If you can find a San Jose Sharks team picture, hang on to it because it should become a collector’s item pretty soon. Say within the next few months, or as soon as the overhaul starts taking shape.
That’s inevitable. There has to be some major changes made to the roster and quite possibly to other places in the organization now that San Jose has failed once again to get to the Stanley Cup final. The Sharks may have put up their best post season showing possibly ever, but it’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things because San Jose still came up short in the conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
And in just four games to boot. It was humiliating end to another season of high expectations, even if the series sweep by Chicago was a lot closer than the end result might suggest. Still it doesn’t matter because a team that has seemed to be on the cusp of greatness since the lockout ended has proven once and for all that it just can’t find a way to win as currently constructed.
About the best thing San Jose can say after losing 4-2 in Game 4 is that it didn’t choke this time. That was the rap on the Sharks for the last few seasons, and in most cases it was fair. This time though, the Sharks simply were beaten by a team that was better, deeper and more complete.
That nothing to be ashamed of except it doesn’t bode well moving forward for San Jose. The Blackhawks are a very talented young team that has grown up and come together exceptionally quickly and figures to be a powerhouse and the team to beat for several years to come in the West. The Sharks, meanwhile, have shown they just aren’t up to the task with a veteran heavy (read: old) roster that seems to have passed the expiration date on the current collection of talent.
San Jose actually did a lot of good things in the series against Chicago. The Sharks were physical, aggressive, gritty, and fired a lot of shots on a rookie goalie that produced many really good scoring chances throughout. They had a monster series too from perennial whipping boy Patrick Marleau and they were in every game. They even had a great start to the finale and certainly had had a chance to win.
But they didn’t win. Or maybe more accurately, they always found a way to lose. Again. And if nothing else does, that means something has to be done to change the dynamics here.
San Jose may still be the class of the Pacific Division, but even that status figures to be challenged next year by a talented and rapidly improving young Los Angeles Kings team as it was this season by the upstart Phoenix Coyotes. And truth be told, that doesn’t really matter. The issue here going forward is finding the right formula to go beyond being a regular season powerhouse to a true championship caliber contender.
This Sharks team is a merely a pretender. Ironically Marleau, who many have argued needs to be the first one shipped out, proved his worth with a great regular season after having the burden of being captain removed. Then he followed it up with his best playoffs ever.
But Joe Thornton couldn’t say the same and neither could goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who is likely to be the first one pushed aside. And no doubt you can hear the snickers from Ottawa about Dany Heatley rising above the din from Chicago’s United Center.
Clearly general manager Doug Wilson certainly has his work cut out for him, if he is still around. This is the team he built and at some point, he’s going to have to answer for it. And coach Todd McLellan probably shouldn’t feel all that secure either after inheriting the talent he did before last season and not really making much of it.
Then again, getting rid of a coach is an easy answer. The other questions figure to be a lot tougher. But one this is certain, this team will look a lot different next season. Get the picture.