The Lost Season
It’s official: the San Jose Sharks will not be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003. The second longest postseason streak in the NHL has finally come to an end, thus bringing an unfamiliar feeling to the fanbase. One can only imagine what the organization will do to change its fortunes during the lengthy offseason. But even with all the questions surrounding the future, the result of this season was highly predictable.
Throughout the year, there were many indicators showing that the Sharks were not a playoff-caliber team. During the drama-filled season, the club saw key statistics plummet from the previous campaign; their goals-for percentage dropped from seventh in the league to 24th and their corsi-for fell from fifth to 13th. This team had gone from a Cup contender to a middle-of-the-road squad in just eleven months.
Many internal and external factors came into play to doom the once mighty Sharks. Terrible puck luck, altercations between players and management, and underperforming in winnable games were all key contributors to the outcome. This season was a mess, but to help give fans some organization in a discombobulated campaign, I have constructed a timeline to illustrate how the year progressed. As you read through them, it is easy to see that almost all of them were preventable. This is perhaps the most frustrating part of the whole dilemma; none of this had to happen.
A Timeline of Failure
Below are a list of events in chronological order that played a part in San Jose’s demise during the year. They include unfortunate injuries, managerial decisions, and poor play against bad teams. We will start with the moment the Sharks were on top of the NHL world and continue all the way through their elimination from postseason possibilities.
April 22, 2014 – San Jose takes a 3-0 series lead
After an overtime goal by Patrick Marleau, the San Jose Sharks put the Los Angeles Kings in a stranglehold by taking a 3-0 lead in the playoff series. San Jose needed just one win in four games to advance to the next round. Prior to this series, only three teams had overcome a three-game deficit in the postseason.
April 26, 2014 – Marc-Edouard Vlasic Injured
Jared Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings hit and injured star defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic in Game Five of the opening round. Vlasic– who is considered the Sharks’ best defensive player — would not appear in another game. This allowed Los Angeles to exploit San Jose’s lack of defensive depth on the left side for the remainder of the matchup.
April 30, 2014 – Los Angeles Reverse Sweeps
The Los Angeles Kings became the fourth team in NHL history to ever recover from being down 3-0 in a playoff series. The 5-1 win at SAP Center allowed the Kings to advance to the next round against the Anaheim Ducks. Six weeks later, Dustin Brown and his team would defeat the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals and hoist the Cup for the second time in three years.
May 15, 2014 – Burns Back to Defense
With Doug Wilson planning on letting defenseman Dan Boyle walk in the offseason, the organization announced they would be moving Brent Burns back to the blue line. This was a very controversial move, as Burns had been dominant on the first line with Joe Thornton the prior season. However, the loss of Boyle created a demand for a scoring defenseman on the team, which No. 88 was chosen to fulfill. Though his point totals stayed high, his defensive play was questionable all year-long.
June 5, 2014 – Boyle’s Rights Sent to Islanders
Dan Boyle’s contract was set to expire in July and he had not performed at his usual level after suffering a concussion earlier in the year. Since he was an unrestricted free agent, Doug Wilson made a move to get something in return for him instead of letting him walk for nothing. On this date, Boyle’s rights were traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for a conditional 2015 sixth-round pick. The best defenseman in franchise history was no longer a Shark.
July 2, 2014 – John Scott Signs with Sharks
Related Article by Kevin Kurz here.
In a free agency market that was littered with talented players such as Radim Vrbata and Matt Niskanen, San Jose elected to sign enforcer John Scott to a one-year deal. This would be the most impactful free agent the Sharks acquired that offseason because their only other addition was fellow goon, Michael Haley. This move confused fans because Doug Wilson was supposedly rebuilding the team and basing it off youth. Instead, he signed a physical skater with little offensive talent that would end up taking ice-time away from younger players.
August 20, 2014 – No Captain for San Jose
San Jose’s management continued to attempt a rebuild of the franchise by starting training camp without any captains or alternates. This concept effectively stripped Joe Thornton of the ‘C’ and has been a heated topic among the team and the media in the time since. In the seven months since camp started, the Sharks have rotated four alternates and have yet to name a definite captain to this day. This action resulted in a controversy over the leadership group and a quarrel between Wilson and Thornton.
October/November 2014 – Road Heavy Start
Related Article by David Pollak here.
The San Jose Sharks started the season by setting an NHL record for most road games played to start the year. Somehow, the Sharks landed a schedule that saw them play 16 of their first 21 contests away from SAP Center. While this eventually balances out over the course of an entire 82-game schedule, this set the Sharks up for a rough start. The club went 10-10-4 during the months of October and November as a result.
February 28, 2015 – Sharks Fall in February
Link to the February schedule here.
Things took a turn for the worst in the month of February for the Silicon Valley franchise. Over the 13 games played, the Sharks went just 3-8-2, including a 0-6-2 record on home ice. This poor month set the team back extremely and forced them to play catch-up in the following weeks.
March 13, 2015 – Wilson Should Shut His Mouth
Simmering issues boiling over in SJ. #SJSharks Thornton on latest from GM Wilson on taking away the 'C': "Doug needs to shut his mouth."
— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) March 13, 2015
After Doug Wilson told season ticket holders that he had stripped Joe Thornton of the captaincy because he lashes out at people, Thornton issued the above response. This added another layer in the Thornton vs. Wilson story that had been going on since the playoff collapse against Los Angeles. Even though the two allegedly worked out the situation behind closed doors, it was clear that neither party was seeing eye-to-eye with each other. The schism in the Sharks’ organization was now more prominent than ever before. #TeamJumbo
March 17, 2015 – Winnipeg Destroys San Jose
It took just 13 minutes for the Winnipeg Jets to gain a 3-0 lead on the San Jose Sharks in this Western Conference/West Side Story showdown. Despite the game being in the middle of March, the contest seemed to be a must-win for San Jose, given their remaining schedule and their position in the standings. Unfortunately, the Sharks surrendered three goals in the first period and lost by a score of 5-2. This devastating defeat occurred just four days after Joe Thornton called out his general manager.
April 4, 2015 – Sharks Lose to Coyotes
After managing a 4-0-1 record over the previous five games and keeping their slim playoff hopes alive, the Sharks fell to one of the worst teams in the league on a night when all of their competitors won. The horrific loss essentially killed any dream San Jose had at making the playoffs and put them within one point of being eliminated from contention.
April 6, 2015 – Sharks Eliminated
Even though the loss to the Dallas Stars would have eliminated the Sharks, the team was officially out of contention the second Winnipeg defeated the Minnesota Wild. The Jets, who possess the final wild card spot, had earned their 94th point. This was one more than what San Jose could mathematically earn, and meant that Team Teal would miss the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
What Mattered Most?
There were numerous occurrences that led to the result of this season. Even though there is always next year to look forward to, it will be difficult to handle the agony Sharks fans will go through during the playoffs. If the team wants to start selling out their home arena again, then serious changes need to happen in the summer.
With everything practically said and done, what do you think was the most important reason for San Jose missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-2005 lockout?
Drew Weber is a columnist for the San Jose Sharks at The Hockey Writers. He previously wrote articles and appeared on podcasts for Teal Town USA (formerly Pucknology) and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.