SAN JOSE, Calif. – The pain of another playoff collapse was still fresh less than two days later as the San Jose Sharks packed up for another early summer.
General manager Doug Wilson expressed his still boiling anger in a team meeting Friday and vowed that the status quo is not an option after the Sharks became the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.
But Wilson said it will be his recommendation that the change not include coach Todd McLellan. Wilson said he has not yet talked to owner Hasso Plattner and acknowledged that he also is under evaluation.
Wilson said the final decision on what the Sharks will do going forward will likely be made in the next two weeks.
“This is not a nick or a scratch,” Wilson said. “This is an open wound. When the emotions are raw, the emotions should run deep and resonate and live for a long time. We have already started the process of what decisions we’re going to make.”
The Sharks won the first three games of the series by a margin of 17-8. But they managed only two goals in the final three games in the latest playoff disappointment for a franchise that has the second-most points in the regular season the past 10 seasons but is still looking for its first Stanley Cup appearance.
McLellan took the blame for the collapse after the Game 7 loss and said he is even more frustrated two days later with his team’s performance in their second straight playoff loss to the Kings.
“Something has to change,” McLellan said. “It’s two years in a row losing to that team, and it’s a very good team, too. Let me make that very clear. But it’s two years in a row losing to them. And, in fact, when we thought we had improved our group—which I believe we did—we got a weaker performance than we go the year prior.”
McLellan has the support of his players as well, who universally praised the job he’s done the past six years even if it hasn’t translated into the ultimate post-season success.
“I don’t think the coaching is the problem. I’ve had some bad coaches in the past,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “It’s on the players. We’re the ones that go out there and need to get it done. We didn’t.”
The Sharks entered the playoffs almost completely healthy and looked like they were finally ready to make a run to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history the way they shredded the league’s top defensive team the first three games.
But the offence dried up late in the series with the only two goals in the final three games coming from fill-in defenceman Matt Irwin and third-line forward James Sheppard.
“There’s no sugarcoating it. When you’re up 3-0 in a series, you step on their throat and put them away,” Wilson said. “They came back and were able to play and establish their game for four games. We played it for three. It’s not good enough. That’s the truth.”
Captain Joe Thornton, linemate Brent Burns and Logan Couture had no points in the final four games. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski didn’t have a goal or an assist in the last three.
The power-play went 0-for-15 in the final three games, including four blown chances in the second period of Game 7 when the Sharks were either ahead or tied.
“I think I’ll think about that probably until next year sometime,” Thornton said. “The way we played in the first three games and then what we did in the last four, it’s mindboggling. I think I will lose sleep probably for the next couple months.”
The Sharks have five unrestricted free agents: Boyle and Scott Hannan, goalie Alex Stalock and forwards Mike Brown and Bracken Kearns.
San Jose also has the option of buying out up to two players this summer with forward Marty Havlat the most likely after being a healthy scratch for six of the seven games against the Kings.