Sharks put teeth back in

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:16 PM ET


 Only a year after being absolutely toothless, San Jose is back among the league's elite and hoping for the playoff run expected last spring.

 "I don't think anybody predicted we'd be where we are in the standings but we knew we'd be in the playoffs and have one successful team," said Sharks forward Scott Thornton.

 Talk about a big understatement.

 A year after crashing and burning -- in a season with Stanley Cup expectations -- the Sharks not only rebounded, they claimed the Pacific Division crown and surpassed the 100-point plateau for the first time in franchise history.

 Considering players such as Teemu Selanne and Owen Nolan left the fold, such success came as a bit of shock.

 At least to some.

 "I think the foundation was laid over the previous years and I don't think last year was a good indication of the type of team we were," Thornton said.

 "For six straight years, this team improved in the standings and really built something great, so it wasn't fair to write it all off because of last year and a lot of people outside the organization did that.

 "The guys here were confident we had a good group of guys and were capable of getting the job done."

 It doesn't hurt Patrick Marleau has elevated his game to the level expected of him.

 "Patty has been given a lot of chances and this year was forced to the front," Thornton said.

 "He was sort of the only guy left standing when everyone was traded last year.

 "He struggled a bit early and was unsure how to handle it all but he's been a great player ever since."

 Then toss in the goaltending tandem of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskela, one of the best in the league, and more depth with players such as Jonathan Cheechoo, Nils Eckman and Alyn McCauley all enjoying breakout seasons and it's easy to understand why things have gone so well.

 You could have added Marco Sturm to the list but the skilled winger had his campaign come to a crashing halt due to a broken leg.

 It's added up to one great regular season a year after everything seemed to fall apart and even cost Darryl Sutter his job -- although that appears to be Calgary's gain.

 "There was a little bit of a theory change from Darryl to Ron Wilson and guys half-heartedly bought into it and didn't perform," Thornton said.

 "This year, everybody bought in and it seemed to work."


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