Final Report Card for San Jose Sharks' 2013-14 Season

Brad KurtzbergContributor IMay 1, 2014

Final Report Card for San Jose Sharks' 2013-14 Season

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    The Sharks had another disappointing finish to a promising season.
    The Sharks had another disappointing finish to a promising season.Uncredited/Associated Press

    Things didn't end well for the San Jose Sharks this season. Despite another impressive 111-point regular season, "Team Teal" once again had a brief and disappointing playoff appearance that overshadowed more than six months of successful hockey.

    The Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings, becoming only the fourth team in NHL history to suffer such a painful ending to a campaign.

    The playoff loss puts a damper on the season, mostly because the Sharks' fans have seen similar postseason results after outstanding regular seasons every year since 2003-04.

    Here is an in-depth look at the San Jose Sharks 2013-14 season. Feel free to comment on any of the issues raised here regarding the team. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.

Offense

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    Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with 41 goals.
    Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with 41 goals.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Sharks scored 239 goals, good for sixth-best in the NHL this season.

    Joe Pavelski led the way with 41 tallies, followed by Patrick Marleau with 33.

    Joe Thornton remained one of the league's best passers and finished the season with 65 assists.

    Ten different Sharks scored at least 10 goals on the season, with Logan Couture and Brent Burns each topping the 20-goal plateau.

    The Sharks were capable of rolling out three lines that could score. The offense featured speed, size and skill.

     

    Grade: A-

Defense

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    Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the Sharks' best overall defenseman.
    Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the Sharks' best overall defenseman.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    As a team, San Jose finished fifth in the league by allowing 193 goals.

    Dan Boyle is 37, but he still had a productive season and led all blueliners with 36 points. Jason Demers was close behind with 34.

    Marc-Edouard Vlasic was San Jose's best all-around defenseman, and his absence late in the playoff series against the Kings was most certainly felt.

    Matt Irwin and Justin Braun are young and developing, while Scott Hannon was still physical and added veteran leadership.

    The Sharks defense did its job for most of the season. There were no All-Stars in this group, but there was plenty of depth and a lot of good, steady players.

     

    Grade B+

Goaltending

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    Antti Niemi was benched in the playoffs.
    Antti Niemi was benched in the playoffs.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Antti Niemi was popular with his teammates and consistently played well enough for his team to win.

    Niemi finished with a 39-17-7 record to go with a 2.39 GAA and a .917 save percentage. Again, these are not All-Star numbers, but on an explosive team like the Sharks, it's more than enough to win a lot of hockey games.

    Niemi carried the workload, appearing in 64 games, but he slumped a bit late in the season and was yanked in Games 4 and 5 of the playoffs and benched for Game 6. That has to worry some observers.

    At 30, Niemi is in his prime. He's a goalie who is good enough to win a Stanley Cup, but he probably won't steal a lot of games for his team when they aren't playing well.

    Backup Alex Stalock put up outstanding numbers in 24 regular-season appearances. He finished with a 1.87 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Stalock's final record was 12-5-2.

    The St. Paul, Minn., native will be 27 next season and should be entering his prime. If he is ever going to step up and be a starter in this league, the time is now. Stalock has shown flashes but still has to prove he can perform at a consistently high level over 50-plus games.

    The Sharks have two very good goalies, but neither of them would be considered among the truly elite netminders in the league.

     

    Grade: B 

Special Teams

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    The Sharks' power play was often effective.
    The Sharks' power play was often effective.Associated Press

    The Sharks' power play finished 19th in the league with a 19.2 percent success rate. Considering all of the talent on the San Jose roster, you would expect the team would be ranked higher.

    Thirteen different Sharks players scored at least one power-play goal. Pavelski led the club with 16, while 17 of Thornton's assists came with the man-advantage.

    Dan Boyle quarterbacked the power play from the point, while Brent Burns added size.

    This unit was dangerous but should have been more consistent.

    The penalty kill finished sixth in the league with an 84.9 percent kill rate. Patrick Marleau, Tommy Wingels and Logan Couture tied for the team lead with two shorthanded goals each.

    Niemi and Stalock were usually solid when shorthanded, which helped the penalty-killing unit.

    The penalty kill was very good, the power play a bit of a disappointment.

     

    Grade: B-

Coaching

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    Will the early playoff exit mean the end of Todd McLellan's tenure in San Jose?
    Will the early playoff exit mean the end of Todd McLellan's tenure in San Jose?Associated Press

    Todd McLellan has accumulated a very impressive coaching record in six seasons behind the San Jose bench.

    The former Detroit Red Wings' assistant has gone 271-130-57 with the Sharks, and his team has won 50 or more games in a season three times.

    But as successful as McLellan's clubs have been in the regular season, they have underachieved in the playoffs. San Jose has never reached the Stanley Cup Final despite finishing with more than 100 points four times and never finishing below 96 points in a full 82-game season.

    The biggest criticism facing the Sharks is that they aren't clutch and lack heart in the postseason. When it counted, San Jose played a finesse-style of offense against the Kings when they needed to be more physical and try to get goals in the "dirty areas" of the ice.

    Another very successful regular season is overshadowed by a devastating and premature playoff exit.

     

    Grade: B-

Overall

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    The Sharks did not make a long playoff run this year.
    The Sharks did not make a long playoff run this year.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Right now, the Sharks' historic collapse against the Kings stings. It is yet another playoff disappointment after a very successful regular season.

    This is the same pattern the team has followed for roughly a decade, and it's getting very frustrating for the team and general manager Doug Wilson.

    It is very possible this summer will feature many changes. Wilson has showed a lot of patience with the team's core players, but nothing he's done has gotten the club over that playoff hurdle.

    Cornerstones of this team like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are getting older and can't seem to lead the team to postseason success. Will one or both of them be gone? It will be tough to get another team to assume their rather large contracts.

    Will there be a coaching change? Will other key players be moved? Some significant changes have to be expected.

    It's difficult to describe this season as a success when San Jose had championship aspirations and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Blowing a 3-0 series lead to an in-state rival and losing Game 7 at home only made the loss more painful.

    The regular-season grade would be an A-, but when you include the postseason, the result is much lower.

     

    Grade: B-