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Sharks pick up the pieces after early elimination

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 8:03 PM / NHL Insider

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

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Sharks pick up the pieces after early elimination
Three days after making the fastest playoff exit in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks continued the long and painful process of examining the wreckage and trying to fix what went wrong.

SAN JOSE – Three days after making the fastest playoff exit in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks continued the long and painful process of examining the wreckage and trying to fix what went wrong.

The Sharks reached the Western Conference Finals each of the past two seasons, but they lasted just five games this year in the conference quarterfinals against the St. Louis Blues and were outscored 14-8.

"We’re very disappointed," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Tuesday. "When you look at some of the other teams that are out, that was an opportunity for us to step up and get something done. Give St. Louis a lot of credit. They outplayed us all year and in the playoffs. They were a two seed and we were a seven seed, and that’s where we belonged.

"We’re going to look at all aspects of our team. We’re in full review right now. There’s some good things that happened, too. We’re doing an honest evaluation of everything. But there will be changes."

"We’re going to look at all aspects of our team. We’re in full review right now. There’s some good things that happened, too. We’re doing an honest evaluation of everything. But there will be changes."
-- Sharks GM Doug Wilson

Wilson said he won’t decide whether to retain coach Todd McLellan until after he completes his one-on-one meetings with every player and assistant coach on the team, as well as McLellan. For that matter, Wilson said he expects to meet with the team’s ownership group by the end of the month and have his own job performance evaluated and future determined.

"The review should include all of us," Wilson said. "It starts with me. We’ll go through the process of reviewing everything. That’s our process to see what’s right for this organization. I believe in Todd. Todd has been to the Final Four. He’s won a Cup in Detroit. I think he knows this game. But there are some things where we will all sit down and where we have to get better. We don’t believe in excuses and there are some things that have to be fixed for us to be successful."

McLellan said he has no concerns about his job security.

"Do I expect to be back? Absolutely," McLellan said. "I’m very confident in what we do. I’m very confident in the coaching staff, and I firmly believe that the players believe in us as a group, as we believe in them."

McLellan’s players seemed stunned by the reality that their season was over and all that remained was the pain from their 4-1 series loss to the Blues. The Sharks went 0-4-0 against St. Louis during the regular season, and their only playoff victory came in double overtime in Game 1.

"It’s frustrating," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It’s going to eat away at me probably all summer at different points in time until I get back on the ice.

"It’s pretty obvious it was a roller coaster ride," he said of the season. "You’re going to have your ups and your downs. You’re not going to be at the top of your game for 82 games. I know that. We all know that. But there were too many dips. You need a little bit more [stability], as far as the regular season goes. And St. Louis, I mean, we lost to them eight out of nine and if you take out the overtime we did not beat them in nine games. To me that’s pretty striking. I don’t even know what to say to that. Obviously they deserve a lot of credit, but we obviously weren’t doing the right thing to beat them. It was a combination of both."

The Sharks had a collective slump from most of their top offensive threats, other than captain Joe Thornton, against St. Louis. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski didn’t record a single point against the Blues. Ryane Clowe didn’t score a playoff goal, and Logan Couture had just one.

Couture, Clowe and Pavelski all showed up on the team’s postseason injury report. Pavelski was battling foot, knee and thumb injuries, Clowe a sore groin and Couture a chronic shoulder problem stemming from a separation he first suffered in 2010. Couture, who had just one goal in his final 13 regular-season games, is headed for surgery and hopes to be ready for the start of training camp.

"It’s an old separation," Couture said. "It’s been bothering me, so I’m going to fix it and make it look normal, feel normal hopefully."


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At or near the top of the Sharks’ offseason to-do list is to fix their broken penalty kill. They ranked 29th in the League during the regular season, then gave up six power-play goals in 18 chances to St. Louis.

"There’s such a fine line between all the teams now," Wilson said. "Let’s cut through all the crap. Our penalty-killing was awful. It’s been last in the League the last two years, and that impacts you in a big way. There’s the special teams differential, but it also makes you less aggressive because you can’t afford to take any penalties. So that’s an area that we certainly have to address."

McLellan pointed a finger at himself for the team’s PK problems and said it’s his responsibility to get it fixed.

"Penalty kill has to get better," McLellan said. "It starts with me. I’m in charge of this team, and I’m the coach. The penalty kill is on me. We work on it as a unit, the players try to implement what we do. It worked well for us for two years, extremely well, and it’s fallen off for two years. It’s obvious that some changes need to be made there, and we’ll look at every avenue possible, whether it’s systematic, how we use players. That’s on the coach."

Some of the Sharks’ core group of players, including Thornton, Marleau and Boyle, are in their 30s, and McLellan were asked if the Stanley Cup window was closing on this team.

"Only if we let it," McLellan said. "If we as a group of players come in and believe that and we allow it to happen then the window is closing. But I don’t believe it is. We’re not an old hockey club. We have some of our prime players, our core players in the prime of their careers."

The Sharks have six players who will become unrestricted free agents on July 1 if they’re not re-signed: forwards Brad Winchester, Jim Vandermeer, Dominic Moore, Daniel Winnik and Torrey Mitchell, as well as defenseman Colin White. Five others are headed for restricted free agency: Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins, Justin Braun, TJ Galiardi and Benn Ferriero.

It will be up to Wilson to decide who stays and who goes during what should be an offseason filled with changes.

"Win or lose, you never come back the same way," Boyle said. "That’s not up to me to make those decisions, but I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of new faces. I can only speak for myself. I want to be here. The fire’s still burning. I want to win badly."

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