Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's safe to go in the water

Ok, I think I have finally calmed down enough to take an objective look back on a wonderful regular season and a completely disappointing post-season. Despite what happened, there are a few good things to happen over the last seven months.

Young stars
The Sharks have to be optimistic when it comes to the future of the franchise. With the solid performances of young talent like Jamie McGinn, Ryan Vesce, and Derek Joslin. Add that with the high end prospects Logan Couture, Jason and Julien Demers and the Sharks have a very solid young core to build on.

Veteran play
Several young veterans made great strides forward this last season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic played with a stability that belied his 22 years. Devin Setoguchi showed why he will be a major cog in the Sharks machine in the years to come. Joe Pavelski made it known that he is a rising star in the NHL.

Overcoming underachieving
In the regular season, the Sharks showed that they have the talent to win games that they didn't play their best hockey. Although that didn't translate into the post-season, it does show some promise.

What is disturbing though is the apparent huge holes and questionable decisions.

Veteran starts
With the play of the young stars mentioned before, what shocked me is that they didn't get more playing time. Yes, they saw a lot of ice time this past year, but that was mostly due to the injury bug that hit the Sharks hard. The signing of, and recall of, Claude Lemieux still is baffling.

Player moves
Time will tell if the trade that brought Kent Huskins and Travis Moen to the Sharks pans out, but if I were to guess now, I would think the Sharks got the short end of the deal. Moen showed that he could provide some grit, but with Jody Shelley on the roster and Brad Staubitz in Worcester, how much more grit can you have before it starts becoming a liability?

There are going to be a ton of decisions that will be made this off season. Comments from Doug Wilson lead me to believe that there are going to be major changes when it comes to the roster for next year and there may be some that will not sit too well with Sharks fans. I, for one, as a long time Sharks fan will welcome any changes that are made this summer. At this point, I have no allegiance to any current player (except maybe Joe Pavelski...got to stick with the local boy) if it means that the Sharks can get over their playoff hump.

So, how did a President's Cup winning team fall so hard and fast in the playoffs? Honestly, there are only 25 or so guys that can really answer that question. However, I can think of two big reasons.

October, November and December
When you win so many games so easily, it can become a habit to believe that you can still win when you don't play your best. If you come out strong enough, fast enough, teams will just pack it in. Unfortunately, the playoffs do not work that way.

I know, it's an easy excuse, but when you lose so many man-games to injury as the Sharks did this year it is very hard to maintain the team chemistry that you need when it comes to playoff time. Only 5 Sharks played 80+ games and one of those was a player acquired at the deadline (Moen). A constant juggling of lines and D pairings makes it hard to get a cohesive unit together. They were able to overcome it in the regular season with talent, but in the playoffs, talent alone usually doesn't win a series.

When this October comes, will we even recognise our Team Teal? If it means a serious run at the Cup come April, I sure hope not.

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