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After playoff exit, San Jose Sharks campaign to keep core together

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Before Jeremy Roenick led a group of Sharks on a season-ending vacation to parts undisclosed, he all but confirmed he'll return to San Jose next season for another run at the Stanley Cup.

"I think it would be a shame to go one year and out," the 19-year veteran said at the bittersweet conclusion of his first year in teal.

While the Sharks cleaned out their lockers at their training complex Tuesday after their third straight second-round playoff exit, Roenick also echoed the dual sentiments of every coach and player in the room. The Sharks will be unfulfilled until they advance further in the post-season, but they don't need major changes to get there.

"The core of this organization is very firm," Roenick said. "I don't think much stuff needs to be tweaked. We just have to continue to grow. The media is going to say the coach needs to be fired, players need to be traded, but I think within this organization, within these walls, we're very confident in where we are."

General manager Doug Wilson is unwilling to put a time limit on his upcoming franchise-wise evaluation, after which he'll decide the fate of coach Ron Wilson and his players. Doug Wilson said he had "emotions that don't normally go together" while the club packed up for the summer.

"I'm very proud of how this group played when they had their backs up against the wall," he said. "The disappointment is I think this team is capable of more, and I do believe that in the 13 playoff games we played ... we didn't play enough good games. We accomplished something, but the disappointment of where we should be still resonates."

Ron Wilson, captain Patrick Marleau and star Joe Thornton were unanimous in their public belief the Sharks were good enough to win a championship this season, if they had received just a few of the lucky bounces that didn't go their way in a six-game loss to the Dallas Stars.

"We're so much farther ahead now than we were at the beginning of the season," Ron Wilson said. "We should be rejoicing in how solid our team is. ... We were so close to forcing a Game 7, and we didn't, but you walk out of here with your heads held high."

After 4 1/2 seasons with the Sharks, Wilson has no interest in even talking about his job security.

"That's all irrelevant. You look at my record, it's second to none, literally, in the sport, so I'm not even worried about that," said Wilson, whose Sharks lead the NHL in total victories over the last four seasons.

"I don't think there has to be too many things changed about our team," he added. "We're ready to roll next year, too. We've accomplished more since I've been here than any other team in the league except win the Stanley Cup. That's the next thing we check off on our list. ... I know a lot of teams - well, 25 other teams - probably wish they were in our shoes."

Last Sunday's four-overtime loss to Dallas in Game 6 - the fourth OT game of the series - was both a high point and a nadir for the Sharks, who finished the best regular season in franchise history with 108 points and the NHL's second-best record.

"We played our hearts out," said Thornton, who managed just three points in six games against Dallas. "You hate to talk about breaks, but having four overtime games, and we only won one of them, it's tough to take. ... It just feels different (than last year). We laid our hearts out on the line, and it just didn't work."

San Jose is the NHL's most consistent winner in the last half-decade, but has only two division titles and one unsuccessful trip to the 2004 Western Conference finals to show for it.

It's too soon to say whether the numbers will impress Doug Wilson enough to stay on Ron Wilson's course.

"People will tell you we've accomplished some really good things the last three or four years, and that's wonderful," Doug Wilson said. "The disappointment is we haven't accomplished what's ultimately our goal, and we're not going to stop. We're going to push through, and decisions will be made when they get made."


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