It seems to be the same old story every year for the San Jose Sharks—an outstanding regular-season performance, followed by a disappointing playoff exit.
In fact, it has been the case for quite a while now. The Sharks have made the postseason for eight years in a row and 13 of the past 14 seasons. In their 20-year franchise history, San Jose has been to the postseason 15 times (that's 75 percent).
And how many Stanley Cups do they have to show for it? Zilch. None.
That's right, a team that has made the playoffs three out of every four seasons has yet to win a championship.
Ok, enough of that.
But at least you have to show some appreciation for the core players on the Sharks, who have led them to playoff appearances for eight straight seasons. (Hey, at least making the playoffs is better than nothing, right?)
Sure, guys like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle haven't led the Sharks to the promised land, but they haven't driven them into the basement either.
Which begs me to ask the question: How many more good years do the Sharks' core players have left?
Let's look at their three main "core" players (Note: Although Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe might be considered as part of the Sharks' core, we will call them "secondary options" for the purposes of this article):
We'll start with captain Joe Thornton.
His stats were around what you might expect from Thornton: 18G 59A. He was the Sharks' best player during their disappointing first-round exit against the Blues, notching five points in five games.
He is the heart and soul of the Sharks, and certainly deserves to win a Stanley Cup more than anybody else on the team.
Thornton is 32 years old, and this will be his 15th season in the NHL. He has a brilliant track record, missing just three games in seven seasons with the Sharks.
I have a feeling that Joe will keep playing at the same high level until he decides to hang up the skates. There seems to be no quitting in this guy, and by watching him give 100 percent effort every year, you can tell that he really wants that Stanley Cup.
Verdict - If Ray Whitney can get 53 assists at age 40, then Joe Thornton certainly can. I'm going to give him at least eight more good years of making unbelievable passes as the centerpiece of the Sharks' core.
I have a hard time figuring out what the deal is with Patrick Marleau.
He had his sixth 30-goal season in seven years, playing in all 82 games.
But where was he in the playoffs?
This postseason was undoubtedly Marleau's worst, as he put up zero points in the five-game series.
How in the world can the Sharks expect to win a playoff series when their franchise leader in points and goals doesn't even score a single point?
In addition, Marleau was a non-factor defensively throughout the season, ranking near the bottom of the team in blocked shots and takeaways.
Ultimately, the Sharks play better when Marleau plays better, and they can't risk having him not show up at all when they need him most. If they can get some better assets for Marleau in a trade, then I'm all for pulling the trigger on a deal.
Verdict - Like Thornton, Marleau is 32 years old, and has not missed a game for the past three seasons.
But I just don't feel that he has the same drive to win that Thornton has. He shies away from the big moments, and has been rather inconsistent both offensively and defensively. Personally, I would try to trade Marleau this offseason for a more consistent playoff performer.
I have been extremely critical of Boyle in the past, calling for him to be traded numerous times.
With my tongue firmly placed in my cheek, Dan Boyle had a great year anchoring the blue line, leading all Sharks' defensemen with 48 points (eighth in the NHL) and a plus-minus rating of +10.
Add in the fact that he played a good portion of the season with a broken foot, and that makes his stats even more unreal.
But here's the catch—Dan Boyle is 35 years old and, like Thornton, this will be his 15th season in the NHL.
Just by looking at that, he does not have a lot of quality years left. Add in the fact that he makes over $6 million a year, and the Sharks are much better off trading Boyle for either some draft picks or young players.
Verdict - The Sharks have younger and livelier options at defense, headlined by Brent Burns, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, Jason Demers and Justin Braun.
Boyle can help by mentoring the younger defensemen, but I don't see him producing at the same level in a few years. I would like him to pass the torch off to Brent Burns and see Burns become the No. 1 defenseman.
So, the final verdict says that the Sharks' main trio of Thornton, Marleau and Boyle may not stick around for much longer.
In that case, their secondary options (Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Martin Havlat, etc.) may be all that's left, and they will have to step it up next year and beyond.