SAN JOSE- For some bizarre unknown reason, the San Jose Sharks front office has recently been throwing around the word rebuild to describe the current phase of their organization. Typically the term rebuild is saved for teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets, you know, teams that missed the playoffs.
The Sharks however, have qualified for the postseason for 10 straight seasons, and were the third best possession team in the entire NHL this past season. As many have pointed out, the Sharks have no business referencing the term rebuild in connection with their squad, but that is where General Manager Doug Wilson has gone this offseason. He is using the word rebuild.
If anyone can remember the last time an NHL organization picked to win the Stanley Cup year after year including the upcoming season, has used the word rebuild, please let me know, because I certainly can’t recall it.
After their blown 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings, Wilson was quoted as saying “with all due respect to the Matty Irwins and the James Sheppards, they can’t be your only goal scorers the last three games.”
Clearly Wilson was calling out his top performers for not scoring. Which in itself is rather absurd to throw proven all-star players under the bus for a snake bit three game stretch against the best overall and best defensive team in hockey.
Patrick Marleau literally came millimeters away from putting San Jose up 2-1 in Game 7 if not for a miraculous stop by Jonathan Quick. The chances were there, the bounces just didn’t go their way. Two years in a row losing to the best team in the league in 7 games proves the Sharks do indeed have what it takes. Only a couple of small tweaks to the roster could have put the Sharks in position to ice their best lineup in franchise history in 2014-15 and have a great chance at the cup. Ask any respected hockey analyst outside of the Sharks organization and they’ll tell you the same exact thing.
Again, for some unknown and bizarre reason, Wilson and his hockey staff are convinced the Sharks aren’t close enough to the level of the Kings and the Blackhawks to be worthy of the “go for it” attitude.
Even though all the advanced hockey saber metrics suggest otherwise, that is the opinion of the Sharks hockey staff. And because they feel that way, they have said they want to give ice time to their younger players.
But instead of giving their young forwards roster spots, they go out and re-sign Mike Brown and bring in John Scott, two journeyman fourth line (at best) forwards. With Adam Burish, Brown, Scott, Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins under contract, that Sharks have 5 veteran bottom 6 players signed. Where exactly are these openings for the younger players at the forward position?
Thus far during the offseason, all the other legitimate contenders (outside the champion Kings who need no help) in the Western Conference have added marquee talent to their roster. St. Louis Blues added Paul Stastny, the Chicago Blackhawks added Brad Richards, the Dallas Stars picked up Jason Spezza, and Ales Hemsky and the Anaheim Ducks acquired Ryan Kesler.
By standing still and not adding any new top-9 forwards or top-4 defense to fill holes in their roster, the Sharks are clearly falling behind their peers on paper.
And for a fan base hungry for a cup after years of being a contender year in and year out, that is a huge stomach punch not to fix holes in the roster and compete with the other contenders.
As wrong as many think the Sharks are in the assessment of their own team, at least they could show their fans some actual commitment to getting younger. But bringing back Brown and bringing in Scott are the exact opposite of a commitment to a youth movement/rebuild.
So not only has the organization disappointed their fans by choosing not to make a push to win the 2015 Stanley Cup, they are punching them in the stomach all over again by clogging up roster spots with veteran role players who have no potential to grow out of fourth line roles.
Right now the organization is a complete mess. There is no clear direction. After the most disappointing playoff exit in franchise history, one would think they would do everything they can to reinvigorate their fan base and keep season ticket holders. Instead, not only have they not come close to doing so, many fans are actually angrier now than they were two months ago after the Game 7 loss.
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