Kukla's Korner Hockey
from David Pollak of the Mercury News,
So what went wrong? How did a team that finished with 111 points last season -- tied for fourth best in the NHL -- fall so far?
"We can't look at a single faction of our team, whether it's the youth or the older players or the leadership or the coach or the coaching staff," coach Todd McLellan said this week. "Whatever it might be, we're team-deep as far as where we've put ourselves in the standings."
There is no shortage of things you can point to by looking at stats.
Patrick Marleau is a minus-16 and, with only 17 goals, is having his poorest season offensively since 2007-08. A year ago, Marleau had 33 goals and was even when it came to plus-minus.
Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto, two of the young players around whom the Sharks constructed their rebuild, did not show the improvement that was expected after their rookie seasons. Hertl, in fact, went backward. He has 12 goals in 74 games; last season, he had 15 goals in 37 games. Rookie defenseman Mirco Mueller also struggled at times as he tried to make the jump from junior hockey.
Same Page, Sarah Kwak and Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated discuss a few hockey topics...
Losing three of their past four games has pretty much put the kibosh on the Sharks’ playoff hopes. Following on the heels of several years of postseason frustration, you have to think change is coming to San Jose. Which shoe drops first?
KWAK: Change must come in San Jose, but the Sharks have been parroting that line for the last two years and so far, nothing. So I don’t know if change is coming. If it does, it’ll be GM Doug Wilson because he’s the one who has promised change and then not delivered.
PAGE: Wilson has to go first, right? It’s the order in which these things usually go, and he’s the instigator of the team’s recent dysfunction. It will then fall to the new GM to decide what to do with Todd McLellan and Joe Thornton, though it’s hard to imagine that either will be back with the Sharks next year.
MUIR: Thornton’s not going anywhere. They’ve stripped the C off his sweater, they embarrassed him in public and he doesn’t care (which really speaks to the bigger issue with Jumbo Joe, but that’s not the point of debate here). He’s happy in San Jose and he wants to stay. And with two years left on his contract and full no-movement protection, you can bet that’s exactly what he’s going to do. McLellan and Wilson, though? I think this is it for both of them. Not to wish ill on either man, but this organization needs fresh thinking before it considers a roster overhaul.
from Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
That should just about do it.
After allowing four goals in the third period on Monday at Canadian Tire Center to lose 5-2 to the Senators, the Sharks playoff odds went from remote to virtually impossible.
A seven-game road trip that began in Winnipeg with a confident group has now devolved into a funeral procession for the 2014-15 season. There are still nine games to go and three more stops on the trip, but for all intents and purposes the Sharks’ 10-year streak of making it to the postseason died in the frosty Canadian capital.
No one would say it in those words, of course, but there was a palpable sense that the players and coach are now reserved to their fate as a team....
Logan Couture was particularly sincere.
“We’re not good enough right now to compete against good teams in the NHL,” he said. “It’s disappointing. We’re a better team, I think, than what we’ve shown in the last couple months.
“Every night we go out there, we just haven’t been good enough on a consistent basis. It’s so disappointing because we believe in this room that we’ve got a good enough group of guys to make a push and to compete past the regular season. Consistently, we just don’t get the job done.”
from David Pollak of the Mercury News,
The final two minutes had plenty of drama. A shot by Brent Burns that clanked off the post. Another, 16 seconds later by Logan Couture, that appeared to beat Montreal goalie Carey Price before deflecting away off the knob of his stick.
Had either of those pucks crossed the goal line, the Sharks probably would have pulled at least a point out of Saturday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens.
But they didn't, San Jose would go on to lose 2-0, and now the Sharks likely have no margin of error if they are to keep alive their decade-long streak of making the playoffs.
"Yeah, we really do," Couture said when asked if the Sharks now need to run the table in their final 10 games. "We're not going to quit. We're going to compete until the very end and see what happens then."
Coach Todd McLellan wouldn't go that far -- "I'm not very good at math, so I'm not doing it," was his response to a question about his team's dire predicament. But with 10 games left, the Sharks can attain a maximum 98 points and it could take that many to qualify in the competitive Western Conference.
from Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
Finally, like everyone else in the hockey community, I was saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Capgeek founder Matthew Wuest. I had some contact with Matt over the years, and it was always a pleasant and professional experience.
