After the embarrassing exit out of the playoffs last season, many of us expected that the San Jose Sharks would do some major changes within the organization, but nothing happened except taking the C off of Joe Thornton. If the team miss out on the playoffs this season, will fans finally see some changes in the Bay Area?
We all know the story by now: the Sharks were up 3-0 over the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and looked to be cruising past its California rival. But after a collapse of epic proportions by the Sharks, the Kings turned it around and won 4-3 and moved on and ultimately won the Stanley Cup. Sure, you can say that it’s not that bad to lose against the champions, but the way that the Sharks imploded was something that made hockey fans all around wonder what was going on in San Jose.
There were reports coming out of San Jose that some major changes would be made during the off-season and that longtime leaders Thornton and Patrick Marleau might be on the trade block or that the team might let go of coach Todd McLellan. Nothing happened besides taking away the captaincy from Thornton, and many pundits said that it was simply not enough to get this team turned around.
They let go of Dan Boyle who went to the New York Rangers and he had been the quarterback on the Sharks power play, and replaced him by moving Brent Burns back to defense. Burns has been great this season (16 goals and 33 assists in 67 games so far) and was an All-Star, so you can’t complain about that decision. But I understand if fans in San Jose are frustrated as the team has been very inconsistent this season. Fans have gotten used to seeing a dominant team at home and a side that usually a lock in for the playoffs by this time in the season.
The fact is that there’s a real possibility that the Sharks will miss out on the postseason. It would be the first time since the 2002-2003 season that there would be no playoff hockey in the Bay Area. The Sharks are currently sitting in fifth place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the Calgary Flames in third (Flames have a game in hand) and one point behind the LA Kings (Kings have two games in hand). Right now, both wildcard spots in the Western Conference are taken by Central Division teams, and the Sharks are four points behind the Jets who are in the last wildcard spot and they have a game in hand on the Sharks.
San Jose will most likely have to win about 75 percent of the remaining games in order to grab a playoff spot. The team is 4-6-0 in the last 10 games, and have meetings against Nashville and Chicago at home before heading out on a seven-game road trip that very well could be make or brake point for this team.
If the hockey gods really wants to write a compelling narrative, the last game of the regular season against the Kings could be the ultimate decider on which of the two teams will go to the playoffs.
Let’s say that they do end up missing the playoffs. Then major change is needed. The owners might want to see if it’s time to look for a replacement for Doug Wilson as GM. McLellan would most likely get fired. I think he’s a great coach, but it could just be that he’s taken the team as far as he can. You would have to convince Thornton and Marleau to waive their no movement clauses and really hand over this team to Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Burns. And you would say goodbye to Antti Niemi and find a new starting goaltender.
Thornton and Marleau could still fetch a solid return in trades, and if Tomas Hertl can get out of his sophomore slump then this team can once again be one of the best in the Western Conference. They also need to look at their bottom six and find role players that can chip in with some scoring.
I do believe that this team has enough talent to squeeze into the playoffs this season, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Because if they make the playoffs again and even if they get knocked out early once more, owners and management may still see it as enough to not rock the boat. The fans in the Bay Area are some of the best in the West, and they deserve something better.