Sharks Fans Fair to Question Front Office

What is a Rebuild?

“I guess there are so many different terminologies that can be used for it” commented San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan when asked recently by NHL.com’s Dan Rosen about the term rebuild and how his organization is changing. San Jose previously had stemmed away from using the word rebuild because of what it is most typically associated with. Yes, there are great arguments to be had that rebuilding doesn’t necessarily mean missing the playoffs or drafting in the top-5. But let’s be real. In hockey circles the term rebuild is almost entirely reserved for teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames of recent years. And that is why many, myself included, have criticized the Sharks for using the terminology. They were smart to have stayed away from using it in the past.

Fooling Yourselves?

Back in June, Sharks GM Doug Wilson told the media, “I don’t think we feel we’re close enough to where the other teams are at” later adding, “I honestly think we’d be fooling ourselves.” If you remember, the Sharks finished the 2013-14 season with 111 points and home ice advantage in the first round series against the Los Angeles Kings. Two straight years the Sharks were neck and neck with the Kings in seven game series where possession was nearly 50-50.

Not close enough? Yeah, not buying that. San Jose was the third best possession team in the league in 2013-14. The two teams ranked higher have won four of the last five Stanley Cups. It is quite evident that the Sharks are very, very close to the top teams in hockey. It just so happens that the Sharks haven’t quite had the perfect mix and necessary luck to break through and win a championship. Did we all of a sudden forget winning the Stanley Cup is incredibly hard?

Head Scratcher

The “not close” comments are much more frustrating to knowledgeable Sharks fans than the use of the term rebuild. Wilson comes off as losing faith in his core group of players that are still as good as any other. At this point, it’s only conjecture that Wilson tried to trade Patrick Marleau and or Joe Thornton. However, given rumors and reading between the lines, it is a common conclusion that the Sharks were indeed trying to move either or both. The question is, why? Thornton had a another terrific year in 2013-14, second behind only Sidney Crosby in assists and Marleau posted yet another 30 goal season. By any and all metrics, Wilson’s team is as close to a Stanley Cup as they ever have been. Therefore, it seems puzzling that the organization would want to trade away their best players when chances are they wouldn’t get anywhere near adequate return. If the reason stems from the apparent lack of locker room chemistry, well, last checked, off ice camaraderie has yet to be linked to on ice chemistry.

Photo By: JEFF BLAY

Photo By: JEFF BLAY

If the Sharks are worried about what happens inside the locker room, the GM making public statements that his perennial playoff team isn’t close enough can’t help the morale. Plus do the GM and coach not see eye to eye? In that same NHL.com interview, McLellan says, “they won three game 7s on the road against very good teams. so they were the champs. There is no doubt about it. That could mean we have a group that is close but still has to figure out a way to close the deal.”

Will The Real Sharks Please Stand Up?

Simply put the Sharks have come off as a mess this offseason with no clear identity, direction, or confidence. Do they or do they not think they’re close? If they do, why not bring in some fresh outside talent to change things up? After all, Wilson said after the playoffs that status quo was “not an option”. Right now though the Sharks are basically the same team. This offseason they have let go of a hand full of struggling veterans, put Brent Burns back on defense, traded for AHL-NHL tweener Tye McGinn and signed bruiser John Scott. None of these are significant changes. It pretty much has remained status quo, which is indeed close enough. The Sharks are only a few pieces away from being as good as any team in hockey. However, the Sharks haven’t added any talent to the roster over the offseason while most other Western Conference contenders have gotten quite a bit better.

Perhaps the real Sharks will stand up at the trade deadline, at least that is the hope many fans have with San Jose’s current six million in cap space.

 

Andrew Bensch

Andrew Bensch

Andrew has been credentialed to cover the Sharks since 2010 and the 49ers since 2012. He graduated with his BA in Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts in 2013 from San Francisco State University. You can follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch
Andrew Bensch
With Torres injured and Burns on defense, #SJSharks don't have the same tenacity up front: http://t.co/M8v6wzOefu - 2 hours ago
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10 Comments

  1. After everything that’s happened–and hasn’t happened–this offseason, I get the distinct impression that SSE is doing everything it can to lower fan expectations for the season. The loss of Dan Boyle means moving Burns to defense, and the team hasn’t replaced Burns on the wing. San Jose drafts and develops its own talent better than just about any team in the NHL, but those are huge skates to fill. Even if Mueller steps in to fill a regular spot and Hertl returns to health, the loss of Dan Boyle is huge, just huge. (And let’s not forget, he also gave the best post-game interviews.)

