Sharks Might be Better Served Missing the Playoffs

Bitter Sweet Streak

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Given their up and down season, the San Jose Sharks might actually be better served to miss the playoffs altogether. It would mean the end to a bitter sweet decade long playoff streak but it is a streak that’s more bitter than sweet. During the past 10 seasons San Jose has failed to even once reach the Stanley Cup final, let alone win it. Therefore, the streak isn’t overly celebrated by the organization and the fans. They would lose some revenue in the short term but the long term it may pay out down the road. The last time the Sharks missed the postseason they came back the following year to have their most successful season to date. The very start of the playoff streak saw the 2004 Sharks lose in six games in the Western Conference final. Perhaps this current version of the team needs a bit of a reset. Missing the playoffs can allow for rest and recovery, as well as a higher draft position.

Currently the Sharks hold onto a playoff spot by the slimmest of margins. They are only four points up on fifth place Los Angeles who owns a game in hand. If San Jose were to make the postseason, there is a good chance their first round pick will end up 20th overall or later. They could very well knock of the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Outside a first round series with Chicago (not likely), the Sharks actually have a good chance of winning a series or even two before their season would almost certainly end by round three. Missing the playoffs and having a top-14 selection instead of say 21st or 22nd overall would set San Jose up for a much stronger draft. In what is considered a deep draft the Sharks could select a nice prospect later in the first round but a top-14 selection would possibly be NHL ready immediately. Picks in the final third of the first round generally take significantly more time to develop than the top half of the first round.

2016 Could be Good

If the Sharks hold onto their top prospects and add to the pool this offseason after missing the playoffs, they could be set up quite nice. Next season winger Nikolay Goldobin ought to make the team up front, and defenseman Mirco Mueller should improve into a bigger role on the blue-line. Plus perhaps a 13 or 14th overall 2015 draft choice could make an impact at some point next season. A right-handed puck moving defenseman would be the biggest position of need heading into the draft.

(Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports)
Nikolay Goldobin (Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports)

Defensemen generally take longer to develop but a third defense pair featuring two first round draft picks would be a welcome sight in San Jose. The Sharks have not drafted well when it comes to early round defenseman as neither first round pick from 2007 Nick Petrecki nor second round pick from 2009 Taylor Doherty have made an impact. Overall though things are looking up when it comes to recent Sharks drafts. The past three first round selections, Tomas Hertl (2012), Mueller (2013) and Goldobin (2014) all project to be terrific players. The future is actually bright in San Jose but the current present does not bode for a deep playoff run.

With the Sharks’ current blue-line struggles and lack of even strength scoring, the Sharks don’t have the horses to go deep in the postseason this year. Last month I was in the camp recommending Wilson pull the trigger on a win-now move but the past few weeks haven’t been friendly. Defenseman Justin Braun, known of a strong defensive game, has been slumping in his own zone before suffering an injury. Forward Tommy Wingels also suffered an upper body injury in the same game that Braun went down and both are expected to bout out awhile. Newcomer Brenden Dillon is once again struggling after having developed some good chemistry with Burns. With Mueller and Braun hurt, and Dillon fighting the puck, the Sharks have only had one reliable defense pair in recent games.

One could make a case that lineup tweaks and a big deadline acquisition could give the Sharks a legit shot to beat Chicago and win the whole thing. Too many things would need to go right for that to happen though. One of those things being Burns moved back up front to support the even strength scoring woes and that simply isn’t happening. The big acquisition would have to be a defenseman of the Cody Franson ilk. Plus Braun would need to get healthy and turn his season around 180 degrees. That is simply asking for too much. As a fan of win now moves for the most part, if all these things happened, yours truly would be ecstatic. However, since they aren’t in the forecast, the future should be the focus. Since Burns isn’t moving back up, Braun is hurt and slumping and Franson isn’t riding in on a white horse, trading away pending free agents and missing the playoffs is the wiser route.

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Tomas Hertl Could Use Some Time to Rest His Surgically Repaired knee(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sharks ought to look into trading Antti Niemi, James Sheppard, and Tyler Kennedy for as many picks as they can get. Even if that is just a couple of second rounders that is better than keeping them for a prayer playoff run. Let me be clear I’m a big fan of Sheppard and Kennedy but they would be of better use for teams needing depth forwards for a real playoff run. While Niemi has been a solid regular season goalie, he simply hasn’t delivered in the postseason. It would be an odd risk to keep these guys for a playoff run that is sure to come up short when they might sign elsewhere in the offseason.

