| The miserable season officially
Kings capture what San Jose most
The 2011-12 NHL Season is finally over. After
enduring two miserable months of playoff hockey that started with the Sharks
laying an egg, another season of discontent came to an end Monday night with
the scourge of the south winning it all. I can't say that this one was any more
painful than seasons past. It's natural to think that a rival winning the
Stanley Cup makes it tougher to take than other seasons, but the Sharks
sputtering late in the season made the outcome inevitable this time around.
Think about what New Jersey Devils fans are going through. Nobody
thought they'd stand a chance in the playoffs, but something clicked and fell
two wins short of a championship. That's a much tougher pill to swallow,
compared to the plight in San Jose.
I say "plight" because the Sharks
didn't get better this past season. They got worse. There's still much work to
be done and the draft and free agent signing period can change the outlook of
things in a heartbeat, but the fact of the matter is that San Jose has an aging
base that hasn't demonstrated that they're capable of finishing strong. 2011-12
was quite the opposite.
The Sharks acquisition of Brad Stuart, doesn't
exactly speak volumes about filling holes. Stuart is a decent defenseman, but
it's not like he's a shutdown kind of guy. Defensively speaking, the Sharks
couldn't stop anyone from scoring, so they need a stay at home guy that can
help stop opposing top lines night after night. That assumes that San Jose can
even re-sign him.
All signs suggest that he will be in teal next
season, because his home is in San Jose and stability on the home front is
something that becomes more important once a player starts a family. Business
is still business, so anything's possible.
What was most frustrating
about last night's game was that it reminded me of just how far the Sharks are
from truly contending. San Jose is made up of skilled guys that can win hockey
games, but they lack the mettle to get things done when the chips are on the
Too many floaters. Too many guys that don't step up when it
counts. That's not to say that the Sharks are completely devoid of talent
worthy of winning a Cup, but they lack an adequate number of guys that have a
fire burning in their bellies.
The defensive holes were glaring last
season. The special teams were a bona fide disaster. As I've written numerous
times, the Sharks have become too predictable. It's reasonable to expect a team
to lean on its strengths, but not recognizing when to make adjustments is just
Not implementing a scheme that can adjust when
things aren't working suggests that either your players are too one-dimensional
or the plan is too inflexible to be effective.
So now San Jose has
another summer to figure out how to implement reasonable adjustments. Don't
expect an overnight transformation like the metamorphosis in Los Angeles. Dean
Lombardi had a lot more flexibility because he had tons of cap space. Finishing
in the basement year after year allowed the Kings to stockpile good young
talent, which Lombardi was able to build on.
He learned a lot in San
Jose, made a lot of mistakes here, then got a second chance to build on those
learnings. Having a war chest to go after guys like Mike Richards and Jeff
Carter made his job a lot easier, but at the end of the day he got the job
Wilson doesn't have the cap flexibility that Lombardi
enjoyed, albeit a self made mess. Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle have contracts
that could turn out to be huge handcuffs for Wilson. Figuring out a way to lose
one of them and pickup a guy like Rick Nash would be a step in the right
direction, but it doesn't address the defensive holes.
As I try to
absorb the 18% increase in my season tickets this summer, I'm left wondering if
that money really could be better spent. Given the chasm that San Jose needs to
hurdle to get to the promise land, positioning this team to be a Cup champion
could take an overhaul that isn't going to happen overnight.
regular reader at LetsGoSharks.com will recognize that there hasn't been a lot
to read around here since April. There really hasn't been much to say that
hasn't already been said. You can only voice frustration so many ways.
Bay Area fans are as fickle as they come, so it'll be interesting to see what
happens a year from now. Will the loyalty still be there. If you learned
anything from last night's outcome, anything is possible, but you still need
the pieces to be successful.
Those with patience will wait and see.
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