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Congratulations, Ray Ratto: you got your ultimate dream!
On Sunday, the San Jose Sharks suffered what might have been their most devastating and bitter series defeat in team history.
Having muffled their critics by climbing out of a 2-1 series hole against upstart Colorado and then disposing of the vaunted Red Wings four games to one, the Sharks were swept out of the playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks, despite having played well enough to win at least three of the four games.
San Jose's fan base is comprised in large part of very casual fans. As a result the team has long had little accountability for postseason short comings. Most Sharks fans will gush over recovering in the first round and finally beating the Red Wings, ultimately categorizing the trip to the conference finals (results aside) as a sign of progress.
However, more savvy fans are left to ask a difficult question: is Coach Todd McLellan's much-discussed "process" really working? Is this third-round loss a stepping stone to greater things, or is it simply the latest in a long and painful litany of playoff disappointments?
After all, the Blackhawks followed up a conference finals loss in 2009 with this performance in 2010, but after Ron Wilson led the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, he never again got them past the second round. And Ron Wilson's team took the conference finals series to six games.
The Sharks looked like a different team through two rounds of competition this postseason, far removed from the perennial postseason underachievers they have long been. While overall they played a terrific series in the third round, they could not find ways to win, despite holding leads in three of four games.
Such frustration is eerily reminiscent of what Sharks hockey has seemingly always been when the games matter most.
Much has been made of the offseason decisions the Sharks would face in 2010, win or lose. The question now becomes: should the Sharks brass consider radical changes to the team?
With back to back top seed finishes and a 10-11 postseason record, Todd McLellan likely warrants another year at the helm, but perhaps the team should weigh other options. If they do retain McLellan, which they probably should and likely will, whom should he be coaching?
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both chipped in with strong postseason performances in 2010, and role players like Ryane Clowe, Scott Nichol, and Manny Malhotra all made contributions. Joe Pavelski emerged as scoring threat and even Evgeni Nabokov played better than in past years. But it still wasn't enough.
The Sharks cannot afford to keep their whole 2010 roster together, but should they even try to retain as many current players as possible? The current roster has some elite talent, but would holding on to the past in such a way just be perpetuating this demoralizing culture of playoff problems?
In my opinion nobody should be sacred. The Sharks should honestly consider parting ways with the likes of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Devin Setoguchi, Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edward Vlasic, and Evgeni Nabokov. Bidding them all farewell in one offseason may not be viable, but perhaps some this year, and if things do not change, more next year.
Everything that has always been Sharks hockey has always been postseason pain. Perhaps the only way to overcome that is beginning to purge the key contributors to that history and making a fresh start.
There once was a time when it would have been unthinkable to see Owen Nolan in any other sweater, but that came to pass. The Sharks may have started the process last offseason, parting with Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and Christian Erhoff. Is it finally time for even more turn over?
I think it has to be considered and I am eager to see if team executives have similar thoughts. Only time will tell.
Keep the Faith!