Missing the playoffs entirely won’t receive a standing ovation from the fan base but it is a move that will pay off. Nobody looks back fondly at being knocked out in round two or three. It doesn’t matter if you lose by an inch or a mile, losing is losing. This current Sharks team is not winning the Stanley Cup in 2015. Therefore, they are better off missing the playoffs completely in order to better improve their chances in 2016 and beyond. Higher draft slots and some extra time for Tomas Hertl’s knee to rest would be much more beneficial than a few playoff games and out.

16 thoughts on “Sharks Might be Better Served Missing the Playoffs”

  1. In regards to the buy/sell combo you discussed earlier, I would say moving to and Shep is not a great move if they’re looking to make a run for it. Tk has looked great when he has been healthy this year, Shep (while not lighting the lamp much) has been putting up great possession numbers despite large numbers of d-zone starts.

    I also notice that pradeep chose to leave out some of the succeed first rounders (Teeth jumps to mind as a great first rounder)

    I am having a tough time believing this team can go deep in the playoffs, but I know that it somewhat comes down to luck as well (injuries, puck luck). If the team can play a skilled 4th line (aka no mike brown, john Scott, tye mcginn, haley…) And the goalies get hot, there could potentially be a deep run, but management will never run the skill 4th line for any extended time period.

    I know you’re not saying tank and I understand the point of the article, but as you said..hindsight is 20/20. I would rather each year they go for it and fail than have to wonder ‘what if they didn’t sell at the deadline?’

    • Oops. When I said “teeth” for a good sharks first round pick I meant couture…. That’s just what I call him

  2. “missing the playoffs” better served pfffttttt Always go for the grand prize!!! Every Year. This is Major League Sports

  3. I agree with your trade choices. I would also add Nieto, McGinn, Goodrow and any of the fourth liners. According to Spector, Kennedy has been dangled but there are no takers. Unfortunately, I think we are stuck with Niemi for the rest of the season. Stalock has not risen to the level of a # 1 goalie and doesn’t look like he will.
    Not making the playoffs might not be that bad. We could get rid of some deadweight and add some youngsters. However, if DW is still GM it’s gonna be hard to move forward. I don’t know if there are financial concerns but lately he seems to lose out on the types of players that this team needs. Maybe a different GM can shake things up.

  4. All in all an interesting idea, but it will cost Todd McLellan his job. This would suck because he is really good (by Doug Wilson’s own admission) with the young players. Many (I would say shortsighted) San Jose fans are howling for blood now. They will demand a sacrifice and Todd will be it – he will then go on to Edmonton and spend the next ten years showing Sharks fans what a good coach he is… and many of those same fans will howl, scream and gnash their teeth at his dismissal. But, maybe Bylsma will be able to do something with a young team. Fans have to understand that resets, re-builds, retunes – whatever GM’s want to call it need to happen, but someone always has to pay the price for the squeaky-wheel mob.

    • I hope the Sharks keep McLellan, he has done a better job with the team than others, I don’t want him to leave and win a cup like Sutter.

  5. I’m hoping that Wilson will both sell and buy at the deadline.

    Having Marleau and Thornton under contract for the next couple years with (RIP Capgeek) no movement clauses means we are a team that should try to contend. Having Pavelski, Couture, Vlassic, Burns etc around as well gives us a good shot every year. Sure, we won’t be the best time, and it’s not really likely we take the cup in 2015, however I would rather have a shot at it if we can while still gaining some picks, even if it means a slightly deeper 1st round pick.

    If the Sharks traded away Niemi, Sheppard, and Kennedy as you proprose for picks, Wilson could still add in a couple pieces from other teams, while still stocking up picks for what is projected to be a deep draft. I woudln’t be opposed to offering up Mueller and Goodrow and maybe a pick for a solid young talented player.

    • feasible to do both sell and buy, did that in 2013 with selling off clowe, murray and handzus and buying torres.

  6. #1: You condemn them for not “to even once reach the Stanley Cup final, let alone win it.” Well, how many teams fall into that category? That would be MOST OF THE NHL! Why is not making the Final a true failure for them and not everyone else? Should all those other teams tank to miss the playoffs too? Should MON, NYI, STL, and NAS all miss the playoffs because they haven’t made the Final in the past 10 seasons?

