Angeles Kings, Danil Yurtaikin from Lokomotiv in the KHL, and Lean Bergmann from Germany. Additionally, they promoted Mario Ferraro and Manuel Weiderer from the San Jose Barracuda, the teams AHL affiliate, and named Logan Couture captain for this season.

Keys to the season

Goaltending

One of the biggest problems last year was goaltending. The Sharks made the playoffs last year despite having the league’s worst save percentage at .889, and a goals against average of 3.00. Martin Jones needs to improve his play this season. He was a rollercoaster the entire regular season, and had his moments in the postseason, but consistency is key. Aaron Dell is backing him up this season, and his game needs to improve as well.

Improvement with the young corps

Some of the players the Sharks promoted and added are in their 20’s, and the trend right now is for teams to get younger with their forwards and defenseman. While the loss of Pavelski and Donskoi were significant, it gives general manager Doug Wilson and coach Peter DeBoer a chance to experiment with line combos and defensive pairings.

The Sharks know what it’s like to make the cup final, and they’ve been fighting to do it again, and with this young core, and if Martin Jones stays consistent throughout the season, this is the best chance they have to get the cup. I said last year that it was Cup or bust. This time, in the 2019-2020 season, this is our year.