2010 NHL Playoffs: Can the San Jose Sharks Get Rid of the "Choker" Label?

Chase RuttigCorrespondent IApril 22, 2010

DENVER - APRIL 18:  Rob Blake #4 of the San Jose Sharks looks on during a break in the action against the Colorado Avalanche in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 18, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Sharks 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks are on the brink of another April collapse. It is a story that is all too familiar come playoff time.

The Sharks come into the playoffs after a impressive regular season only to meet a young team with hot goaltending and hungry play and get sent home early, leaving hockey experts scratching their heads after picking San Jose to win it all entering the playoffs.

Over the last five years they have won their division, but they have yet to make a Stanley Cup Finals appearance and have eventually choked in every way possible.

The blame usually falls upon star player Joe Thornton, who throughout his career has disappeared in the playoffs, but at some point management and the rest of his team has to take accountability for the playoff performance of their franchise. When it comes down to it, this is a team that is nearly a lock to finish first in the West every year, but it seems to just fall apart when the going gets tough.

The Sharks traded to get Dany Heatley and Rob Blake for a playoff push, but with Heatley's injuries and Blake's age, I wonder if management made the necessary moves to get the team over the hump.

Their main problem is in goal as they have never found the backup to Nabokov and as a result he seems to fade in the playoffs due to the amount of regular season miles he puts on year in and year out.

There are so many old stories involving the Sharks regarding their postseason woes that this article would be a novel if I tried to completely address the problems the Sharks have. Nonetheless, the question is this: Can the Sharks finally get rid of the "choker" label?

I say no.

The Sharks have a tough test ahead of them with the Avalanche, and you can be sure if they lose this series, currently tied at two games apiece, questions will once again be asked. And if they manage to advance past the first round, I have my doubts that they will be able to win another series this year.

The only way a team that creates high expectations with great regular-season accolades can get rid of the label of underperforming is to win a Stanley Cup, and while the Sharks seem to dominate for the majority of every season, they are not built for playoff hockey.

Their lineup is simply too thin to compete over two months and win four series against comparable teams, and their players seem to not have the correct mental makeup to do it. Unless they blow up the roster, the trend will never reverse.

The story continues in San Jose, and I think it may be a never-ending one at that.

Chase Ruttig is a 17-year-old sportswriter from Yorkton, Saskatchewan; his writing has been featured on several Web sites and he will be covering the NHL and NBA playoffs. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/chaseruttig or check out his articles here daily for more thoughts and analysis.