There is no question that the Vancouver Canucks are on the San Jose Sharks' radar this season. After knocking San Jose out of the playoffs in the Conference Finals last season, there are few teams hated more by Sharks' fans than the Canucks.
The teams are about even this season, both of them with nine wins and 19 points (The Sharks have played three fewer games). At this rate, it could be that there is another playoff matchup between these two rivals. If there is one, the San Jose Sharks have the upper edge, and here is why:
More Depth on Defense
GM Doug Wilson made a flurry of moves this offseason to improve the depth of the Sharks, something that they lacked in the playoffs last year.
The Sharks have a bulked up defense, with the additions of Brent Burns, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer—and have seen a steady improvement from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has arguably been their best defenseman this season.
With all these acquisitions, the Sharks now have eight defensemen, giving them depth that they did not have in the playoffs last season.
Meanwhile, the Canucks saw their star defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff, leave via free agency, and have not made any moves to improve their defensive depth.
Depth on defense, or lack thereof, was the deciding factor in the playoff series between the Sharks and Canucks last season. I believe that if these two teams meet up again in the playoffs, the Sharks will have the upper hand due to their vast improvements on defense.
Key Roster Moves
The Canucks lost many players vital to their playoff performance last season.
The aforementioned defenseman Ehrhoff, who scored 14 goals last season, is now in Buffalo.
Mikael Sammeulson, a hard-nosed winger who gave the Sharks fits, was traded to the Florida Panthers along with Marco Sturm for David Booth earlier this season.
Raffi Torres, who had 14 goals, signed with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Jeff Tambellini, a hard working fourth-liner, signed with a Swedish team this offseason.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have been busy improving on their weaknesses.
Brent Burns was brought in to take some of the load off of Dan Boyle, who had to single-handedly carry the Sharks' defense on his shoulders last season, and the effects of that showed in the playoffs.
Dany Heatley was traded for Martin Havlat, a speedy-winger who has showed his skill early in the season.
Havlat brings energy and a smart hockey-IQ to the Sharks, and that is more than welcome to many Sharks' fans, who watched Dany Heatley's performance dip last season.
Michael Handzus, a very underrated player, was signed to lead the third line, and he has done a great job this season.
If these two teams were to play a best-of-seven series right now, there is no question that the Sharks are a better team. They have way more depth than they had last postseason, while the Canucks have lost many key components that factored in to their playoff success last season.
All in all, the improvements the Sharks made this season, compared to the number of former Canucks who are now playing elsewhere, clearly are a sign that the San Jose Sharks are better equipped than the Vancouver Canucks.
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