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.
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?
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.
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.