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Heart Transplant Needed?
Frustrating? Lackadaisical? Heartless? Pathetic?
2/27/12 - By Steve Flores -

Feel free to choose whichever adjective you prefer as a description of the team's performance of the 2011-2012 San Jose Sharks. Not many people are apt to argue against most, if not all, of your critiques. As of this writing the Sharks sit in an overall points tie for first place with the streaking Phoenix Coyotes - the Sharks do have two games in hand. A Pacific division title that seemed all but guaranteed less than a month ago now has become a situation where the team may actually fall from the top eight in the Western Conference.

The team just concluded their season-long road trip at 2-6-1after falling to Minnesota 4-3 on Sunday night. This trip included losses to both Tampa Bay and a 6-3 throttling at the hands of the NHL's worst team the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Even if we push the results of this trip aside and simply look at the overall efforts of the team this season it isn't difficult to see that this year's squad has lacked a sense of urgency. The team's play all season seems to have been missing an intangible level of desire or heart. To anyone that has watched this team for any number of years it is fairly easy to see that the team's level of fire is running at a 'pilot-light' level and not the smoldering furnace that is required to earn a trip to vie for Lord Stanley's Cup.

For several seasons the Sharks have either flamed-out early in the playoffs or have only been able to reach the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated. Many teams would love to have this but the reason you play the game is to earn the ultimate victory. The Sharks have never been able to even garner a birth in the Final and each year their critics malign them for missing the 'heat' and or 'desire' it takes to achieve the ultimate goal.

The Sharks two key lynchpins are Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Each is a great guy - no disputing this. Each has, however, been called 'soft' and 'lacking in whatever intangibles' it takes to propel a team when the chips are down while playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each player has worn the "C" and each player always has good regular season stats. The team has built around them for several years now. The team has been a consistent regular season power in the West and they have made the playoffs every season since Thornton 's arrival. Yet they have no real hardware to show for their efforts as the team's cornerstones.

G.M. Doug Wilson has traded an awful lot of draft picks - both high and low end - throughout his period as the man in charge. There are always critics of this type of dealing. I have never really criticized him, as the team always seemed to simply be a piece or two away from said goal. The problem now, in retrospect, is that none of the trades has resulted in a Stanley Cup. The deals that have brought in both Thornton (a stroke of genius) and Defenseman Dan Boyle cannot be criticized.

His most recent off-season dealing that led to the acquisitions of Brent Burns and more specifically Martin Havlat are far more open to scrutiny however.

Since Havlat broke into the league with the Ottawa Senators on 2000-01 he has never played a full 82 game season. I realize that might make me sound a bit knit-picky so I will go a little further. In 2008-09 he did play in 81 games. In 2010-11 he played in 78. In 2009-10 he appeared in 73. In season's past he has also played 18, 35, 56, 67 & 68. So the man does have a history of missing anywhere from a half season to at least 15-25 contests. For this the team dealt Dany Heatley. Love or hate Heatley the guy plays every game.

For Burns the Sharks gave up a number two draft pick (in this year's upcoming draft) Devin Setoguchi and former Shark's highly touted number one pick Charlie Coyle. Again this is all well and good if the deal had panned out. Experts and Sharks commentators have excused Burn's lack of 'impact' as being a result of getting used to a new team, a new environment, and natural adjustment to playing with new teammates. Ok they are 60 games in - when does this take affect?

Wilson is considered to be a savvy executive and is well liked in the NHL community. Fellow GM's and NHL head coaches seem to have the utmost respect for him. I am not calling into question his desire. He is a man that has tried everything with his power and budget to put a winner on the ice in San Jose. What I am saying is that the most recent trades may have been a reach or a grasp. The core of this team has remained the same for many years and all have resulted without an NHL Championship. Wilson may be making moves, in a vain attempt to adjust that which simply may need to be overhauled.

People around the league talked about how dumb it was for the Boston Bruins to deal Thornton to the Sharks back in November of 2005. Funny thing is the Bruins won a Stanley Cup a season ago and the Sharks are still trying to figure out what it takes.

I, again, am not questioning Thornton. I think he plays hard and wants to win but, after seven years of 'Groundhog Day" there inevitably comes a time where a decision must be made to change the core and perhaps go with a younger group of players.

Years of losing has led to the Chicago Blackhawk's current strength in youth and although still in last place the Edmonton Oilers youthful talent is something to behold.

The problem is that the Sharks do not have a lot of draft picks from which to work with and while the team has not reached the ultimate goal they are very competitive so the draft picks they do have are not going to garner them a top-flight prospect.

With all of this said the team continues its spiral with a trade deadline deal that saw them off Jamie McGinn for third and fourth line depth performers T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik from Colorado. Many questions remain as to how the Sharks will finish in their last 22 regular season contests. Will Havlat find a way back into the lineup? Will he be any more effective than he was the first go round? Will the team find a heart or will they simply add yet another page to the Shark's already repetitive history of the team that simply doesn't have what it takes yet again?

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