    #2: You imply that their next draft position will be either Top 14 or 21/22. Nothing in between? It’s either an NHL-ready player or a guy that will “generally take significantly more time to develop.” Not very good logic there either.

    #3: “This current Sharks team is not winning the Stanley Cup in 2015.” And how many people thought the Kings would win in 2012? Should they have missed the playoffs on purpose? Should any team that doesn’t look like they are the favorites to win the Cup miss the playoffs on purpose?

    Sure, having a higher draft pick will help ANY team. I won’t argue that. But saying teams are better off by losing than winning if flawed logic.

    • 1) Nobody is suggesting the players shouldn’t play hard, merely that failing to qualify might be better for the future.

      2) It is fully possible to land between 14-21, 14 teams miss the playoffs for the top 14 slots, picks 15-22 are teams that lose in the first round. The Sharks drafted Hertl 17th overall after losing in 5 games in round 1 back in 2012. However, given their makeup, i would expect them to be at worst one of the best teams to get eliminated in round 1 (picking 20-22) or even win the first round and pick 22 or higher. Last year they got a steal in Goldobin at 27th overall, He projects to be a very good player and soon. However if the Sharks are bound to eventually get beat in the postseason, with 20-20 hindsight, moving into 2016, a 14th overall slot in the first round would be much nicer position than 20-24. Of course all of us Sharks fans want them to win every game they play. This is just being realistic.

      3) Im usually the optimistic one in the past, but I don’t see it this year with the way they are playing and the fact unlike the 2012 kings, reinforcements via trade are not likely any time soon.

  7. This team was one win away from beating the champions last year. And they’re in 2nd place in their division right now. There are teams that would kill to have that “problem”. Blowing this team up would be the dumbest thing they can do.

  8. Hi Andrew,

    Except for a handful of players the Sharks have not been able to draft well.

    Jeff Jillson, Marcel Goc, Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Lukas Kaspar, Devin Setoguchi, Ty Wishart, Nick Petrecki etc
    were all first rounders but how many of them are still in the NHL? The ones that would have made an impact were traded
    away ( Charlie Coyle etc ).

    While it makes sense to move Brent Burns back to forward, replacing him means a trade. And, that means one ‘extra’ trade
    that needs to be happen. Justin Braun ‘appears’ to be a strong defenseman only when he plays with Vlasic therefore leading
    one to think that maybe he’s not as good as the media make him out to be. Pair him with anyone else and he gets taken
    apart systematically.

    Also, while I understand that since Niemi is in the last year of his contract he may get traded. His play has not been bad.
    The defense sucks and therefore the goalie looks worse than he is. By contrast, I would NEVER let Alex Stalock play in the
    NHL let alone be a starter. This means that we then have to go get another goaltender.

    Here is the list of players that I think do nothing for the Sharks and therefore need to be gone.

    Andrew Desjardins, John Scott, Tye McGinn, Matt Irwin.

    The jury is out on Matt Nieto, Melker Karlsson ( yes, his goals this year have been a flash in the pan – remember Cheechoo ?),
    James Sheppard, Tyler Kennedy ( he’s injured more often than not ), Mirco Mueller and Matt Tennyson.

    Bad signings and awful trades have gotten the Sharks into this mess.

    • Not every first round pick is going to pan out, and yes the Sharks didnt exactly hit the 2003 jackpot, but they didnt totally flop either, Michalek and Bernier are still in the NHL. Michalek on a good team is still a top9 forward, scored 35 a couple years ago for the Sens. As for Justin Braun, he carried Brad Stuart last year when not paired with Vlasic, so no he has the ability to be a stud defender, hes just had a shaky last 25-30 games defensively. Thanks for the read and comment Pradeep

  9. I agree that trading Niemi would be a good move. I’m not completely sold on Stalock but the team needs to go a different direction in goal. On the other hand I think Dillon has been finding his legs finally and looked especially good against L.A. before the break. I would like to see them acquire some more reliable defensemen though. I still think a playoff run can happen and will not give up hope.

    • Dillon was finding his game with Burns but since being paired with Braun, things haven’t been going well, the miscue against the Devils behind the net was embarrassing for any dman, let alone an NHLer. Just not sold they have enough on the back end and still need a scoring winger up front.

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