One quick story – back in the 2012 offseason at the NHL draft in Pittsburgh, I asked the Sharks front office if they had discussions yet on extending Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was a pending unrestricted free agent the next summer. I was told that Vlasic was set to be a restricted free agent – not unrestricted.
That was contrary to what Capgeek had, so I let Matthew know that it was wrong.
Turned out, of course, that Capgeek was right. Vlasic was set to become an unrestricted free agent the next offseason due to his seven years of NHL experience, and a few weeks later on July 11, he signed a long contract extension with San Jose.
Perhaps Capgeek was informative to more than just hockey writers and fans.
more Sharks notes...
via Chris Abraham's YouTube page,
"Joe's not going anywhere. Joe is a San Jose Shark."
"He and I have not only a contractual agreement, but a handshake agreement. As I say, our relationship is extremely strong. I know Joe. I appreciate him. I've known him since the world juniors. I care about him a lot. He knows how I feel about him. I was actually complimenting him and supporting him when I was talking to our season-ticket holders."
San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Read more on this topic from Katie Strang of ESPN.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Many have been waiting for this moment in San Jose all season: the moment where the seams so tightly sewn by Wilson and the rest of the team come slowly undone, bursting to reveal the true nature of this team beneath.
And it provides a sharper edge to the proceedings that this undoing is occurring with less than a month to go in the regular season and with the Sharks still nibbling at the edges of the Western Conference playoffs -- having made 10 straight postseason appearances.
Wilson needled Thornton from afar by suggesting to season-ticket holders late last week that he took the captain's "C" from Thornton last offseason because he couldn't handle the pressure. Then Thornton suggested not too subtly that Wilson keep his yap shut and stop lying. The two might as well have planted a cartoon tub of TNT outside the Sharks' dressing room and dragged a long fuse to ownership's door.
It is clear now that barring some sort of monumental recovery by the team that would see them make up the five points they are now short of the playoffs and then make a decent showing in the postseason, ownership cannot allow the passive aggressiveness that has been this team's identity to continue.
No, this offseason will be a time for doing, not waiting and tinkering around the edges.
But who will be left standing?
from Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
The Sharks practiced at home on Monday for the final time before leaving on a seven-game, 14-day road trip that will determine whether they are a playoff or a lottery team.
The first four stops will be in Canadian cities, including Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Considering the recent off-ice events surrounding the club, and some of the media hotbeds they’ll be visiting, it’s safe to say that former captain Joe Thornton will get at least one question or 20 about the rift that has surfaced between him and general manager Doug Wilson.
Put another way, there will be many more reporters and cameras in the dressing room than there were on Monday at Sharks Ice, when a grand total of two – the San Jose Mercury News, and yours truly – were there chatting with players in the dressing room.
“It’s a little bit more attention, but nothing big,” Thornton said. “It’s just a couple more cameras. That’s all I can say. A couple more cameras, a couple more people in the locker room. We’re there to play hockey, and that’s the bottom line.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “The guys are focused on winning. I don’t think they’re focused on anything else but winning.”
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province,
- Early in the 2005-06 season, the Boston Bruins stunned the hockey world when they traded Joe Thornton to San Jose for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau. On the surface, the deal made no sense. Thornton was then a 26-year-old centre who’d averaged over 80 points a season over the three previous seasons in the middle of the dead-puck era. The three players the Bruins received in return were all second-liners.
In search of illumination, I asked a Bruins insider why they’d make that deal.
“Because Joe’s not a leader and he’ll never be a leader,” said the insider.
Thought about that last week when the feud between Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Thornton became public. Thornton has put up big numbers in San Jose but the Sharks have never made it out of the West with him as the team’s leader.
The Bruins, you may be aware, won the Stanley Cup five years after the trade.
- Spot quiz. What do Zach Sill, T.J. Brennan, Andrew MacWilliam, Joakim Lindstrom and Brandon Kozun have in common?
Class? Anyone? Anyone?
No, they are not five people who’ve never been in my kitchen. They all played for the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. It’s sad, really.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com