You can pretty much sum up San Jose’s 2013-14 campaign with two words:
In the opening playoff round against Los Angeles, the Sharks became just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead, the most disappointing playoff defeat for a franchise that knows plenty about them. The loss was so gut-wrenching, in fact, Logan Couture said the bitter feelings will “probably never” go away.
The collapse also started what’s been one of the most dramatic and, at times, dysfunctional offseasons in franchise history. After GM Doug Wilson and owner Hasso Plattner decided to retain the front office and coaching staffs, things got dramatic.
A sampling of PHT headlines from this summer:
GM Wilson suggests Sharks might need to ‘take one step backwards’
Kings could see fear in Sharks’ eyes before comeback
Sharks GM Wilson: ‘We now become a tomorrow team’
Columnist: Sharks are ‘having a bit of a nervous breakdown right now’
‘I want players that want to play here, not just live here,’ says San Jose GM
Marleau: Remarks that Sharks aren’t tight-knit not ‘a big thing’
Then came the moves.
Veteran d-man Dan Boyle wasn’t retained. Martin Havlat was bought out of his contract, Brad Stuart was traded to Colorado and Brent Burns was returned to defense.
But Wilson didn’t stop there.
Seemingly fixated on beefing up, Wilson re-signed tough guy Mike Brown and inked journeymen pugilists John Scott and Micheal Haley in free agency. This was, of course, with San Jose already employing the likes of Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish and Raffi Torres. Then, sticking with the “tomorrow team” narrative, San Jose retained a number of its young players — Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard, Jason Demers and Alex Stalock.
But perhaps the biggest and most telling moves Wilson made… were the ones he didn’t make. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were retained despite rumors swirling around both; in early July, the Sharks actually brought back a longstanding veteran in blueliner Scott Hannan.
In the end, the offseason left people with more questions than answers, especially when it came to explaining what the Sharks were doing. Is this a re-build? A re-tool? A culture change?
We’ll spend most of today trying to figure it out.