A theme has peppered most of the San Jose Sharks 2011-12 season: Closing is everything.
The Sharks have not only had problems putting away games, but putting away scoring opportunities. They are without a power play in six games and 13 power-play chances.
Saturday, they had four more possessions from draws and only gave two more back on turnovers than the Coyotes. They had an 82-54 edge in shots attempted and a 42-29 edge on goal (Phoenix had over twice as many blocked shots), yet were only out-hit 33-30.
But they could not convert those chances into goals. In fact, they have seven goals in their last six games. In the 12 before that, they gave up 43.
If this was a young team, that would be understandable. But these are the four-time Pacific Division champion San Jose Sharks, with seven straight appearances in the playoffs, the last two of which they reached the Western Conference Finals.
That team cannot win just four of 18 games as they lose the division lead and then a spot in the current playoff picture according to the official standings. This is the latest time the Sharks have ever been in that position.
If they do not win one of the next two games, they will certainly be on the outside looking in by points or point percentage. In this competitive conference this late in the season, that reality coupled with a 20 percent success rate at winning over 20 games means it is time to do something drastic.
Last week, I was not advocating a midseason coaching change. But if this team does not get a win in either Edmonton or Calgary, it will be clear that Todd McLellan is not reaching his players. Not when they have periods in almost every game in which they did not match the other team's intensity or will.
What does this team need most right now?
While I do not believe Patrick Marleau should be the focus ex-teammate Jeremy Roenick seemed to be making it, he was on to something in his World According to JR post: Not enough players on this team seem to take losing personally.
The blame for this team's shortcomings lays mostly on the players. The only change that absolutely must take place is from the roster. It is time to cut ties with Marleau and Joe Thornton who have been here for the bulk of Wilson's tenure.
But nothing can be done about the roster right now. The only change that can make any difference right now is behind the bench. His firing would reverberate through the Sharks dressing room in a last-ditch attempt to revive this patient.
It is likely that others will lose their job in the offseason with another first-round exit or worse, a failure to make the playoffs altogether. It is possible that Doug Wilson could be out of work for selecting and hitching his wagon to players who lack killer instinct. If he goes, the next general manager would certainly bring in his own coach.
If the team is going to fire him in the offseason, why wait? There are plenty of guys who have looked good in the minors and could be given a shot, or Wilson himself could come down from the press box.
Heck, even former Sharks coach Ron Wilson is available. Doing a change right now is not about whether the next man up is ready to be a head coach. It is as much change for change's sake as removing your starting goalie for an inferior backup, and we know sometimes that works.