by PuckStopsHere on 04/25/09 at 03:02 AM ET
One of the stories of the first round of the playoffs has been the struggles of the President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. They are currently losing to the Anaheim Ducks three games to one. The main reason for this is that the San Jose offence has not succeeded in the playoffs this year. The Sharks have only six goals in four playoff games and have been shut out twice. The Sharks only have three goals from their forwards in four games. Ryane Clowe, Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau have each scored one goal each. No other forwards have goals. Obviously that isn’t good enough.
A lot of the blame for this is being placed upon the shoulders of Joe Thornton. Thornton is the team’s regular season top scorer and while he has two assists, he has no goals in these playoffs. He has no history of successful playoff runs in his past. In his career he has never made it beyond the second round.
It is unfair to place a team’s failings all on one player. Thornton has been one of the best Sharks in the playoffs in recent years. He led the team in playoff points in both 2007 and 2008, with 11 and 10 points respectively.
There probably is no good reason to explain why the Sharks have not had a significant playoff run in recent years. Maybe they haven’t been a good enough team. This year is the first year they have clearly been among the top contenders. Maybe they were unlucky to run into a hot Anaheim Duck team in the first round. Maybe what we have seen is a fluke - equivalent to the Sharks losing multiple coin tosses in a row.
It is clear that San Jose has one of the best teams in the NHL. We have 82 games that prove that. Throwing away the data of 82 games because of four more games is a very poor way to evaluate teams.
San Jose will be tempted to make a big move to try to fix their lack of playoff success in the off-season, should they lose to the Ducks. They have to be smart when they do so. Merely trading Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau for a lesser return (which would seem like the most probable move at this point) would weaken the team. It would be a poor decision.
As President’s Trophy winner, obviously the San Jose Sharks are well on the right track to be Stanley Cup contenders. Even if they fail to escape the first round this year it is clear that they are a top team. Trying again with a similar core of players next year is probably their best move. It is hard to improve a team that finishes in first place in the regular season and easy to make moves to weaken it. Then again, the possibility of San Jose winning three games in a row is not unbelievable. It is entirely possible that they will come back and credit the Anaheim Ducks as giving them the initial shock needed to get on the right track for Stanley Cup success.
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