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Can Timo and Tomas save us?
Aging Sharks appear headed downward
4/23/17 - By Paul Krill -

Last year, I predicted the Edmonton Oilers would be contenders. After all, how could they pick first in the draft year after year and not get good eventually? Well, it looks like my prediction was just a year ahead of schedule. The Oilers, having stockpiled topnotch young players such as Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, got really good this year instead of last. And at the Sharks' expense in the playoffs.

The aging Sharks, where star players like Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are well into their 30s, certainly can't be viewed as an up-and-coming team. We saw the team basically burn out late in this season, slipping down in the standings before losing in six games to the Oilers in the first round.

We have to ask: Are the Sharks' young stars like Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl ready to carry us back to the top of the league standings? Can they do it? And just what can we expect from players like Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson? Can they become first liners? We still have young players like Logan Couture, Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic with some years left, so that's good.

Meanwhile, Doug Wilson has some major decisions to make about Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both of whom are not all that far from 40 years old and are unsigned for next season. Could we bear the sight of them skating for another team? Would replacements be more productive than they have been? We might have to face the grim reality that these two Hall of Fame-caliber players just won't ever get their names on the Stanley Cup, no matter how deserving they are of this honor. (With 30 teams in the league, soon to be 31, just about 3 percent of players win the Cup each year.)

Other players such as Joel Ward and Paul Martin aren't getting any younger, either. And Brent Burns, who is going to be around a long time because of that eight-year contract extension, saw his production drop considerably in the waning days of the season. In the playoffs, he had just three assists and was a -1 in the six games. If he wins the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman, it won't be because of his play lately.

We don't want to see the Sharks do what the Oilers did to get good: stay at the bottom of standings and score blue chip players in the draft each year. But how can the Sharks get better without first dropping down the standings considerably as we hope for players to develop?

These certainly are not optimistic times for the Sharks or fans. It may be time for the Sharks to break out the checkbook and sign whatever top-ranked free agents might be available. Failing that, we could be in for multiple seasons with this team missing the playoffs.

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