San Jose Sharks playing well, but does it matter this early in season?

November, 13, 2008
Here's a scary thought: the San Jose Sharks are off to a 13-3-1 start atop the Western Conference standings, but there's lots of room to improve. Gulp.

"I think we're still learning the system, which I know might sound strange," Sharks center Joe Thornton told on Wednesday. "We're kind of fresh at what [coach] Todd [McLellan] has been teaching us and how to play."

But the team likes what McLellan is selling.

"Everybody buys in, everybody has so much confidence, everybody knows their role on the team," said Thornton. "It's been a fantastic start."

Doug Wilson is looking pretty darn good right now. After yet another disappointing playoff performance this past spring, the Sharks' GM reacted by bringing in a new head coach in McLellan and also adding two big-name blueliners in Rob Blake and Dan Boyle. The common theme between all three was that they are Cup champions.

Thornton said the team has really responded under McLellan and calls the Boyle and Blake additions "huge."

"They're a couple of guys that have won Cups, that have been there and done that," said Thornton. "They log a lot of minutes. With the addition of those two guys, it gives the other five guys a lot more confidence with the puck because they see how they play. It's huge getting the puck out of your end. Transition on offense is a big deal."

I couldn't hang up the phone with Thornton until I dealt with the elephant in the room (or, in his case, his car, since I think he was driving to practice when he called): Winning all these games in the regular season won't mean a whole lot without a deep run next spring. Thornton knows that. And he knows many people still believe the Detroit Red Wings are the team to beat.

"There's so many good teams in the West, but obviously you think of Detroit," said Thornton. "They're the champions and you have to knock them off. The Cup has to go through there and we want to get to the end.

"But, I'll be honest, it is so far away," he added. "You can't really think about it yet."

It is way too early to know what all these San Jose victories really mean, but it beats the alternative. Especially with a team some people aren't sure can ever win the big one. A slow start would have added more pressure.

I picked them to win it all this season. My head says the Wings still have the most talent and know-how. But my gut says it's finally San Jose's year. We'll see.



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