But once the playoffs rolled around, they looked like they belonged at the free clinic.
So the Sharks have retooled after the biggest playoff flop in franchise history, and they'll kick off the 2009 season Thursday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
It's going to be tough for this team to shake off that first-round elimination hangover, but coach Todd McLellan isn't shying away from the issue. "Last year was last year," McLellan said Wednesday on KNBR. "We have that pain, we'll carry it with us -- the half the team that is left. I think that's real important to distinguish that. We have a lot of new bodies here."
The most important new body is that of wingman Dany Heatley, whom the Sharks acquired in a mid-September trade. Heatley has averaged 45 goals the last four seasons. And unlike most of the Sharks' better players, Heatley is on the right side of 40-years-old. He's only 28.
Another huge change McLellan just announced Tuesday is the promotion of Rob Blake to team captain -- and the demotion of Patrick Marleau out of the captaincy. In fact, Marleau won't even be assistant captain.
"Patty Marleau, for me as a coach, is one of the easiest players to talk to," McLellan told KNBR. "It doesn't matter if he has a little piece of felt on his left shoulder with either a 'C' or an 'A.'"
What matters is that Marleau's left shoulder didn't have a little piece of silver called a Lord Stanley Cup hoisted onto it last season. So the Sharkies will give it another go, this time knowing that the season is more than the first 82 games.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who is on the wrong side of 40 years old.