San Jose Sharks: 5 Players That Need to Step Up In 2013-14

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It's Stanley Cup Or Bust For The San Jose Sharks

It's Stanley Cup Or Bust For The San Jose Sharks
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SPORTS

The 2013-14 season might be the San Jose Sharks’ best chance at winning a Stanley Cup Championship in the franchise’s 22-year existence. The team has a perfect balance of young, fresh talent and poised, experienced veterans. It is clear to manager Todd McLellan that the time to win is now.

San Jose jumped out at the start of the 2013 season like a bat out of hell. The team won its first seven games, then lost its next seven. By the end of the 48-game shortened season, the Sharks finished in third in the Pacific Division and earned playoff berth as a seven-seed. For the 16th time in franchise history, the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs before even reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

A few new faces have joined the Sharks’ cast of veterans to help increase the team’s odds. Tyler Kennedy was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins to replace TJ Galiardi, who was traded to the Calgary Flames. Rookie Tomas Hertl, the Sharks’ first-round pick from a year ago, has a first line role all but wrapped up.

As another year begins, this time with a new arena name (SAP Center), the Sharks will be striving for a new way to end a season: Stanley Cup Champions. A few players, even those considered some of the NHL’s elite, will need to elevate their performances in order to win a ring.

Especially with the absence of Raffi Torres, who will miss the first three to four months of the season due to an ACL injury, the following five players must step up in order for the team’s dream to become a reality.

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5. Dan Boyle, Defenseman

5. Dan Boyle, Defenseman
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By a margin of three years, defenseman Dan Boyle is the oldest Shark on the roster at 37 years old. If he and the rest of the veterans on this San Jose squad hope to win a Stanley Cup in their careers, Boyle must step up as the head of this defensive core.

Boyle's offensive production saw a big downturn during the 2012-13 season, as he scored just seven goals and assisted on another 13. He lead the sixth-best penalty kill unit in the NHL last season, but the Sharks ranked 24th in total goals. He'll need to find the back of the net more often to help out the Sharks' thriving forwards.

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4. Joe Pavelski, Center

4. Joe Pavelski, Center
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Is there a better third-line center in the NHL than Joe Pavelski? He played in every game last season, and emerged as a future cornerstone of the Sharks franchise; he was awarded with a five-year, $30 million contract. Fellow center Logan Couture was given the same contract, but there is little doubt his line will have trouble scoring. Pavelski must be able to lead the third line alongside Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy.

Pavelski scored 16 goals in last year's 48-game shortened season. He'll have to hike that number up and earn his contract on that third line while the other stars of the team are resting on the bench.

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3. Tyler Kennedy, Left Wing

3. Tyler Kennedy, Left Wing
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Tyler Kennedy had a pretty dismal season in 2012-13 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which explains why the Sharks were able to acquire him for a second-round pick hours before this year's NHL Draft. The forward scored just six goals in 46 games played last season. Kennedy is slated to play on the third line, and will need to assist Joe Pavelski in providing scoring.

Kennedy is not a horrible hockey player, although he is two years removed from the best season of his career — he scored 21 goals and earned 24 assists in 2010-11. Kennedy will need to find his old form to help the Sharks win a Stanley Cup in 2013-14.

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2. Brent Burns, Right Wing

2. Brent Burns, Right Wing
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This season will be Brent Burns' first full campaign at the forward position. The former defenseman found a keen scoring touch in the middle of last season while the rest of the Sharks' scoring core was struggling mightily. Burns played just 30 games last year, but scored 9 goals — compared to his 11 goals while playing 82 games in 2010-11.

If Burns wants to prove that he belongs as a forward, he will need to keep up the scoring. His has a innate ability to snipe shots from a long-distance, so moving him back to defense would be a possible option if he can't score from up close.

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1. Joe Thornton, Center

1. Joe Thornton, Center
Robert Stanton-USA TODAY SPORTS

If there's any player in any sport that is looked upon to step up in a time of need, it's the captain. Joe Thornton has never won a Stanley Cup Championship, and his time to win one might be running out. The former first overall pick scored just seven goals last season, tied for sixth on the team with defenseman Dan Boyle. Albeit he assisted on 33 goals; Thornton will be the first to tell you he didn't find the back of the net enough in 2012-13.

Thornton's play last season was tremendous, but he'll have to repeat, or even improve, in order to lead a San Jose Sharks squad into the Stanley Cup Finals. And when they get there, Thornton will have to be the guy to lead the charge toward the first title in franchise history.

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