A Shocking Thought
The season is done; there is no more hoping for a playoff spot, no more wishing for a big deadline acquisition, and no more Todd McLellan versus Doug Wilson debates. The 2014-2015 campaign was disgusting, and both the fans and the franchise are hoping to forget about it as soon as possible. They just want another chance at the Cup. But here is something no San Jose Sharks fan wants to hear: next season might be even worse.
“How?” you may ask. They had John Scott last season, and an ongoing struggle between Joe Thornton and Wilson tore the team apart. What could possibly make next year worse than the season they just endured? As you will find out, there are many ways that the impact of this failed season could result in a second terrible offseason and another atrocious year in San Jose.
No More McLellan
McLellan was arguably the best coach in franchise history. He made the postseason six times and went all the way to the Western Conference Finals twice during his seven-year tenure with San Jose. Unfortunately for the club, he parted ways with the team last week, thus ending an era for the Sharks’ organization.
There are a number of worthy coaches on the market that could fill McLellan’s shoes. Names like Dan Bylsma and Craig Berube are available for the taking this offseason and could help San Jose bounce back next year. However, the team elected to interview Randy Carlyle for the position. Randy Carlyle…
I admit that he did not have much to work with when he coached the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it was impressive that he had them positioned in a playoff spot when he was fired. But, as my colleagues at Fear the Fin acknowledged, he is not the coach that San Jose is looking for. There are better options out there.
McLellan had is faults but he was a spectacular leader for the Sharks. There are only a handful of potential people that could successfully take his place (*cough* Mike Babcock *cough*).
Doug Wilson is Safe
A letter written by owner Hasso Plattner last week looks to have declared Doug Wilson’s job security. This is almost a death sentence for San Jose’s season as the general manager is largely responsible for the events that unfolded after his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year.
I would have defended Wilson’s competence to the death any year prior to what occurred last April. But since then, myself and the majority of Sharks fans have completely lost faith in him. He did nothing to improve his team during the offseason and refused to give McLellan the freedom he needed to do his job effectively. His costly errors have caused the fanbase to turn their backs on him and plead for his firing.
Free Agent Struggle
It’s no secret that San Jose has been historically terrible in free agency. For some reason, the team has had difficulty attracting valuable players available in the market, which is a large reason why the Sharks have never made a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. They are unable to obtain the firepower they need to be at the top of the league.
Last offseason, Wilson failed to get names like Radim Vrbata and Matt Niskanen on the team and instead signed John Scott and Michael Haley. Though money is one factor that impacts obtaining free agents, the team’s situation also plays a prominent role in the process. San Jose just came off of a reverse-sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, and it seems few players were willing to go to a team that suffered that kind of defeat.
The franchise is in an even worse situation now than they were at the end of the 2014 playoffs. The Sharks missed the postseason altogether for the first time since 2003 in a year that saw a mess of drama off of the ice. If talented players did not want to sign in the Bay Area after a reverse-sweep, they surely won’t want to go there after all the drama that ensued last year.
Their Only Hope
It seems that the only hope for San Jose lies with their young and developing talent. Both Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney had fantastic seasons in teal, and Matt Tennyson showed great promise on the blue line. Hopefully they will be able to continue their dominant play next season.
In addition to those who have already played in the NHL, the Sharks have a number of promising players in other leagues. Skaters like Nikolay Goldobin, Rorke Chartier, and Julius Bergman were outstanding for their teams last season. With any luck, their talent will carry over when they eventually make it to the big leagues.
The other positive for Team Teal is that they possess the ninth overall selection in the upcoming draft. Players drafted in this position have the potential to become franchise players, as both Logan Couture and Dion Phaneuf were picked at that point. Perhaps they will select a player that can help this desperate team and turn their fortunes around.
With all of these factors working against San Jose, what will it take to put this former Cup contender back into the postseason?
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.