SAN JOSE -- There won't be a lot of new faces to integrate into the Sharks system when training camp begins Thursday.
But coach Todd McLellan and his staff still have their work cut out for them as they seek answers to a multitude of questions before what could be a pivotal season for the franchise, as key veterans Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are all in the final year of lengthy contracts.
San Jose is yet again coming off a disappointing playoff run. But after the Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the second round, players were more upbeat than usual. Focusing on their strong play down the stretch and during a first-round sweep of the Vancouver Canucks, they were looking ahead to 2013-14.
So what questions need to be addressed between now and the Oct. 3 start of the regular season? Here are four:
"We had more tempo and energy in our game," McLellan said this summer. "We've created a foundation with that, but there's no guarantee it's there when we return. The players have to buy into that."
Last season's transformation coincided with personnel moves near the trade deadline: Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus left. Raffi Torres arrived. Brent Burns moved from defense to forward.
The Sharks' one offseason acquisition, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy, would seem to be consistent with those moves. Said McLellan: "He plays with some passion. He fits our identity well, how we want to play."
McLellan likes to keep pairs together, then shuffle a third forward onto a line if it gets stale. To that end, he's got Logan Couture with Marleau and Thornton with Burns.
Then what? The Sharks coach has said he doesn't expect Marty Havlat to be fully recovered from pelvic surgery. That leaves Kennedy, Torres, Joe Pavelski and rookie Tomas Hertl competing for two spots on the top two lines. Yes, Pavelski has been more valuable as a third-line center, but Kennedy could fill that role, too.
Tommy Wingels and the two players who don't land a top-six role are likely to form the third line, while Adam Burish, Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard appear to be penciled in on the fourth.
San Jose's front office remains high on its 2012 first-round pick and has suggested he's ready for NHL action. But McLellan isn't ready to hand him a roster spot.
"Is he ready to play at the NHL level? He'll answer that question over the next few weeks, not me today," the coach said. "We'll have to wait and see, like everybody else."
Hertl had 18 goals and 30 points in 43 games in the top Czech league. If he doesn't pan out, look for another rookie, perhaps Matt Nieto, to crack the roster.
The Sharks bid Thomas Greiss farewell because they thought it was time for one of their younger netminders to move into the No. 2 position behind Antti Niemi.
Alex Stalock, 26, and Harri Sateri, 23, divided the netminding duties in Worcester last season. Stalock's statistics (17-16-4, 2.60 GAA and .912 save percentage) would seem to give him the advantage over Sateri (14-21-3, 2.89 GAA and .903 save percentage), but McLellan says the competition is wide open.