Lather, rinse and repeat. The San Jose Sharks have a terrible habit of imploding in front of our very eyes in an endless cycle every playoffs.
San Jose is always a fearsome team during the regular season. Last season, the Sharks finished above the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for second-place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks certainly live up to their nickname. They swarm the opposing goaltenders in a high-octane feeding frenzy.
The emergence of 20-year-old rising star Tomas Hertl last season and the impact of associate coach/defensive mastermind Larry Robinson continuing to mold the Sharks into stingy defenders added to San Jose’s credentials as worthy, yet overdue Stanley Cup contenders.
It looked like 2014 could finally be their year as the Sharks went up 3-0 on the Kings in the opening round of the playoffs. Then it all came crashing down. Four straight losses. While the Kings went on to lift Lord Stanley and enjoy a summer of jubilant celebrations, the Sharks endured yet another offseason of questions and finger-pointing.
The team’s 35-year-old center, Joe Thornton, was stripped of his captain’s ‘C’ and became the subject of frequent, yet unrealistic trade rumors. The decision to strip Thornton of his captaincy made absolutely zero sense. Why damage your standing with a player absolutely necessary to the Sharks’ cause? Especially considering that Thornton has the opportunity to earn back the role of captain during the preseason.
The Sharks will begin training camp on September 19 without a captain or any alternates. Get your popcorn ready.
San Jose’s management core talked loudly about a rebuild, then went on to sign rugged enforcers John Scott and Tye McGinn. Energy winger Mike Brown was re-signed to a two-year deal. Minor-league forward Micheal Haley agreed a one-year deal. This wasn’t the drastic rebuild that Sharks fans were expecting.
Still, the Sharks appear to have all the pieces necessary to make a run at the Cup. The wealth of scoring, a possession strong group of smart blue-liners led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, physical intimidators – all guided by the intelligent mind of head coach Todd McClellan.
That is – as long as starting goaltender Antti Niemi doesn’t fall apart. Niemi posted a brutal 3.74 goals-against average and weak .884 save percentage during last season’s playoffs.
Yet, those who predict great things from the Sharks always get burned. One of these years it’s going to all click into place. Perhaps, 2015 could the Sharks’ year… then again, they’re a not an easy group to have any confidence in when it all matter come playoff time.
Sit back, grab your popcorn and enjoy the show. Either way, the Sharks are always must-watch TV.