As this is being written, the San Jose Sharks are playing against the Dallas Stars. It doesn’t matter much who wins.
Both teams long since handed their fate over to others and Winnipeg officially eliminated Dallas and San Jose tonight with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota. It’s an awkward end to a pair of campaigns that began with a lot of promise.
The Sharks had a controversial summer that a columnist at one point described as a “nervous breakdown.” They had a 111-point regular season in 2013-14, but blew a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs. That would humiliate any team, but it was even worse for the Sharks because it played right into the popular narrative that they were a talented squad that collapsed under pressure.
That defeat could also be interpreted as the straw that broke the camel’s back because suddenly Sharks GM Doug Wilson was talking about them being a “tomorrow team,” although San Jose’s core didn’t change much from 2013-14 to 2014-15, with one of the more noticeable alterations being the ‘C’ removed from Joe Thornton’s jersey.
Indeed, the Sharks’ summer was seen as confusing, but the takeaway was that if they weren’t embracing a traditional rebuild, then it remained reasonable to expect this talented squad full of veteran players to make the playoffs for an 11th straight campaign. Obviously that didn’t happen though as the Sharks proved to be wildly inconsistent.
Dallas was a very different, but equally interesting story. The Stars had managed to squeak into the playoffs last year and their future seemed bright thanks to the young one-two punch of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Then they acquired Jason Spezza from Ottawa on July 1 and suddenly the conversation shifted to whether or not Dallas was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Given that the Stars have missed the playoffs, it seems fair to call this season a disappointment, but there has certainly been a silver lining for them. The new-look Stars struggled initially, which didn’t surprise GM Jim Nill, but they are 28-18-5 following their loss to Winnipeg on Dec. 9 (not including the outcome of Monday’s game).
Dallas also saw the emergence of 22-year-old defenseman John Klingberg this season, adding to their hope for the future. If 20-year-old Valeri Nichushkin can stay healthy going forward too, maybe this season will eventually be looked back on as a growing pains campaign for Dallas on its way to bigger and better things.
For now though, San Jose and the Stars are in for a long summer.