San Jose Sharks Season Wrap-Up: The Good, Bad and Ugly of 2011-12
What do you say after a team with as much hype and talent as the San Jose Sharks fails to make a dent in the NHL playoffs?
Changes are coming in San Jose, and only a couple players are untouchable.
The 2011 offseason gave San Jose reason for hope in terms of overcoming the hurdle that is the Western Conference Finals.
GM Doug Wilson traded scoring ability for speed and defense when he traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat in two separate trades with the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild got a new hope for their team, especially early in the season when they were able to score at will while sitting at the top of the Western Conference for some time.
What the Sharks got was a failure to score goals, inept defense, miserable special teams and a giant headache.
Now, with the season over after a first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs, San Jose has many routes it can take to get back to the top of the Western Conference. However, those routes may include firing head coach Todd McLellan or trading key players the organization has had over the years.
It was not hard to count the bright spots for the San Jose Sharks this season. They were obvious to see amid the disaster and disappointment that seemed to be the theme of 2011-12.
Joe Thornton was one of those obvious bright spots for the team this season. He led the Sharks in points (77) once again. But more than that, he put the team on his back when it needed its captain most.
In the final two games of the regular season against the Kings when the Sharks' backs were against the wall, Thornton seemed to make plays happen when he was on the ice. He was fully behind the overtime win against Los Angeles in Game 81, and then again in the final game of the regular season in which the Sharks claimed the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Thornton was also the only bright spot in the playoffs. He led the team in goals, assists and points and was the only players stopping the Blues from bullying the Sharks into submission by Game 5.
Another bright spot for the Sharks was Logan Couture, who showed how consistent his game can be from year to year. Although we did not see much from him in the playoffs, Couture was able to eclipse the 30-goal plateau for the second consecutive season, as well as pour in 34 assists.
Wilson had it right when he did not bite on the Columbus Blue Jackets' offer to include Couture in a trade for Rick Nash midseason.
The pretty obvious choice for a player with a bad season with the Sharks would have to be Patrick Marleau. San Jose has not seen a season like this from him since 2007-08 when he tallied 19 goals.
This season, Marleau tallied 30 goals and was never able to achieve any consistency—especially down the stretch of the season and in the playoffs. There was a point in the final three weeks of the season, when the Sharks were trying to make the playoffs, that Marleau had one goal and one assist over a span of seven games. That is not what you expect from a former captain and current assistant captain of a premiere hockey team.
The Sharks' penalty kill also falls into the category of "bad."
While nearly every other statistical category seemed to fluctuate, the penalty kill remained the same: 29th in the NHL.
It was clear in the playoffs how much that hurt the team when an average Blues power play was able to beat up on the San Jose penalty kill with ease at points in the series.
Players like Michal Handzus and Colin White, who were brought in to help stabilize that penalty kill, were unable to do so this season.
Watching the Sharks rally for four straight wins to close out the regular season turned out to be one of the worst possible outcomes of this season for the Sharks. San Jose was paired up with the Blues in the first round of the playoffs, and the Kings drew the injured and beatable Canucks.
The Blues had the Sharks' number all regular season (4-0), and the domination only continued in the NHL playoffs. As it turns out, St. Louis is a legitimate hockey team, and its defense is capable of winning a Stanley Cup.
The ugliest part about the playoffs, though, was the Sharks' lack of ability to put the puck in the opponent's net. Most notably, the inability of Marleau and Joe Pavelski to put the puck in the net.
These were players the Sharks have counted on for the last few seasons, and they were unable to come through when the offensive load was on their shoulders.
Marleau and Pavelski had a combined total of zero goals, zero assists and a plus-four rating in the five games San Jose played in the NHL playoffs.
Disappointment at its finest.
Watching the Sharks struggle in the playoffs to do everything their offseason seemed to be built for was the ugliest part of this season. Brent Burns was unable to be the player everyone thought he was, the offense could not score, the defense was terrible and the special teams hit a low point several times this season.
Wilson will have a lot to think about this offseason, as he needs to right the eventual wrongs he made during the 2011 offseason.