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Is it time to blow up the San Jose Sharks?

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CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz caught up with Joe Thornton after the San Jose Sharks’ early first round exit (via a 3-1 loss in Game 5) and Jumbo Joe’s sentiment was simple: “[The St. Louis Blues] played great, but it’s a terrible feeling.” Thornton was talking about the five-game series in particular, but it’s tough not to wonder if that terrible feeling might be rooted in that sensation you get when an era is about to come to an end.

(In other words, maybe it’s the hockey answer to “We need to talk …”)

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was effusive with his praise of the Sharks, claiming that they made a five-game series feel like “a nine-game series.” Thornton’s effort was pretty evident during the series, but one might not say the same for other stars like Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau, who failed to register a single point in the five-game set.

Front office outlook

There’s likely to be the usual round of finger-pointing in San Jose, yet this year might feel different to some. GM Doug Wilson seemed to go all-in by trading for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat, but his trade deadline moves were mediocre at best. (Just watch a Sharks fan cringe when you utter the name “Jamie McGinn.”) Todd McLellan came into town with Red Wings clout and then coached in two series victories against his old employers, but now he’s out of the playoffs in five games just like his old team.

Team structure

If you look at the structure of the Sharks team at CapGeek, you get the feeling that everything is built to last until 2013-14 or so. Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle’s deals run out after 2013-14. Meanwhile, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Doug Murray, Jason Demers and Ryane Clowe will need new contracts after 2012-13 while Antti Niemi and Burns are wrapped up a little longer.

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What does that all mean? Breaking up the Sharks would have to come in a series of conscious decisions. Front office people would need to be fired and players would need to be traded or bought out. If that happens, it sounds like it certainly wouldn’t be easy.

Then doesn’t necessarily mean such a decision would be wrong, either, though. What do you think? Should the Sharks make major changes or small tweaks? What exactly should that entail? Fill us in via your witty and revealing comments.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal