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August 5, 2012 | 9:53am ET
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 Promised Land.

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 better.

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 evaluation."

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.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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