What can be said about the San Jose Sharks’ first round exit that hasn’t already been uttered – and harshly – already? Fair or not, losing in seven games after building a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings seems like something that only happens to the Sharks (even if three other teams in modern NHL history have suffered that fate).
For many, wrapping this up is a matter of throwing down a typically harsh comparison – money’s on Tony Romo coming up – but let’s take a step back and look at the Sharks’ 2013-14 season and ahead to 2014-15.
- The immediate and obvious question is if Todd McLellan will be handed his walking papers. Despite all the Sharks head coach’s successes with the team – including consecutive trips to the Western Conference finals – San Jose still hasn’t been able to “get over the hump.”
- One obvious reason why McLellan might go is that two players who often get the blame in San Jose (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) were already locked up to contract extensions during the regular season. Sure, there’s always the chance that one or more of those veteran forwards will want out of the Bay Area, but this is a situation in which the saying “It’s easier to fire the coach than fire the team” is especially true.
- Much of the team’s core is locked up to (in many cases very cap-friendly) deals beyond Thornton and Marleau.
- It’s easy to ignore how strong a season San Jose enjoyed in a time like this. The Sharks had their best season since they generated 113 points in 2009-10, as they managed 51 points in 111 standings points in finishing second in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks.
- Even with a raise from $4 to $6 million per year, Joe Pavelski’s deal looks pretty sweet after his breakout 41-goal season. Logan Couture costs the same amount and seems capable of being a regular All-Star player.
- It all plays into the future seeming pretty bright for the Sharks, if they can get over the present. Tomas Hertl is another fine example, as he seemed primed to be a serious Calder Trophy candidate before his serious injury after colliding with Kings forward Dustin Brown.
When you lose like this, people often call for heads. There are likely to be some changes in San Jose, yet when you look at what this team has built, it’s reasonable to see some light at the end of the tunnel, too.
Even if it’s pretty difficult for Sharks fans to think about positive things right now.