2014-15 NHL Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

Perennial contenders, consistent chokers. The San Jose Sharks have been one of the best regular season teams since the 2004-05 lockout, but the team has consistently failed to make a significant impact in the postseason.

This summer, general manager Doug Wilson promised significant changes. Many took that as the end of the rope for captain Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, leading to extensive trade speculation. Neither were moved.

Instead, Wthilson opted not to re-sign aging defenseman Dan Boyle, traded Brad Stuart and bought out the final year of Martin Havlat’s contract. After promising big changes, Wilson underwhelmed.

The team has a strong young core with players like Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, who have emerged as significant offensive talents for the team. Tomas Hertl also showed extensive promise (and flash) last season, tallying 15 goals and 25 points in 37 games. He even managed to come back from MCL and PCL surgery to contribute five points in seven playoff games. With these three, the future looks bright.

Thornton is still one of the league’s leading playmakers, tallying 65 assists last season in 85 games. His 76 points were second best on the team, behind Pavelski’s 79. Marleau came in third on the team with 70, including 33 goals. It’s clear that Thornton and Marleau are still assets and key contributors for the team—so what’s the problem?

Believing maybe the problem lies with leadership, Thornton was stripped of the captaincy prior to this season. The team is currently captain-less, and coach Todd McLellan has stated that Thornton would still be a candidate for the captaincy, along with the rest of the players on the team. It’s widely believed that a changing of the guard is in order, and Pavelski will ultimately be named the captain—opting to begin the transition to the team’s younger superstars.

This move could potentially signal the beginning of the end for Thornton. And, perhaps Marleau by extension. If either player experiences trouble this year, the team could opt to trade one—or both—to a bevy of suitors around the league.

Not only are Thornton and Marleau going to be watched under a microscope, but you have to believe that Wilson and McLellan themselves are in the hot seat. After promising big changes, Wilson failed to deliver. If that leads to another underwhelming season—and postseason, Shark’s management has to consider a change in the GM seat.

Same with McLellan. While Wilson has ultimately been the architect behind these teams, McLellan has ultimately been the main running the show with each dire playoff loss. It’s not a far stretch to believe that another disappointing postseason could lead the Sharks to go the route of the Penguins and dismiss their GM and head coach for a fresh start.

At this point, it’s got to be Stanley Cup-or-bust for the Sharks. The team has floundered in the postseason for far too long and needs a significant overhaul to make a deep run into the postseason. This will be a telling season for the team and, depending on the results, could result in a rebuild on the fly from the inside out. Keep a close eye on the team to see how they perform knowing that this is a season where they absolutely need to shine.

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