The San Jose Sharks are on the bubble of the Western Conference playoff picture for the second season in a row, but missing the playoffs would be the best thing to happen to this franchise at the moment.
The Sharks have made the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons, but a Stanley Cup has never been hoisted in the city of San Jose, despite several close calls and many disappointing missteps along the way.
With the team struggling and the roster slowly becoming a group of underachievers, general manger Doug Wilson has some decisions to make—both at the trade deadline and during the offseason.
The Ottawa Sun is reporting that Wilson “is in panic mode,” with most of the roster being placed on the trade block. Players expected to be moved elsewhere are Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray.
The Sharks have lost 16 of their last 21 games, with only three regulation wins in that span, after starting the season 7-0-0. The team has showed no signs of returning to their early-season form and appear headed for a complete makeover.
Making the playoffs this season only gives false hope that they are a roster worth keeping together and a team that can still compete for a Stanley Cup. Through 22 games of a shortened NHL season, they are not, which is why Wilson needs to blow the team up, restart and rebuild in search of better days ahead.
The best thing is that the Sharks are in the perfect position to rebuild, something the franchise has seemingly been expecting for the past couple seasons, as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun pointed out.
San Jose has just $27 million committed to their roster past the 2013-14 season, which is split up between the likes of Brent Burns, Antti Niemi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brad Stuart, Adam Burish and Justin Braun. Past the 2014-15 season, the Sharks are mostly only committed to Burns and Vlasic, who, with Logan Couture, are expected to withstand Wilson’s presumed overhaul and become pieces to build around for the future.
The one-time core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski has never worked and will never work, especially now since their contracts with the Sharks are up after the 2013-14 NHL season. Aside from the 28-year-old Pavelski, the core is expected to be shopped either this offseason or at the trade deadline of next season when San Jose will have their last chance of stocking up with young talent for seasons to come.
Wilson’s focus should be on prospects and draft picks, something he has traded away in recent years in a desperate attempt to build around the Sharks’ core players. The misstep by Wilson has set the team back several seasons, and now is the time to concede to defeat and start again with the roster he so cleverly constructed.
While many can hope that the Sharks somehow sneak into the playoffs this season and confirm their beliefs that San Jose is one of the best teams in the Western Conference, know that it is the beginning of the end no matter how much success the team led by Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski have the rest of the way.
Change is coming in San Jose, and the only question is “when?”
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