The San Jose Sharks are off to a strong start in their 2014-15 campaign after going 3-0 in the first week of the season. But it’s hard to be optimistic as a Sharks fan this early on. The real test comes after the first 82 games are played.
It’s another year of Stanley Cup or bust for the Sharks, coming off their worst playoff collapse yet, with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs after winning the first three games of a seven game series.
Team Teal entered training camp looking for new leadership roles after stripping Joe Thornton of his captainship as well as Patrick Marleau of the “A” on his jersey. It looked like coach Todd McClellan, whom many wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been fired after another early playoff elimination, would hand the reigns to a younger core and name either Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture as captain. Instead he gave the leadership roles back where they were formerly taken from as Thornton, Marleau, and Pavelski will serve as assistant captains without one player on the team being the official captain. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will serve as an alternate captain in a rotation this season as well.
I was looking for McClellan to pass off the “C” to Pavelski. He has been a big time leader and performer for the Sharks over the past few years and has great experiences from his time playing with the USA National Team in the Winter Olympics twice as well. Last season “Little Joe” scored career highs in goals (41) and points (79) while playing in all 82 games. A transition to a younger captain would have fit the direction general manager Doug Wilson said his team was going at the start of summer when he announced his team was entering a rebuild.
The rebuild didn’t happen in the way of getting rid of certain players and adding new ones. The core of the Sharks is still intact as Thornton and Marleau are a part of the team even as they both get older. Both are 35 and signed similar three-year contract extensions in January with no-movement clauses.
Along with Pavelski, Couture, and youngsters Matt Nieto and Thomas Hertl, the Sharks still have a formidable offense, which will do some damage this year. Their only addition was 6’8’’ basher John Scott who doesn’t add much on offense and isn’t a quick skater. He did score in the Sharks’ third game of the season however, a 6-5 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals, but who knows if he will score again soon.
Seeing that the Sharks haven’t changed their personnel much, fans can only hope that the dressing room atmosphere has changed in order to produce better results in the postseason. A group of players told Wilson that they felt “more like employees than teammates” last year, and the team went on a trip to Lake Tahoe for bonding in September to try to fix this problem.
The Sharks are going to make the playoffs this year, as they have done for the last 10 seasons. But after that, there are no guarantees. We thought it couldn’t get any worse than the team’s catastrophic loss to the eight-seed Anaheim Ducks in the first round in 2009, but then the team proved us wrong with its failure last spring. It’s hard to be optimistic, but San Jose has a solid squad. I just don’t know if the team has changed enough from last season to improve and give us fans any hope of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.