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Emotional Stew

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
More than 36 hours have passed since the San Jose Sharks were eliminated from the 2011 Western Conference Final.


Usually time takes away the emotional hurt from coming so close, but yet not attaining the goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

The pain is still there amongst the Sharks players and coaches.

“We’re all disappointed,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “That word is used by 29 teams every year. Only one team gets to win and say they’re satisfied. We’re using the disappointed word.”

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle talks during a news conference in the Sharks locker room, Thursday, May 26, 2011, in San Jose, Calif.. The Sharks lost to the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in double overtime to lose in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“This is the time I wish I could turn the page right away,” Dan Boyle said. “Unfortunately, I can’t do that. I’m still having nightmares about it and I’m still having a hard time digesting this one. It’s a very tough loss and a couple of days later, I’m still having a tough time with it.”

“It’s still pretty tough,” Joe Thornton said. “You wanted to play tonight. It’s going to sting for a little bit.”

“It sucks. It isn’t fun,” Logan Couture said. “It’s disappointing. I don’t feel that as team we played as well as we could have. Even individually, I didn’t think I played as well as I could have. I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about the series (vs. Vancouver). I think if we played better hockey, it would’ve been a different outcome.”

“It’s disappointing,” Devin Setoguchi said, “to come this far two years in a row and not get to the goal you wanted to achieve. We’re a proud group, but a disappointed group. To put in all of the hard work and to see what we’ve accomplished, it sucks to fall short.”

The 2010-11 season for the Sharks wasn’t like the previous two. After 45 games this year (in mid-January), San Jose was 21-19-5, compared to 28-10-7 the previous season and 34-6-5 in 2008-09. However, San Jose finished 2010-11 with a 27-6-4 record and won their fourth straight Pacific Division Championship.

The struggles of this season weren’t lost on McLellan.

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan walks out of an office, Thursday, May 26, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. The Sharks lost to the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in double overtime to lose in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“When you look at our year as a whole,” McLellan said, “I didn’t think we played very well to begin with. We weren’t engaged. When we decided it was important to compete the way we could, we became a very good hockey club. We carried that through the playoffs. We probably didn’t play completely to our potential, especially in that last round against Vancouver. But I don’t want to take anything away from the Canucks. They were a very good team.

“Once again,” McLellan concluded, “we have some work to do.”

There’s no doubt the Sharks have to work even harder to attain their ultimate goal. But despite losing in five games to Vancouver in the conference final, the team did make strides.

“We learned a lot of things and got another year of experience,” Dany Heatley said. “We improved in a lot of ways as a group. We had to battle all year long. Starting in January, we were fighting for a playoff spot the whole way through. The games were a lot tighter and we grew a bit.”

“We showed a lot of resiliency, a lot of heart,” Boyle said. “Two playoffs ago (the quarterfinal series vs. Anaheim – Sharks were eliminated in six games), I was very unhappy with the effort. The last season and this season, I don’t think that was a question. You have to be a little smarter, but the effort and the heart were there.”

McLellan said the team grew through adversity. He said the growth began in mid-January when the Sharks started playing better and acknowledged that it started with Thornton.

“You start with your captain and work your way down,” McLellan said. “You don’t have to be a real astute hockey fan to see his growth and leadership ability in the locker room. I thought the leadership group as a whole was as good as we’ve had (the alternate captains were Boyle, Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau). Individually, there was a number of players who made strides and went in the right direction. Logan Couture is a prime example.”

“We’ve got a great group of guys in here that are going to continue to get better and strive for more,” Thornton said. “We’ve got a great group of core guys in here. You see Logan and guys like Dougie Murray and Patty, (Joe) Pavelski and Clowe make a step.”

“When you have a team like we have, your goal has to be to win the Cup,” Clowe said. “We have a really good team. It’s a double-edged sword. You’ve got to be proud. We’ll be better. We’re going in the right direction. We didn’t take a step back.”

“We’re that close,” Boyle said. “We found a great goalie (Antti Niemi). Nitty (Antero Niittymaki) is still in the picture and will get involved again next year and compete. Brauner (rookie defenseman Justin Braun) will get a good look next year. Our top 6-9 forwards are pretty solid. I like our team. I really do.”

The players know Sharks management will do the right things to make the club competitive during the offseason. They appreciate those efforts, which makes them proud to wear the Sharks crest on their sweaters.

“It’s an exciting organization to be part of,” Couture said. “I love playing in San Jose. I love the fans. The guys on this team are unbelievable. It’s so much fun to be out here. The fans are so proud. We’ve been a good team for the past couple of years. We want to win. We’re not happy with how the season ended. Our goal here is to win the Stanley Cup and we want to do it next year.”

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton during a news conference in the Sharks locker room, Thursday, May 26, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. The Sharks lost to the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in double overtime to lose in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“We know how close this team is,” Thornton said. “You get into the postseason and that’s your goal in training camp. As you go along and win games, you think how close you are to winning the big thing. We realize how close we are as a group. We have to get better and keep pushing each other as a group and eventually we’ll hoist that thing.

“We expect guys to make another step next year and it should be an exciting year,” Thornton concluded. “I’m so excited and optimistic to start next year already.”

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