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Patience could result in long term payoff
Post season with grasp
3/31/06 - By Steve Flores

As we all sit in wait watching the San Jose Sharks fight their way down the stretch in search of that elusive 2006 playoff spot I have decided to take a moment to reflect on the franchise as a whole. You may say it is not the right time to do this type of feature and you may be correct, but this manages to take my mind off the rather edgy (all things in life considered), rather stressful grind of watching and hoping that the Sharks can gain entry into the post-season.

I know that everyone has feelings that run the gamut regarding the season that the Sharks have had. Many people are disappointed that the team has not had a season worthy of a Stanley Cup contender. You know what I mean by that statement right? I'm talking about the kind of season where the team leads the division for nearly the entire season. The type of season where the power play is dominant, where the overall loss column is more in the region of 18 defeats and one where the team ends the season with 116 points. If this was your expectation then you are more than likely rather disappointed at this point.

If you are the type of fan that sees this season as that of 2 seasons (Pre and Post Joe Thornton) then you feel that the Sharks are an almost dominant team with which you argue the team's 65% win record since 'THE TRADE'. If you are a follower of this type of season then you are still hopeful that this team will make the playoffs and will wipe the rest of the league clean once the team is actually into the post season.

I actually like these optimists! Good feelings have a way of spreading to the masses and I hope these folks are correct in their thoughts. The only problem with this mindset is that I think these folks truly think that there were 2 season this year and that the teams 10 game losing streak never happened, or that it doesn't have an affect on the team's current status. If you believe this then you are wrong. This team is still suffering the affects of that streak.

But enough downer talk let's turn to the brighter side of things in our little hockey world shall we. Let's talk about 'the streak'. in hindsight we all actually need to look at that streak as the impetus for what may actually someday bring this franchise a championship. Without that losing streak I don't think the team would have been able to acquire the franchise otherwise called Thornton. In all honesty I'm sure that trade wouldn't have been made.

In matters of finance the Sharks have never been one of the leagues free spending franchises. This has been borne out time and again, season after season and with that said don't for a moment derive that statement as a slight against the team's management. The Sharks do well at the gate but don't have the financial resources that the Leafs or the Rangers have.

The team and G.M. Doug Wilson opted to not get too involved with the flurry of free agency that occurred after the collective bargaining agreement was signed just prior to this season. Many called the team cheep; many have felt that the team didn't do enough for the team to win now! Those people may be correct in the sense that 'this season' may have been exactly what was lost, but what was probably gained was a team that more than likely will be strong for years to come.

This team is loaded with talented youth, not just prospects folks but young guys with exceptional skills. Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Christian Ehrhoff, Josh Gorges, Matt Carle to name a few all seem to have the potential to be above average NHL players.

The Sharks are currently playing with a pair of top lines that are both entertaining and exciting. And this next fact should scare every G.M. in the league; not a single Shark has reached his 30th birthday.

The team released and opted not to sign several veteran players a season ago. The loss of veteran leadership has been felt. But these veterans were at the end of their NHL rope and minimal in overall talent to boot. The team has definitely moved up in the overall natural ability department with experience being the only missing ingredient to make this a first class Stanley Cup Soufflé.

Now when you have some free time go log onto the internet and search for a list of unrestricted free agent for 2006-2007. The list is even more enticing than the scroll that was available prior to this current season. And if the whispers about the league are to be believed the Sharks will be in full hunting mode. And if the Sharks are hunting then it will be for veterans that can come in and provide the leadership, experience and intangibles that the young guys currently simply do not have at this point in this youthful teams present makeup. If this comes to pass then everyone's complaints and hopes and dreams will all be answered.

It looks like it may take a season longer than we had hoped for but in the end it looks like we will have a team of solid and deep foundation that plays a wide open style that will both entertain and succeed in the win column.

So irony of irony folks is that the losing streak may have been the impetus that brought in the key piece to what could be a hockey work of art when all is said and done. Let's all try to be patient and take deep breathes as this year's version continues to grow and mature in their attempt to garner the post-season, but more importantly as they evolve into perennial Stanley Cup contenders.

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