As we welcome in the new year, the San Jose Sharks find themselves No. 9 in the Western Conference, on the outside looking in, trying to find a way to break into the playoff party.
But their rank can be a bit deceiving. San Jose has played just 35 games this season, while the No. 8 Colorado Avalanche have played 41.
In other words, the Sharks have six games in hand on the other NHL teams; they have played the least games of any team thus far.
However, with that being said, it is apparent that the Sharks have not played to their potential. Inconsistent and lackluster play by some of their supposed top guns have them outside the playoff picture.
But, as they say, with every new year comes new opportunity and success, and this saying can be applied to the Sharks.
Here are four players who are looking for some better success in 2012.
In a past article, I was very harsh and critical of Dan Boyle, recommending that the Sharks trade him immediately.
However, it turns out that Boyle was struggling because he was secretly playing with a broken foot, and I had spoken too soon.
Since then, Boyle has appeared much better, playing like the Dan Boyle of the past. However, he has just 16 points in 35 games.
If he avoids any further injury, look for Boyle to really step it up in 2012.
Heading into the 2011-12 season, Brent Burns was the main centerpiece that the Sharks had acquired. Burns was supposed to take some of the load off of Boyle and produce points at an All-Star level.
Well, it is safe to say that Burns has yet to live up to his potential. Although proving that he is capable of being an everyday defenseman, Burns has just 12 points in 35 games.
He's definitely not worth the $28 million the Sharks are paying him over five years.
Part of the reason could be that Burns is still adjusting to a new situation after playing in Minnesota his entire career. Or maybe he's being a bit too passive and not shooting the puck enough.
Whatever the reason, Sharks fans hope that Burns can turn it on in 2012 and play like the All-Star that he was in Minnesota.
Although Michal Handzus is not known for scoring many goals, his numbers seem way below his regular average. Here's a guy who averages around 15-20 goals per season.
He has three goals thus far.
This could be because he does not get enough ice time with all the scoring threats that the Sharks have.
But, like Burns and Boyle, Handzus is a solid veteran, and he will find a way to produce positively for this team in 2012.
Just like Burns, Martin Havlat was shipped to San Jose from Minnesota for sniper Dany Heatley, and just hasn't found his groove yet.
Havlat has just two goals through 26 games, which is way below his average, and definitely doesn't match Heatley's production.
However, he has started to produce better, scoring a beautiful goal against Edmonton.
But then he got injured in a freak accident while jumping off the bench.
Havlat is out indefinitely, but there's still a chance he could return for the playoffs. The Sharks could really use his speed and energy in the spring of 2012.