Since the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, I have read and listened to various members of the hockey media list the team as one of the most interesting teams to follow this summer.
What will Doug Wilson do? Who will be in teal next season? How many personnel changes will the team undergo? Does the core remain intact?
Before those questions get answered, management have a quandary to sift through. Where is the game going? What style of play will dominate and be the most effective? Is the playoff hockey we just finished watching here to stay? Is the dots to board game the norm or the exception?
The teams that were strong attacking teams -- Pittsburgh, Boston, Vancouver, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia -- tried to create offense but were gone early. Teams that ignored the neutral zone, employed a powerful forecheck played to a zero game were in the hunt for the Cup longer.
New Jersey and Los Angeles fashioned a style that Devils Head Coach Pete DeBoer described as "heavy". That doesn't mean that the skill is gone from the game. Los Angeles played quick hockey. Short passes to breakout. Straight lines through the neutral zone. Relentless forecheck with an aggressive pinch and quick shots to the net. Quick shots because a shooting lane doesn't stay open very long.
In the D-zone, it was aggressive and physical. Close off the time and space and get going the other way as soon as possible. Sell out to block shots, pain is temporary, your name on the Cup is forever.
The NHL is a League that copies success. Teams try to ape the successful organizations. There was the New Jersey model in the "Dead Puck Era". The Detroit Model aping puck control and offensive attacks. The Anaheim Model highlighting big, tough, truculent hockey.
Imitating successful teams will only get you so far but not to the top because you will always be chasing and never leading. Leaders see the big picture. Leaders get the personnel that have skills that can adapt for today's game style but also lead the way for tomorrow's game. This is where management and coaches have to work together.
I don't believe in the "we pick 'em you coach 'em" old boys hockey organization. Hockey Departments have to work in concert to determine where the game is going so they can get there first. Coaches have to be flexible in welcoming new ideas and philosophy. The expectations and accountability must be consistent, but the road to success is always under construction.
Speaking of the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings...
I know for loyal Sharks fans it is tough to hear, but congratulations. With the Sharks there has always been a philosophy to wish those who were a part of the organization at one time the best of luck and success (except when they were up against the Sharks).
Many in the Kings Hockey Department -- Dean Lombardi, Darryl Sutter, Jack Ferriera, Marshall Dickerson, Alyn McCauley and Bob Friedlander -- have all bled teal in their hockey lives. Good to see good people get rewarded for hard work.
Speaking of good people, I couldn't help but feel for former Shark and great guy Steve Bernier. His five-minute major penalty was the turning point of Game 6. Can you imagine sitting in the visiting dressing room and hoping your team bails you out? Then you hear the crowd roar once, twice, three times as your Stanley Cup dreams are snuffed out. Can you imagine how empty you would feel?
The disappointment in yourself and the regret of letting down your team. I would hide, but Steve Bernier did not hide. He was dressed and ready when the media invaded the locker room post game. He answered every question with honesty and grace. To me that is a stand-up guy.
Just a short note on why I disdain social media. After Steve's hit, the cowards with keyboards took to the web to assassinate Steve's character. It was a contest of who could be more snippy, vile and homophobic.
Unfortunately for those who have too small of a brain and heart, Steve Bernier showed more character after the game than those idiots ever will.