Every year since around 2005 the San Jose Sharks are a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Every year they find a way to not live up to those expectations and leave their fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. Not one time have they even made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Even my hometown Carolina Hurricanes have won a Stanley Cup in their short existence in Raleigh. But year after year come playoff time I am excited to watch the Sharks with the hopes that this year will be the year they finally get the job done. But now after just five games I am going to have to watch another team hoist the Cup as champions, and I am fired up about it.
The St. Louis Blues are a talented up and coming team that surprised the NHL this year by challenging for the Presidents Trophy (best record) for most of the season. Their strong defense held the Sharks to just three goals in the regular season series, and the Blues goaltending tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak had a shutout each. Going into the playoffs the Blues have the best goaltending situation in the league. But this is the playoffs, where the veteran San Jose Sharks who have years of playoff experience are supposed to triumph over the young guns of the Blues. Most people picked against the Sharks but thought they could grind out a couple of home wins and take the series to at least six games. That however was not even close to the case as the Sharks were dominated in ever facet of the game and looked like a bunch of old geezers just watching the Blues as they flew past them throughout the series.
How did this happen? Usually come playoff time it’s the teams who battled the most to get into the playoffs that end up making surprisingly deep runs in the playoffs because they have been playing games that matter well before the playoffs even began. The Sharks needed to win their final three games just to have a shot to get into the playoffs. They ended up getting in as the seventh seed after finally looking like a team who wanted to be there. They seemed to finally fix the penalty kill that ranked 29th in the league but had some key kills to get the Sharks into the post season. The Sharks finally looked like a team who cared about their play and could be dangerous by working the puck around the offensive zone with ease. But boy was I wrong on both accounts.
In game one, the Sharks were outshot 42-34 but dominated for long stretches during the game. Thanks to Marty Havlat’s heroics in double overtime the Sharks took a 1-0 series lead. At this point home ice advantage shifts to the Sharks and fans start to believe.
The rest of the series was all the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks would score a total of 8 goals in the entire series. The penalty kill would be the downfall of the Sharks as they would lose game three after the Blues went 3 for 4 on the power play. No NHL team can win a hockey game giving up three power play goals. Especially with the goal scoring struggles the faced throughout the series.
So where do they go from here? The San Jose Mercury News suggests that the Sharks will likely get a roster shake up in the offseason. Or will they fire head coach Todd McLellan, whose lineup changes did little to make the Sharks better in the series.
The Sharks as a team looked very complacent throughout the series. They were not willing to do what it takes to win battles and score goals. Ryan Clowe acknowledged the problem but did little about it. With Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scoring no points in this series, it may be time for one of them to leave San Jose. They were invisible in this series and flubbed on many scoring chances. For the Sharks to make another deep playoff run next year they have to go out and get a Rick Nash type goal scorer that can help pick up the slack when the older players struggle.
Where else can they improve? They already have 14 players under contract for next year and six of their highest paid players over 3o years old. Hockey Future rates the prospect pool of the Sharks dead last in the league. The future is looking grim in San Jose unless they make some bold moves during the off season. If the Sharks do decide to trade players and look to the future instead of the present, how will Sharks fans react? In recent years the Sharks have been able to sell out every playoff game and most of their regular season games. In a non-traditional hockey market would the franchise be able survive long enough to get back into the top ranks of the league?
Hopefully the players are left with as bad of a taste in their mouths as their fans. Hopefully the front office can find a way to bring the Sharks to the Holy Grail sooner rather than later. Until then, as the old saying goes: “We’ll get ’em next year.”