Time for Sharks to step up
San Jose's window is getting smaller, and the time to make a move
into Cup contention is now.
NEW YORK, NY -- If a team's greatness is measured in championships,
the San Jose Sharks are yet to be immortalized in that upper echelon.
Eight consecutive post-season appearances, with none concluding in the
The Sharks have enjoyed more regular-season success over the past
decade than almost any other team in the NHL. They have built a
consistent winner in the Bay Area, playing more than a few meaningful
games. But with the team aging, now is the time to bring home the only
hardware that matters.
After a regular season that many teams around the league would be
thrilled with, the Sharks were knocked out of playoffs by the St.
Louis Blues in the conference quarterfinals. On the negative side of
things, however, the 96 points they finished with were the lowest
total since the 2002-03 season.
"Changes can come in many ways," explained Sharks GM Doug Wilson on
break-up day. "We changed 9-10 players last year. We are in full
review of everything. Right now, it's an honest evaluation of
everything before we start getting into the decision making process,
but there will be changes."
Now, over month after the start of free agency, very little has
changed for the Sharks.
Rick Nash, the newest member of the New York Rangers, was the biggest
scorer rumored to lace up the skates for the home team in the Shark
Tank. But, after Scott Howson's ludicrous, rumored demands, included
rising superstar Logan Couture, the Sharks balked and let the Rangers
step up to the plate.
Couture, the 23-year-old Ontario native, enjoyed perhaps his most
successful season to date, setting a career high in points.
The only positive acquisition, thus far, has been veteran defender
Brad Stuart. The 32-year-old blueliner began his career in San Jose.
"Brad is a player we are very familiar with -- a physical, team-first
defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of
mentality we want our team to possess," said Wilson in a statement
after the trade.
There are a few ways the Sharks could possibly score big looking ahead
to the season, but some may be more painful than others.
Their first option is to retool their team with young talent by
trading away a few of their older pieces.
Veteran defender Dan Boyle was rumored to be on the trading block
earlier in the off-season. Still a top powerplay option, the
36-year-old alternate captain would be a perfect piece for a team
looking to put themselves over the top. Teams would line-up to get a
crack at Boyle, especially ones that have spent much of the offseason
sniffing around for blueline help like the Pittsburgh Penguins,
Philadelphia Flyers, Rangers or Detroit Red Wings.
As an integral member of the team, it would require a hefty package to
coax the Sharks into trading away their top offensive defenseman. The
new contract of Marc-Eduard Vlasic, along with another year of Brent
Burns getting familiar with the system may make it a little easier to
let Boyle go.
Patrick Marleau, who has been with the team his entire NHL career, is
another player who could return a strong package of young players. His
30 plus goal consistency over the past few seasons would make him
highly sought after in today's current trade market.
When asked about the longevity of the team's core Marleau explained,
"As far as staying together that's not really up to us."
Big Joe Thornton, whose Hall of Fame resume still has a big zero in
the championship column, is the final piece of the core that would
command the biggest return of all. And while is very likely he will
suit up again at HP Pavillion as the Sharks captain, trading him for a
plethora of assets would certainly shake the team up, possibly for the
The biggest team need would be adding speed on the wings. A team like
the Rangers, who were mentioned to have a mild interest in Thornton,
have a few speedy young wingers in Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin that
could be of definite interest. A trade a Thornton would not be just
for futures, however, as the Sharks would look to plug up as many
holes with more than viable options if they were to trade their star.
As the off-season slugs ahead, and will continue to for an
indeterminate amount of time it appears more and more likely that the
team may have to wait until a good chunk of the season is behind them
to re-evaluate their roster.
"There are things we have to reflect on," lamented head coach Todd
McLellan on breakup day. "Some will leave satisfied, others will look
at it and say we need to make changes, but that's part of the team
There are still a few veteran options that could act band-aid for the
time being. Petr Sykora and Kristian Huselius are both options for a
team looking to temporarily patch a few areas up. Sykora is coming off
a strong campaign with the New Jersey Devils, while Huselius will be
looking to bounce back after hip surgery limited him to just two
appearances last season.
The Sharks should once again be in the conversation of the top teams
in the Western Conference. But with father time looming, the window is
slowly shutting on the team's Stanley Cup dreams.