It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with another installment of my summer series on the coaches, teams and coaches that have questions surrounding them. Here are the first two installments on Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Today’s article focuses on the San Jose Sharks and how can they recover after a historic loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles King.
The San Jose Sharks had three games to remember in their first round series against their bitter rivals the Los Angeles Kings.
However, the Sharks had four nightmares games to make it a postseason their fans will want to forget.
San Jose got off the blocks fast and seemed to have finally gotten over on their big rivals after getting up 3-0 after an exciting 4-3 OT win on April 22.
That joy was short-lived as Los Angeles rallied to stun San Jose with a 5-1 game seven victory to cap a historic rally.
The shocking loss has Sharks fans asking a ton of questions and expecting a major overhaul of players, coaches and possibly even management. However, the front office was surprisingly quiet as it made few moves.
General Manager Doug Wilson even said "status quo" was not an option. However, it wasn’t what most expected as there wasn’t the turnover that people expected. The Sharks did make some moves by trading Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart, while keeping Scott Hannan.
There were other moves like the acquisition of enforcer John Scott and re-signed Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard, Alex Stalock and Mike Brown, but I thought there would be more.
In fact, the biggest to-do with changes had more to do with the controversy over the Ice Girls.
It truly felt like a disappointing summer for this club.
In order to get into the mind of what the Sharks’ fans could be thinking, I asked a few questions to Darryl Martin (Follow him on Twitter@Kingshark49) of The Golden Gate Report on the hows and whys of the San Jose Sharks offseason.
I first asked Darryl on if he’s ever seen anything like the collapse of his team and he said that he has watched pro sports since age 6 (I'm 53 now). In all my years of watching sports at the pro level (or any level really) I've never seen a total freefall as the Sharks had.”
He said he knew the Sharks weren’t going to sweep the Kings, and kind of sensed that the Sharks were in a bit of trouble.
I thought San Jose had chances to win the series, but L.A. just went for it as they had nothing to lose. Martin said the Sharks “had a 3-1 advantage at home and a chance to put LA away and basically laid one of the biggest eggs in franchise history (which is saying a lot).”
And the real blow was watching their hated rivals, the Kings, hoist the Cup at the end of it all.
Darryl then commented that thought that there would be some sort of overhaul, but the “Status Quo” is still there despite Wilson’s claims that it would be gone. However, there wasn’t a lot of movement from San Jose. However, the Sharks are kind of hamstrung by the long-term deals given to team captain Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, (There were rumors of Marleau being shipped to Boston for first-class pain-in-the-ass Brad Marchand.) and miss out on going after some of the bigger name players that would like to come to Northern California.
This philosophy puts a lot of pressure on their scouts and drafting. They do have young guns like Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, Tommy Wingels, Mirco Mueller and others that have stepped or look ready to step in and be big parts of the offense.
The one thing I thought would most certainly change would be the coach as I often joked that Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan showed the worst leadership by a guy with a similar last name since Civil War general George McClellan. However, Martin spoke highly of McLellan as he called him the best San Jose coach since former coach Darryl Sutter (now coaching the Kings). Martin also went onto say that McLellan prepared them the best he could, but also stated this.
“As good of a coach as McLellan is, he may not be the best at playing amateur psychologist. Maybe his message does not register with these players. It's really hard to say.”
McLellan has been a highly successful coach and would probably have a bunch of offers to lead somewhere else. Martin even said there was a “McLellan watch” when Vancouver let go of John Tortorella.
The one thing that will probably be a constant in San Jose is general manager Wilson. According to Darryl Martin, that team owner Hasso Plattner is not planning on making a change at GM. The only way he leaves the job is on his own accord. Wilson has done a great job at building the Sharks into a perennial playoff contender, but many (including Darryl and myself) wonder if he’s the man that can push this club to its first Stanley Cup.
Martin said that Wilson should’ve been let go after the Sharks were thumped three years ago in the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues, and argued someone connected to Dale Tallon, Lou Lamoriello, or Stan Bowman would be great choices.
The main question I think this club has is their goaltender. Antti Niemi did win a Stanley Cup with the Chicago in 2010, but the Hawks were so loaded with great scoring and defense. Niemi does have the potential to shutout teams, but also can lay a massive egg and get pulled after letting in a few goals. Martin did say that Alex Stalock would’ve been the everyday goalie, but a horrific injury nearly derailed his career. Stalock looks to be tracking the puck better, and could take the top job.
Could the Sharks slide? It’s a possibility, but I think they’ll be a playoff team the next season. However, I don’t think they’ll be at the level they were last season. They’ll probably be one of the third seed or one of the wild cards. They also have to be careful because the Central Division is tough and there are five teams that should make the playoffs.
What are your thoughts on the Sharks? Can they shake off the shock of last season or will they be toothless? Leave your comments below or @Hockey_Sentinel on Twitter or Facebook.
Dan Mount is the editor of Hockey Sentinel. He also covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.