SAN JOSE - You have to hand it to the Sharks, they were a confident bunch throughout their 2018-19 campaign. Through losing streaks and mounting injury troubles, they maintained belief their squad was deep enough to give them a shot at the Stanley Cup.
But even with the strong team they had this season, there is room for improvement.
Now with changes set to take place this offseason, San Jose can work to fill in some of those roles. With a long list of free agents and potential for trades in all areas of the lineup, there are a few areas where the team might make some moves.
While the Sharks' offensive depth was praised after a win -- particularly with Joe Thornton successfully centering that third combo with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc -- their bottom six could see some changes this offseason to boost production.
Thornton's decision to play another season or not could have some impact on what moves the Sharks make to fill that void. But San Jose still has to find a more solid fourth-line combination. Even when the team found success rotating players in and out to play with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson, the fourth line wasn't as effective at generating offense as the opposition's fourth lines were.
Remember, both the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues had bottom sixes that could step up and light the lamp.
It's likely the Sharks will look to fill out their bottom six from within and give one of the emerging Barracuda players a chance to fill one of those roles -- Dylan Gambrell looks like a player that could potentially get a shot at the fourth-line center job. But it's also possible San Jose trades a piece or two in order to fill out its bottom six more effectively.
Then there's the matter of San Jose's defense. The blue line appears to be getting a coaching boost thanks to the return of Bob Boughner, who had a hand in helping Brent Burns raising his game to Norris Trophy form. Additionally, young Czech blueliner Radim Simek seems to be successfully rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury and having him back to pair with Burns adds oomph to San Jose's defensive game.
The rest of the blue line is a bit of a mystery, however, with the possibility of Erik Karlsson going to another team. If Karlsson leaves, it's possible the combination of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun gets reunited, which would leave Brenden Dillon in need of a partner. Plus, Karlsson isn't the only defenseman without a contract for next season, with the futures of Tim Heed (UFA) and Joakim Ryan (RFA) also uncertain -- although their future with the team could be impacted by Karlsson's decision.
If Karlsson leaves, the Sharks could be looking to make a trade -- even if it means losing one of their current established defensemen -- in order to maintain depth on their blue line.
If trades are going to be a big thing for San Jose this offseason, there's also a chance there could be a change to their goaltending tandem.
No, it isn't likely Martin Jones is going anywhere -- he has five years left on his current contract and rebounded from a down regular season with a turnaround performance in the playoffs. There is a chance, however, that backup Aaron Dell could be a trade piece, given he'll be a free agent in 2020. Dell also saw a dip in his numbers this past season and San Jose might want a backup with better than a .886 save percentage if Jones struggles again.