Sharks proud, but unsatisfied heading into summer
As the San Jose Sharks packed their bags, exchanged farewells
and headed into the offseason, the mood around the team was a stark
difference from a year ago.
General manager Doug Wilson talked then about needing to perform
an “autopsy” after the Sharks lost in the first round to Anaheim
after posting the best record in the league in the regular
That’s not the case this year after the Sharks made it to the
Western Conference final for the second time in franchise history
before being swept by Chicago.
At his end-of-season media briefing Wednesday, Wilson said he
wanted to conduct a review over the next few weeks before making
the difficult decisions that face the franchise this offseason.
“We’re proud of what this group has accomplished in the last
year,” Wilson said. “It has been a big step for this
organization. We’re certainly not satisfied with where we’re at.
But there are a lot of things that took place in that dressing room
and as an organization that puts us in the position to understand
what it takes and how we need to approach things.”
That was the prevailing attitude in the locker room, where most
players considered the season a success even if the team ultimately
fell short of its Stanley Cup goal. They hope they can use this
postseason run as a stepping stone.
Coach Todd McLellan said this year’s success came out of last
year’s disappointment, as players responded to the challenge with
harder work and better play. He wants that same attitude again this
“We need to be careful that we’re not walking around patting
ourselves on the back,” McLellan said. “We set some new standards
for the organization and the players lived up to them. But
ultimately we were beat by a very good Chicago team. I thought we
could have played better and challenged them a little bit more.
“The season is a success as long as we do something with the
growth next year. If we take a step backward, we can’t look at this
as being successful one bit.”
Now the Sharks shift to offseason mode, where they will have
some difficult roster decisions to make when free agency begins
San Jose has nine unrestricted free agents, with the most
notable being leading goal scorer Patrick Marleau and goaltender
Those are the only players left from the Sharks’ other
conference final appearance in 2004 and they have become staples in
“Let’s face it, the mission is not accomplished yet,” Nabokov
said. “I want to be a part of it. But it’s not all up to me so
Marleau, who joined the organization in 1997, said he loves the
Bay Area and that it “feels like home.” But after scoring a
career-high 44 goals in the regular season, winning a gold medal at
the Olympics and scoring six of San Jose’s last eight goals in the
postseason, he could have other suitors willing to pay even more
than the Sharks can. He wouldn’t tip his hand about what he wants
Key role players like Scott Nichol, Manny Malhotra, Jed Ortmeyer
and Niclas Wallin are also unrestricted free agents, while Joe
Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi will likely need raises in order to
stay as restricted free agents.
With the restraints of the salary cap and a budget, Wilson said
there’s no way the Sharks will be able to keep all the free agents
even if they wanted to. So it’s a matter of prioritizing which ones
“There’s never a team that stays completely together,”
McLellan said. “A lot of time with the system the way it works in
the NHL, there are significant changes to a lot of hockey clubs.
We’re in that situation now where we could face that. Would we like
to keep this group intact? Of course we would. But common sense and
the system says it’s almost impossible.”
The first big decision will likely come before July 1 when
40-year-old captain Rob Blake announces whether he will retire.
Blake, who can be an unrestricted free agent, said he has a good
idea of what he plans to do but wants to take some time before
announcing his decision. San Jose would welcome him back if he does
decide to play.
The Sharks will have plenty of key cogs back in Joe Thornton,
Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard
Vlasic and most likely Pavelski and Setoguchi.
The question remains who will join them.
“You really can’t worry about it because it’s out of your
hands,” Thornton said. “Doug has done a great job with it in the
past. I assume he’ll make this team competitive and hopefully have
most of the guys back who we had here this year.”