Sharks: They've looked to be on the edge of greatness the past several seasons, but after the Sharks failed to take advantage of an incredible run down the stretch, it was obvious some key changes were necessary. And San Jose didn't waste much time, dumping coach Ron Wilson and hiring rookie Todd McLellan, an assistant on the Stanley Cup-winning Red Wings. But the Sharks didn't stop there, largely because they were unable to re-sign one of the league's top puck-moving defenseman, Brian Campbell, who ended up with Chicago. That could turn out to be a bonus because the Sharks were able to use the money they saved to sign veteran free-agent defenseman Rob Blake, a former Norris Trophy winner, and to trade for Dan Boyle, a pretty good offensive defenseman, and veteran Brad Lukowich. San Jose had to move another solid veteran in Craig Rivet to accommodate the newcomers in the salary structure, but their blue line crew on the whole is better and more balanced than it was. Plus, the Sharks didn't have to throw captain Patrick Marleau into any of the deals. Grade: A-
An A-? Wow, these rankings are worse then I thought in fact the story probably wasn't even worth clicking on.
Stars: Dallas was the West's most-improved team from the start of last season to finish, then ran out of gas deep in the playoffs against eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit. But the Stars, who made a big deal at the trade deadline to acquire Brad Richards, showed they had a lot of character, not to mention the ability to complement scorers like Richards and Brenden Morrow with grittiness and toughness. The Stars added that by signing Sean Avery, the former Ranger who might be the league's most reviled player but one whose time in New York proved he can make a positive impact in a lineup. The best offseason move seems to have been largely overlooked because it took place during the playoffs when the Stars signed Fabian Brunnstrom, a highly coveted Swedish star who was courted by nearly a dozen teams. Dallas did lose a couple of good role players to free agency in Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen, but the bulk of the lineup is relatively intact, and the farm system has been doing a good job of feeding talent in the past couple of years. Grade: B