  2. While I am a rabid fan of the Sharks, I can not claim to be the most knowledgeable fan. My impressions are the office made a serious mistake giving Thornton and Marleau extensions on the salary. Not only are they getting older, they are not as productive. Toward the end of the season, I was watching Thornton give up the puck much too much and at times just allowing the other team to hit it in the net as the give up was in our zone. What was worse was the productiveness of the two during the playoff. They might as well not be there. Also, while I am on my soapbox, what is the deal of firing Drew? Are we supposed to not be aware of mistakes our team makes? Are we fans are to be sugar coated and lied to regarding who screwed up and who did not?

  3. Paul E Rhythm says:

    Nice article. The question has to be ask, is Thornton and Marleau the answer after all these years? I thought Wilson’s use of rebuild was out of frustration. After he said it, he had to ask, how? You got NMC for those two leaders so, can’t move them if they’re not willing to waive it. Moving Burns back to D? He’s a heck of a lot better playing with Jumbo up front. The problem I saw in the Kings series was not handling adversity. Also, team unity starts with players being close off the ice. Did you know that King players live within 5 miles of each other? They hang out together and all get along. They play for each other. They fear letting their team mates down which bodes well in tough situations. Until the Sharks start playing for each other; handle adverse situations, they’ll fall short.

    • Andrew Bensch Andrew Bensch says:

      Thanks for the comment, but I have to disagree with that question needing to be asked. Two players do not make a team. All they ever do is produce and produce. While yes, this series they didnt handle adversity well, but in many other series, they have overcome it. Boyle own goal vs Avalanche, they overcame, the huge comeback vs LA in 2011, coming back late against the Canucks, overcoming Vlasic delay of game to win the next two games. Just because you don’t like a guy off the ice doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t do anything for him on the ice, players play for the sweater in the playoffs.

  4. I think Wilson would just as soon see the Sharks out of contention come the trade deadline next year so he can make another run at moving JT and or PM. Maybe one or even both would be more amiable to a trade if it was clear that the Sharks weren’t going to be a serious contender for the the next couple of years.

    Worst case scenario (as a Sharks fan) is that they are close enough at the deadline that Wilson feels obligated to add a piece or two and they squeak in as a low seed only to be bounced out in the first round again and another year wasted. I’d be fine with an actual rebuild, or sticking with the current team and adding some serious help but this indecision and lack of commitment either way is the worst of all choices.

    • Andrew Bensch Andrew Bensch says:

      Appreciate the comment JWR, I honestly don’t understand why Wilson would all of a sudden want to trade two guys he has stuck by for years and whom are still elite players. Marleau is Mr. Shark and all the success the Sharks have had in recent years has been with Thornton leading the way. These two have never been the problem, its the been the lack of talent around them.

  5. Good article. Gives recognition to the Sharks’s clear skill and potential. Ultimately, I think it’s unfortunate that no matter what happened, either the Sharks or the Kings had to go packing home after round 1, and that’s not something to merely dismiss. The Sharks can be a dominant team in the post season as they are over the course of the regular season, and it’s a shame that their division is so competitive. Can you blame them? As stated, winning a Stanley Cup isn’t that damn easy…

    • Andrew Bensch Andrew Bensch says:

      Appreciate the comment Brett! Yeah it’s pretty unfortunate the Kings and Sharks had to play each other in round 1. I was hoping either would face the Ducks in round 1 because I think both are better than the Ducks. Although that might be closer now with Kesler there, but last season definitely Kings and Sharks were notch above Anaheim even though Ducks won the division.

  6. Thought this was great. Seems like management had a hard time moving NTCs. Deadline should be interesting. Hopefully the young’ins will step up

    • Andrew Bensch Andrew Bensch says:

      Appreciate the love Nathan! If say Mueller or Irwin can solidify themselves as a clear top 5 D capable of playing second pair, then all SJ will need at trade deadline is a scoring winger. But that’s a big if.

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