The lackluster play of the San Jose Sharks has been more than apparent to fans this season. In return, they have responded, failing to sell out the SAP Center for five of nine of their home games, ending a 205-game sell out streak. Fans may have already forgotten that back in June Sharks general manager Doug Wilson stated that the team was “going into a rebuild and taking a step backwards.”
He’s nailed at least one thing right on the head.
It seems even in the games the Sharks have managed to win so far this season, they’ve demonstrated a very obvious issue with finishing strong and comfortably, as we all saw in their 6-4 victory against the Ducks this past weekend. At one point in the game, they had a four goal lead, only to see that lead trimmed to a single goal. The Sharks record of 12-10-4 right now would put them on pace to record 85 points this season. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the Sharks would be missing out on the NHL’s annual summer tournament for the first time since 2003.
Several fans question the legitimacy of the teams rebuild, with its sole offseason acquisition of forward John Scott, so the question remains, what’s the problem for the Sharks?
- The more apparent of the Sharks issues is the most obvious one – depth. At the Sharks blue line, where they traditionally struggled, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are a combined plus-20, where as all other defensemen are a combined minus-30. The Sharks newly acquired defenseman Brandon Dillon has played three games with his new club and is already a minus-5. The worst plus/minus in the defensive core belongs to that of Brent Burns who, after having a successful trial at the forward position, was moved back to the blue line this season. He is currently minus-9.
- Burns has had a very difficult season moving back to the blue line after spending a season as a power forward, recording 22 goals and finishing plus-26. Depth up front in terms of Sharks goal scoring has become an apparent issue so far as well. In their ten regulation losses, the Sharks have only scored 15 goals, and 13 of those goals have been scored by four players: Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns.
- Finally, the biggest and possibly most curious issue of all with the Sharks has nothing to do with the product on the ice. It has to do with management. Several Sharks fans were calling for head coach Todd McLellan’s head on a silver platter during their most recent four-game skid. McLellan is a coach who is very respected around the league, both for his coaching, and how he interacts with his players and, if fired, would not be unemployed very long. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson however, might be in a position where his worth to the franchise has reached its plateau. Despite what they have said publicly, we’ve seen evidence from team veterans Thornton and Patrick Marleau that leads us to believe they weren’t very happy about Wilson asking them to leave open the option of waiving their no-trade-clauses. And it was the usually-cautious Marleau that voiced his displeasure about moving Burns back to the blue line.
Doug Wilson has announced and made it clear to the fans that his team is in a rebuilding phase, but seven players on his team have no-trade-clauses in their contracts. Hardly seems like the environment where rebuilding can take place and change can be implemented.