3 Reasons the San Jose Sharks Will Benefit from NHL Lockout

Michael PrunkaCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2012

3 Reasons the San Jose Sharks Will Benefit from NHL Lockout

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    With the NHL Lockout cutting into the season, there are ways each team in the league will benefit and suffer. The San Jose Sharks are no different.

    MercuryNews.com reported in August that the Sharks were among the NHL franchises that lost money this past year. $15 million to be exact. The difference is that money isn’t a problem for the Sharks.

    "We're OK with that because that's a decision we've made to stay competitive," said Kevin Compton in the MercuryNews.com story. "We're a completely liquid organization and so far have continued to fund operations by choice."

    Money has been the root of the issues since the collective bargaining agreement negotiations started.

    If money isn’t an issue, then what kinds of benefits does a lockout hold for the Sharks? 

An Opportunity to Re-Evaluate the Coaching Situation

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    After a disappointing 2011-12 regular season and an even more disappointing playoff run, Greg Wyshynski noted that Todd McLellan’s future as head coach of the Sharks is uncertain.

    McLellan was promising when the Sharks hired him in June 2008. Sharks fans became increasingly optimistic when McLellan led the team to its first President’s Trophy during his first season as coach.

    Since his debut season, though, the Sharks’ record has gotten consistently worse. This past season was the first time since the 2007-08 season that the Sharks didn’t secure the Pacific Division title.

    Combine that with McLellan’s four season of disappointing postseason appearances and something has to change.

    Hopefully a change in the coaching department will give the team a fresh philosophy. One aspect of the game that McLellan has failed to address for a few seasons is San Jose’s abysmal penalty kill. The Sharks finished with the league’s second-worst penalty kill percentage this past season.

    McLellan won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings a season prior to joining the Sharks. Looking back over the past four seasons, McLellan hasn’t proved he can do the same for the Sharks.

Not Having to Play in the Playoffs

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    The Sharks’ disappointing postseason performance goes beyond the Todd McLellan era. They’ve made the playoffs every season since the 2004-05 NHL Lockout but haven’t made much of an impact.

    In those seven playoff appearances since the last lockout, the Sharks have made it to the conference finals twice. Conversely, they’ve been eliminated in the conference semifinals twice—one of which was in the 2008-09 season when they won the President’s Trophy.

    Even with promising young stars like Logan Couture and skilled veterans like Joe Thornton, the Stanley Cup will likely continue to elude the Sharks.

    If the lockout leads to the cancellation of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sharks will benefit from a year without an embarrassing postseason exit. They can use that time to take a look at the franchise and determine what needs to be done to make deeper playoff runs.

Prospects Will Have a Chance to Develop During the Work Stoppage

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    The Sharks are an aging team in need of new blood. They have a good amount of players pushing the age of 30. While they may still have a few years left in their career, they can’t be as heavily relied on.

    Take, for example, 33-year-old center Joe Thornton. Ever since joining the team in 2005, Thornton has been an offensive staple. In seven seasons with the team, Thornton has posted 155 goals and 469 assists. He led the Sharks in scoring in 2011-12 but can’t be expected to continue at that pace for many more years.

    Thornton’s scoring numbers have been steadily declining. He hasn’t had a point-per-game season since 2009-10. This past season was the first time since joining the franchise that he scored less than 20 goals.

    Thornton, in addition to the other aging Sharks, still have plenty of value to the team. The veteran players have an important responsibility when it comes to helping the younger players develop.

    First-round draft pick Tomas Hertl is one prospect that is poised to break into the NHL anytime now. If it weren’t for the NHL Lockout, there’s a possibility that Hertl could have made his NHL debut with the Sharks.

    Hertl is a good two-way center. He plays well in the defensive zone by reading plays and is adept at creating plays in the offensive zone. Some more seasoning with the Czech Slavia Praha HC will do him good.

    There are plenty of other prospects that will continue to work towards their eventual NHL debut. Hertl is one of the few on the brink of a spot on the Sharks roster that will benefit from extra seasoning during the lockout, though. 

     

    Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sportswriting Intern. To stay up to date with his WWE and NHL commentary, you can like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and follow him on Tout.