The San Jose Sharks have been in a bit of a rebuild as of late; however, they have yet to fully commit to it. Sharks long-time broadcaster Randy Hahn joined the Jeff Marek Show on Thursday, Dec. 15, and said, “I don’t think this fanbase in this marketplace has the appetite for what is happening in Detroit or what we see in Buffalo.” While it’s true that it may be difficult for Bay Area fans to get fully behind a rebuild, if the organization wants to win a Stanley Cup at some point, it needs to be done. The team already has some prospects in place, so if they decide to rebuild soon, it should be a short process, and unlike what we saw with the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes if it’s done correctly.
A Full Rebuild is Key to Sharks’ Success
Looking at the last 10 Stanley Cup champions, we can see that a full rebuild can bring success if an organization and its fans are willing to endure some hardships. It isn’t always a quick process – the Tampa Bay Lightning won their first Stanley Cup a decade after drafting Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, first and second overall in their respective drafts. Every organization’s goal is to win the Cup, and it has been demonstrated time and time again that success starts with high draft picks.
As it stands, the Sharks don’t have a single player who was selected in the top five of their draft class, although they have a few – like Timo Meier and Logan Couture – who were selected in the top 10. In terms of prospects, William Eklund was the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and is a phenomenal piece to build around. The Sharks seem like a prime contender for Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, or even Matvei Michkov, all three of whom could be franchise players. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks already have their centerpieces who could realistically lead their organization for the next decade. If the Sharks want to keep up with them over the next few years, they’ll need a superstar of their own.
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In order to properly rebuild, GM Mike Grier and head coach David Quinn will need to start giving opportunities to younger players. The Sharks have only played a single rookie this season, Nick Cicek, who was signed as an undrafted free agent and doesn’t seem like a big-time prospect, although stranger things have happened. Players like Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau are doing very well in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda, yet they haven’t been able to get an extended opportunity in the NHL.
Although it’s nice to have veterans on the roster, players like Matt Nieto and Nick Bonino are taking up roster spots that could be used to develop a player of the future. Now would be a great time for prospects to learn from the leadership group, as there’s no certainty about how long they’ll be with the organization, even with long-term contracts. The offseason departure of Brent Burns shows that management is willing to make some moves; however, as the current roster ages, they’ll likely become more frequent.
Why a Rebuild in San Jose May Be Difficult
Hahn’s argument makes sense as Bay Area fans can be easily distracted by one of the many options of things to do in the area. That hasn’t stopped other organizations from rebuilding, though. Teams like the Kings and New York Rangers are coming out of a rebuild or have done so recently. As an Original Six team, the Rangers will always be relevant regardless of how well play. An organization like the Sharks doesn’t have the same luxury as a team whose fans are willing to stick with them when they struggle. As a result, the team’s business operations will be less likely to support a full rebuild as, financially, it could have major ramifications. But on the hockey operations side, it is the logical way to go.
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It’s going to be difficult to fully commit to a rebuild, given the long-term contracts on the books. If the organization does go this route, it’ll also be very tough for fans to see players like Couture, Erik Karlsson, and others potentially on their way out. In the long run, though, it will give the organization the best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If they decide to keep sitting on the fence, however, it will be detrimental to the team for years to come.