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The San Jose Sharks: What Now?

Sara Ramsey |
June 6, 2011 | 1:19 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor


Patrick Marleau finished the season with 37 goals and 36 assists.
Patrick Marleau finished the season with 37 goals and 36 assists.
It’s like the nightmare you keep having —maybe once a week, maybe once month— but without a doubt at least once a year, every San Jose Sharks fan will relive their worst nightmare: watching the Sharks succumb to their fate.

Every season ends the same; a brilliant regular season turned into a lackluster post season. The locker room gets packed up early and fans put away their jerseys 'til next year, in hopes that the Sharks figure out what the heck is wrong. 

A curse? Bad players? Bad coaching? Bad management?

Or does the problem stem even higher than that?

The Sharks took an early exit from this season’s Stanley Cup run, losing in five games to the Vancouver Canucks in the Conference Finals. Fans were sad, as many believed this could be THE season, but most chalked it up as just another year that San Jose almost made it to the big show.

Although the regular season wasn’t the club’s greatest, there were highlights and solid play throughout.

San Jose finished out the season 48-25-9, taking the Pacific Division for the fourth straight season.

Logan Couture, the Sharks 22-year-old center found a comfortable spot on the Sharks highly producing second line with Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley. The standout rookie closed the year with 65 points from 37 goals and 28 assists. 

Although there was some talk about Captain Patrick Marleau’s inability to produce in the playoffs, the San Jose veteran proved critics wrong after scoring the Sharks' game-winner in Game 7 against the Red Wings in the semifinals.

Marleau went on to score in the next three games, including two points in Game 3 versus the Canucks. This is the third time in his career that he has scored in four or more consecutive playoff games.

The gaping whole in the Sharks defense and offense, though, became their power play and penalty kill.

The Sharks went into the postseason with the second ranked power play in the NHL and the 24th ranked penalty kill.

The team went on to score five power play goals in the first three games of the series against the Canucks but then squandered away five power play opportunities in the first 22 minutes of Game 4. The Canucks came back and capitalized on the Sharks reckless play, getting called on four penalties in less than three minutes — Vancouver came out with three goals.

So what now?

The Sharks need to heal.

The club’s injury report is long to say the least.

Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe both have separated shoulders, Couture broke his nose in Game 3 against Vancouver, Jason Demers has a sprained right ankle, Scott Nichol has a tear in his shoulder, Heatley and Joe Pavelski are having ankle issues and Dan Boyle damaged his MCL in March.

Although it is no excuse, it's easier to understand why the Sharks weren’t always playing to the best of their abilities with all these injuries.

Thornton alone played through Games 4 and 5 against Vancouver with the separated shoulder and a wrist injury from having to readjust his grip after sustaining a pinkie finger injury from a slash late in the season—he had surgery to reattach the tip of the finger soon after the season ended.

On the bright side, the Sharks have most of these top players under contract and they will be coming back for the 2011-2012 season —including Thornton, Couture, Clowe, Pavelski, Boyle, Marleau and goalie Antti Niemi.

On top of their returners, the Sharks reportedly have a lot of cap space to work with, hopefully bringing in a big name to bolster their blue line.

But, when year after year a team with great players and a good coach can’t seem to get the job done, one wonders if the problem is stemming from somewhere else— the ownership. If you look at the last three Stanley Cup-winning teams, you notice a pattern: involved hockey fans running the office.

Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, took ownership from his father and made astounding changes that led them to win their first Cup in 61 years in 2010.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are co-owned by Ronald Burkle and Mario Lemieux. Although Burkle is a businessman, Lemieux played for the Penguins for 17 seasons and was the driving force behind rescuing the team from bankruptcy. He is the only person ever to win a Stanley Cup as both a player and an owner.

Mike Llitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings, single-handedly turned the team into a Cup-winning franchise. The team formally known as the “Dead Wings” has since won four Stanley Cups and won the President’s Trophy six times for the best record in the NHL.  

The Sharks, on the other hand, are owned by the San Jose Sports and Entertainment Enterprise— a group of 13 people including CEOs, a venture capitalist, a former mayor and a former NFL tight end.

The SJSEE bought the team from Gordon Gund, who brought the expansion team to San Jose in 2002.

So it may be just that, a lack of direct leadership and passion trickling down to the team, who can’t find that little extra desire and hunger to fight harder at the times they need it most and get the win. 

There is a sense of apathy looming in HP Pavilion, left behind from plays that should have been made, goals that should have been scored and games that could have been won.

The air around the Sharks will remain the same, until next season when faithful fans will try to forget the past and get lost in wishful thinking and dreams that this season will indeed be THE season.


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