After embarassing themselves yet again in post-season play the question on the table now is what do you change in San Jose. Here are my answers:
1.) Trade Evgeni Nabokov
Sharks fans will hate me for saying this, and I agree with their love for Nabby. The problem is he just doesn't steal games in the playoffs. In game five he allowed the Ducks back into the game with those two goals and almost cost San Jose the series at home. Nabokov just can't get over the playoff hump. It's time to let him prove himself with someone else.
2.) Let Jeremy Roenick and Kent Huskins go
Roenick is a great player, and I wouldn't complain if he came back. My problem is that he just isn't the player he used to be and the Sharks have plenty of young guys that proved themselves this year.
Same goes for Huskins. I don't know what would have happened if he had been able to play, but we can safely keep it that way. This is another area where the Sharks have enough depth that they can live without Huskins. Alexei Semenov and Derek Joslin are good, young defensemen that the Sharks can build with moving forward.
3.) Trade Christian Erhoff
Erhoff is an extremely overrated defenseman. He has a cannon of a shot. If he ever makes it to the All-Star game I don't think Zdeno Chara's record for hardest shot will stand up. The problem is that Erhoff needs drastic improvement in his defensive awareness and positioning, especially in the neutral zone. There are plenty of available defensemen in the league both in free agency and probably through trades as well. In a dream scenario the Sharks could trade Erhoff for a high enough draft pick to select Victor Hedman, but I'll just keep dreaming on that one.
Ideally the Sharks should look to get back a playoff veteran that has a cup or two under his belt, especially if Rob Blake leaves for retirement or for another team. If Huskins is going to be healthy and resigns with the Sharks then maybe trading Erhoff for picks or prospects isn't a bad idea, but those are two big ifs.
4.) The Claude Lemieux experiment is over!
It's time to end this side show. Lemieux has been great by all accounts as a locker room presence, but that's all he can be at this point. He doesn't have skills on the ice anymore and he hasn't played his typical aggressive, agitator style for the Sharks the way they needed him too. Let him leave.
5.) FIRE DOUG WILSON
Wilson was a great player in his day, and I love seeing great players continue their career by proving they have the intelligence to work the front office too. The problem is that Doug Wilson doesn't have any excuses this year. He's tried different players, he's tried different coaches, he's tried young guys and grizzled veterans and nothing he does is getting him a cup. With no Ron Wilson to blame it's time to point the finger where it should have been pointed last year (and the two years previous): DOUG WILSON.
Things I would keep:
Todd McLellan - Give the rookie time to learn how to handle being the boss. People forget that he was only an assistant coach last year. Like any rookie he needs time to develop.
Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Rob Blake (if he'll come back) - All five Sharks blue liners were above even in their plus/minus ratings while still contributing to the offense. Blake and Vlasic led the way with plus-15s, and Boyle contributed 57 points and was a plus-6. Murray (+6) and Lukowich (+5) weren't in the offensive category of Blake and Boyle, but they were certainly stronger defensively than Erhoff (team-worst minus-12).
Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Devon Setoguchi - Before we start blaming the playoff failures on Jumbo Joe, keep in mind that he led the Sharks in points (5) and assists (4) through the six playoff games this season. The epic failure of the Sharks is not entirely of his making. Blame must be shared by all. This line combination, however, clearly worked out for the Sharks in the regular season and was strong in game five of the post-season. I have no doubt we would be looking at game seven if they had played together in the opening two games at the tank. All three were a team leading plus-16 during the regular season and finished one, two and three in scoring.
Ryan Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalak - Again, the secondary scoring was excellent in the regular season and just wasn't there in the post season. This line has potential, though. Clowe is the only free agent on this line.
Keep Travis Moen - Moen is a cup veteran and seemed to play well in San Jose. Now that Torrey Mitchell is healty for a full season and Jonathan Cheechoo has adapted to his role as an energy player I can see this line becoming the go-to guys for Todd McLellan. He can trust these guys to score, land big hits, win puck battles and energize the Sharks. Moen is an unrestricted free agent and Mitchell is a Restricted Free Agent so it will be interesting to see how the Sharks GM (Doug Wilson or someone else) handles them.
I don't think it is time to rebuild altogether. This team showed in the regular season that they have the skill and the team chemistry. Now they need to find the will to win. I have said all year long that the Sharks, despite their excellent record, could not play consistant hockey from period to period, and it cost them in the playoffs.