They are not feeling much pre-season love in the Shark Tank these days, at least from the prognosticators around the league.
The preferred pick of many to win the Stanley Cup the past few seasons, the San Jose Sharks, despite boasting the star power of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Evgeni Nabokov, have fallen out of favour with the majority of pundits.
There are, after all, just so many times you can be scorched before you lose faith in a team.
And, given this franchise's history of post-season shortcomings, the first-round exit to the Anaheim Ducks last spring served as the final straw for a majority of the so-called experts.
Not that general manager Doug Wilson and his team care what the outside world thinks. In fact, Wilson hopes last year's hiccup will make his team better in the long run.
"It's OK to be kicked in the ass if you grow collectively from the experience," Wilson said yesterday via phone from San Jose.
"What's frustrating is, I don't think we left everything on the ice (against Anaheim). "We could have played better. But with the leadership we have in our room, we think we will learn from it."
Wilson's willingness to augment the Sharks' top-end talent was evident earlier this month when he pulled the trigger on a deal that saw Heatley and a fifth-round pick come to the Sharks from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick.
Now all that remains are questions. About Thornton's less-than-stellar playoff record. About Heatley's baggage. About the on-ice response from Marleau after he was stripped of the captaincy. And about Nabokov's perceived inability to win the big game come the post-season.
Yet there remain a handful of us sprinkled throughout the hockey world, including yours truly, who keep going back to the well and picking the Sharks to go all the way.
Fool me once, shame on you ... Fool me twice, shame on me ... If that's the case, what happens if you are fooled three or four times?
We' ll find that out next spring.
In the meantime, here are some other news and views to chew on heading into the 2009-10 season.
Another Marty party?
After setting the victory record last season, future hall of famer Marty Brodeur, with 101 career shutouts, needs just three more to eclipse Terry Sawchuk's mark of 103. The view here? He's the best goalie of all time. Let the debate begin.
Sidney Crosby is public enemy No. 1 in Philly. Now there is a new sheriff in town in the form of Chris Pronger, who was brought in to physically exterminate the effectiveness of top-end players like Sid The Kid. The teams face off for the first of six regular-season meetings exactly one week from tomorrow in the City of Brotherly Loath. Crosby had better expect a 6-foot-5 shadow for the entire night.
If the Penguins hope to repeat, they'll have to overcome the fatigue factor. Thanks to back-to-back final appearances, these pooped Penguins have played a total of 208 regular season/post-season games the past two years. Pass the oxygen.
T.J. Oshie (Blues); Bobby Ryan (Ducks); and Drew Doughty (Kings) are all future stars.
Under the radar I
Andy Murray's St. Louis Blues have a cache of talented forwards that include Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya, Brad Boyes, Patrik Berglund, Keith Tkachuk, T.J. Oshie, David Backes and David Perron. Don't be surprised if they start the season riding the momentum built from last season's playoff run.
Under the radar II
Marian Hossa's arrival in the Windy City and Pronger's new role as a modern-day Broad St. Bully may have been bigger off-season splashes, but keep your eye on Caps free-agent acquisition Mike Knuble, who could drain a lot of Alex Ovechkin rebounds on the power play.
ALL THE PRESIDENTS' MEN
According to the oddsmakers at the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook, the Sharks are in line to win yet another Presidents' Trophy. Here are the over/under point totals being listed:
Washington Capitals 104.5
Pittsburgh Penguins 102.5
Philadelphia Flyers 102.5
Boston Bruins 101.5
New Jersey Devils 96.5
Carolina Hurricanes 94.5
Montreal Canadiens 93.5
Buffalo Sabres 91.5
New York Rangers 91.5
Florida Panthers 87.5
Toronto Maple Leafs 85.5
Tampa Bay Lightning 85.5
Ottawa Senators 83.5
Atlanta Thrashers 80.5
New York Islanders 70.5
San Jose Sharks 107.5
Detroit Red Wings 106.5
Chicago Blackhawks 105.5
Calgary Flames 96.5
Vancouver Canucks 96.5
Anaheim Ducks 96.5
St. Louis Blues 91.5
Edmonton Oilers 89.5
Dallas Stars 89.5
Minnesota Wild 88.5
Columbus Blue Jackets 86.5
Los Angeles Kings 86.5
Nashville Predators 84.5
Colorado Avalanche 72.5
Phoenix Coyotes 72.5