This year's article about the San Jose Sharks could have been written in a number of recent seasons. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau led the Sharks into the playoffs, and they lost in the second round. Business as usual. It's not a bad business to be in, but this is a team, and a fanbase, that would actually like to see the Stanley Cup Final. Their core is getting older too, and talk of windows and whether or not they are closing are a given. Is this the year?
Well, since this is relatively the same team as last season, but older, probably not. Still, Thornton and Marleau, and Dan Boyle, are good players. Logan Couture has really come into his own and could be a 40 goal scorer. Joe Pavelski is talented. Marty Havlat is... usually injured. They also have a few good defensemen, so much so that Brent Burns was able to turn into forward.
Of course, the biggest reason for concern is that Antti Niemi likely won't be as good as last season. Oh, he will be good, probably very good, perhaps even great. The issue is that Niemi had a .924 save percentage last season, a career best, and something he likely can't achieve again. Even if he is just slightly worse, the offense, or defense, will have to pick up the slack, and we are talking about a team that was a sixth seed last season.
Not that I see this as the end of the Sharks. San Jose will return to the postseason once more. It could arguably be easier to do this year in the new look West, and the new look Pacific. Niemi is a very good goalie, and this team still has plenty of talent. I don't think the Sharks are one of the teams you mention when discussing Cup contenders anymore, but they will likely feature in most playoff predictions. A lot of teams would be glad to have that be the case. San Jose probably is not among them. That game has gotten old.