Right up until Mattias Norstrom scored at 4:37 of overtime, I had a sense the San Jose Sharks could overcome their horrible start in the second round of the playoffs and not only win the series against the Dallas Stars, but win the Stanley Cup, too.
My hunch was based on the fact the Sharks have overcome adversity time and time again this season and, in the end, their talent would carry them to the top of the mountain.
That said, I can’t recall ever changing my mind on one team as often in a season as I have this year with the Sharks.
One minute they look like bona fide Stanley Cup contenders; the next they look like they don’t deserve to be among the league’s 16 playoff teams. One minute coach Ron Wilson looks like a deserving Jack Adams Trophy candidate (for NHL coach of the year); the next he looks like he couldn’t guide a peewee house league team. One minute Joe Thornton looks like a Hart Trophy winner; the next he looks like, well, you can’t really find him.
Therein lies the problem with the Sharks: consistency.
And while it isn’t impossible to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, it is highly improbable. At this point I’d suggest you don’t spend too much time listening for the Shark warning horn.
The question now becomes, what does GM Doug Wilson do to change the course of his team next season? Clearly changes need to be made.
The first thing Doug Wilson will consider is his coach. I believe Ron Wilson is an exceptional coach, and I’m certain the he would agree with me, but maybe he and the Sharks are not a good fit.
Next, do the Sharks offer up big bucks to keep defenseman Brian Campbell, whom they acquired at the trade deadline? If you watched him play with San Jose in the regular season, you’d say yes in a heartbeat. His playoff performance, however, casts some doubt on that scenario.
And what about Thornton? Frankly, I’d keep him and continue to hope and pray he finally lives up to his potential and leads his team to a championship.
But I’d also find a second-line center who is a more-consistent offensive threat to give opposing teams two lines to worry about. You know, like Mike Modano and Mike Ribeiro in Dallas and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.
One thing is for certain, in the competitive Western Conference, the Sharks are not a team that can afford to take a second round exit from the playoffs lightly and just continue to go about their business. Some drastic moves are in order.
Oh, and by the way, if the Sharks come back to win this series, never mind.
Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.
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