SAN JOSE- For the second straight regular season, the San Jose Sharks are not playing up to expectations. Despite reaching the final four in both 2009-10, and 2010-11, the Sharks have since been a team floundering around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff bracket.
And fittingly, the media world (both mainstream and twitter talk) is currently rampant about whether or not the Sharks should make a push for another playoff run or re-stock for the future.
Now for those of you who have read my stuff in the past and follow me on twitter (@ViewFromBensch), you know where I stand. This organization has put too much into the Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau era to just pack it in now. They have a good young defense. That’s right, the words young and Sharks in the same sentence (the disturbingly awful usage of said defense will be an article for another day). They also have championship caliber netminding in Antti Niemi to go with a tremendous set of top-four forwards in Thornton, Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Not to mention they employ a handful of other forwards like Martin Havlat, Scott Gomez and Ryane Clowe, who have been effective top-six players in the recent past. And while Clowe and Havlat are each having down years, if the Sharks were to add one more top- six caliber forward at the deadline, this team would still have the potential to do a lot of damage in the playoffs (Look at LA last season as an example). Now would trading one of their few prospects and a high draft choice for a player like Jarome Iginla be a bad trade for the long-term? Certainly. But if the Sharks were to execute it and win the Stanley Cup this season, I don’t think many fans would complain.
That said, while yours truly has a go for it now type approach, the concept of throwing in the towel on this season and building for the future is a valid one.
It has been noted in many a Sharks circle that San Jose has a limited amount of contracts committed beyond next season. I believe it to be somewhere in the range of just $27 million, with only Martin Havlat, Adam Burish, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Antti Niemi signed past 2013-14.
While there are pros and cons to going in each direction, paraphrasing Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” quotation is not the only famous quote that needs to be addressed with the Sharks. Whichever choice they make, they ought to make it emphatically.
In other words, “go big or go home.”
The local fans deserve to know what direction this team is going in. If management (AKA GM Doug Wilson) decides to make a run, another Jamie McGinn for Daniel Winnik and T. J. Galiardi type trade simply isn’t good enough. Firing the head coach (Todd McLellan has had better years behind the bench) and/or trading for a sure-fire top six player is a minimum requirement to shake up this team for a Cup push. Right now the team has gone stale. They need something incredibly bold to shake things up.
But if Wilson decides to build for the future, then trading just Ryane Clowe, or just Dan Boyle also isn’t good enough. What message does that send? Are you building for the future? Or are you still trying to make the run now? If the organization decides to trade players away to re-stock the prospect cupboard, then not only do they need to trade both Clowe and Boyle but finding a way to move Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau is a must. Trading just one veteran would keep the team in the position they’ve been all year, lacking an identity. The question of the Marleau/Thornton “window” would still remain.
The fans deserve their team to commit to one route or another.
Robert Frost took the road less traveled by, he didn’t remain in limbo.
Right now, the Sharks don’t know what road they are taking but they might want to decide soon.
Once again, for more on the Sharks, you can follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch