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What to do? What to say? Where to begin?
A midseason analysis
1/13/06 - By Steve Flores

To discuss the San Jose Sharks in their present form is not an easy or simple thing to do from the perspective of columnist. Writers tend to discuss things in a more positive light when teams are playing well and the literature leans more to the dark-side when losing is paramount.

These Sharks are a little of both and not quite enough of either. They are the middle of all roads with a lining that some fans and hockey pundits feel is golden. They are a team loaded with youth; very talented youth.

But presently the team is basically a .500 club that sits just beyond the reach of a playoff berth that they probably will not be able to attain this season. To some folks this statement is as factual as a prognostication can be. To others that statement is a big downer, negative, yucky cynical view of the current team. I get emails; I read The Feeder blogs so I have a sense of the fans' feelings and viewpoints.

This current team went winless 10 games in a row. They have had 'hot Joe Thornton acquisition bumps' and a few other mini win and loss streaks that have resulted in a team that is struggling to find its way back into the playoff hunt. The team presently has 7 rookies on the roster, has had other rookies moved back and forth between the Bay Area and Cleveland and has a few second year players as well. The team is one of the youngest in the league yet again. That's exciting for the future or so we are supposed to believe. The problem I have is that we were one step away from the finals a season ago and once again we are developing the youth from guppy to Shark.

Are the Sharks ever going to consistently field a team that competes for a Stanley Cup title year in and year out? I really don't know the answer. I'm not sure anyone really does. I know that G.M. Doug Wilson made a bold and wonderful trade when he acquired Thornton from the Boston Bruins. It was a move that the Sharks have truly never had the inclination to attempt prior. This bold move has elevated Wilson many levels on my respect-o-meter. Some feel the move was and is only a first step towards making the Sharks Stanley cup viable.

I still contend that the team entered the season with too many rookie-types and had lost too many veterans to be considered a Stanley Cup contender. This contention has so far proven to be true as the team is teetering far closer to not making the post season than actually playing beyond that 82nd game.

The team is fast, it's skilled and it actually has a few stars in Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov and hot winger Jonathan Cheechoo.

Thornton is the real deal: A stud Center who actually freezes opposing defenders as he glides into the offensive zone. The game seems to actually move in slow motion when Joe 'The Giant' moves on net. Marleau is a gifted and exciting player that truly still needs a winger to complement all his playmaking skills. The Sharks second line is often anemic for its lack of a solid wing finisher. Nabokov has been uneven but is capable of being all-world when he is on his game. Cheechoo is on pace for 50 goals with Thornton on his line. These are exciting and wonderful facets of this team.

This team has the very underrated Kyle McLaren hip-checking his way into Bay Area legend. The man is a force on defense and truly understands the game. The other youthful defenders like Tom Preissing and the bruising Doug Murray are all blue chip but they are not Stanley Cup ready. Marcel Goc is going to be a quality center, Josh Langfeld, Grant Stevenson, Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe are all on the path to be being quality players but they are not going to peak this season.

A team that plays at so many different levels at so many different times during a season tends to be a team of youthful non-experience. The Sharks are exactly that team. As a team they have so much natural passing and skating ability that they appear to almost be the Harlem Globetrotters on ice. That they have actually achieved a .500 record to this point is almost amazing when you actually look at all the youth on this roster. Broken record aside this team is not built for this year.

The team is fun and has a lot of skill however I am sorry to say that it is still disappointing. I don't really care if I offend the eternally optimistic bloggers in saying this but I think I have a right to demand excellence from this franchise. I want this team to make strides towards winning a championship. I want this team to continue to move towards being a feared NHL franchise.

I was hoping the team would be taking the next logical step after knocking on Lord Stanley's door just a season ago. I don't see this is being overly negative or pessimistic. The team is not as good as it was a season ago and that is fact.

The future looks bright, but you know what folks, if you keep borrowing that 'wait till next year' banner from the San Francisco Giants you end up with just as many titles. So I sit here twisting and turning and weaving and shifting afflicted with a never ending hunger to watch the Sharks feed as a Great White should.

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