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San Jose Sharks: Why They Don't Deserve a Playoff Spot and Changes to Be Made

David BarclayCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2012

San Jose Sharks: Why They Don't Deserve a Playoff Spot and Changes to Be Made

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    As a lifelong fan of the San Jose Sharks, and a season ticket holder since the team's inception, it's safe to say that I've harbored several struggling years with the club as the Sharks have tried to win their first Stanley Cup.

    It makes what I'm about to say even more difficult.

    The Sharks don't deserve a playoff position in this years NHL postseason.

    Even if the Sharks were to gain the eight-seed in the playoffs, it would guarantee them a first-round against the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks would not last five games in their current form against the league-leading Blues.

    But there are several other reasons the Sharks would essentially be a waste of TV airtime if they played in the postseason this year. There are also some serious changes I feel the Sharks' front office staff should look at in the offseason. Let's take a look at some of them.

Antti Niemi

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    Every Sharks fan assumed they finally had completed the puzzle when GM Doug Wilson signed Stanley-Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi.

    Niemi had wowed and amazed Sharks fans with his play when he helped the Blackhawks sweep the Sharks out of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. 

    Every Sharks fan except me, that is.

    Niemi enjoyed a lottery of a freshman season, and had a team around him that we in the hockey world would say was "popping at the right moment."

    From the start, I told people Niemi was a high-C to mid-level-B goaltender, with virtually no skills on the glove side.

    I'll give credit where it's due and tell you that Niemi is one of hardest working goaltenders in the game, and that could simply come from how he was discovered. I mean, four years ago, this guy was a zamboni driver.

    The fact is, the Sharks are not popping at the moment, and Niemi isn't the kind of goaltender that can stand on his head and take a game into his own hands.

Where Are All the Goals?

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    The Sharks scored more than two goals for the first time since February when they played the Ducks last week.

    Only being able to score two goals in the postseason isn't going to win you many games.

    We'll touch on it a little bit later, but the fact of the matter is the Sharks' lack of forward-depth is staggering. They made a deadline deal for TJ Galiardi and Daniel Winnik for Jamie McGinn, and Galiardi has only appeared in eight games since the trade.

    Meanwhile, McGinn tallied seven goals in his first eight games with the Avalanche.

Problems Behind the Bench

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    I touched on it before, and it always angers Sharks fans extremely, but I'm maintaining my stance that head coach Todd McLellan should be fired.

    There are several reasons I could cite, but the biggest issue that should catch Sharks fans' eyes is defenseman Colin White.

    The fact that White still has a job is beyond my comprehension as both a student of the sport and a Sharks fan. Sure, he has three Stanley Cups, but Dan Boyle also has a Stanley Cup. And I don't see anyone using that to justify why we should keep Boyle around too. But that's a completely different story.

Individual Contributions

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    The Sharks are having one of their biggest issues with their top players and the contributions they're known to bring to the game.

    Sure there have been some standouts, like Logan Couture and the recent return of Martin Havlat, but the lacking production from players such as captain Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and even Joe Pavelski (outside of the face-off circle, that is) has been obvious.

    Sharks forward Ryan Clowe has found himself in an extended slump that's even had me calling him one of the most useless forwards on the ice.

    Hockey is a team sport, and the Sharks are having a giant issue functioning as a team. This is one of the main reasons the Sharks would have an extremely short postseason, this year.

Find a New Captain

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    Sharks forward Martin Havlat just returned from an injury that kept him sidelined for almost half the season, and he made his return known right from the start.

    But I feel he made possibly his biggest impact yet in the Sharks' recent contest against the Los Angeles Kings. And it wasn't from the goal he scored.

    The rivalry between the Kings and Sharks is comparable to the Yankees and the Red Sox. Maybe not in history, but from a fan's perspective, it certainly fits.

    After Havlat tallied the opening goal of the contest, it is believed he shot the fans of Los Angeles a little bird. I have a friend who attended the game in Los Angeles and said it looked pretty obvious that Havlat was doing just that.

    While I've always been a spokesman for sportsmanship and staying classy, the antics from ex-Kings coach Terry Murray to the Sharks in last season's playoff series, and just the general things I've experienced from visiting Los Angeles for games, make this a serious statement from Havlat.

    And an acceptable one at that.

    The bottom line is Sharks fans have been waiting all season for someone to essentially step up and appear to be taking their job seriously, and that's what Havlat just did.

    I would support the C going on his chest for something as simple as this; he deserves a letter at least.

Offseason Focus

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    Last offseason, the Sharks decided to focus on their lack of defensive prowess. 

    They went out and stabled a group of players that, on paper, made the Sharks look like arguably the most lethal team in the NHL. And they should be.

    But when you have players like Brad Winchester and Michal Handzus being scratched night in and night out, while players like Colin White are starting, something needs to be done.

    It's time for Todd McLellan to go, plain and simple.

     

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