Tuesday, following the Sharks final official team gathering of the season, there were mixed emotions of pride and disappointment.
On the positive side, there are absolutely no more questions about the heart of any players on the ice. On the negative side, the Sharks fell for the third straight year in the second round.
“I have two very conflicting emotions that normally don’t go together,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “I’m proud and disappointed. I’m proud they battled. You cannot question this team’s (fight). We didn’t play enough good games to get to the next series. When our backs were against the wall, we played tremendous hockey. Did we do enough of that? No.”
Wilson said his team found their ability to dig deep when called upon.
“This team is much more blue collar,” said Wilson.
There is much speculation about what Wilson will do to get his club over the hump, but as he showed last year at this point, the Sharks top hockey executive is not one to make any rash decisions.
“If the Stanley Cup were in the middle of this room, we would be going through the same procedure,” said Wilson of looking at every angle within the organization. “Our evaluations go from the top to the bottom and we haven’t started that procedure. The emotions are still raw.”
He will have his player and coach meetings now that the campaign is complete.
“You learn by listening,” said Wilson. “To get where you want, you have to find that answer.”
Wilson’s primary goal is to tweak his hockey team so it can win the ultimate prize.
“We have to play at a higher level and put teams away when you have a chance,” said Wilson. “Ultimately it comes down to getting it done on the ice.” INJURY UPDATE
Usually the day after a season ends, news of hidden injuries and secret ailments are made public to the media. The only update on Tuesday was that of Sharks left wing Milan Michalek, who endured a devastating hit from Brenden Morrow in the final seconds of regulation in Game 6.
X-rays revealed that Michalek suffered only bruising on his shoulder and the Czech winger would have been able to return to the Sharks lineup if the team had been able to force a Game Seven.
“We did an X-ray on it and I think it’s just bruised,” said Michalek. “I would be ready tonight.”
Although he was unable to return to Game 6, Michalek joked that if the game had gone anymore overtimes, he might have tried to get back out on the ice.
“For sure (I wanted to be back out there),” explained Michalek. “I didn’t know if I would be back or not.”
Veteran Jeremy Roenick and All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell will both be unrestricted free agents this summer and neither one has a definite answer about their future as a Shark. Wilson will also have to address the future of unrestricteds Patrick Rissmiller, Curtis Brown, Brian Boucher, Alexei Semenov, Sandis Ozolinsh, Dimitri Patzold, Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley.
Roenick, decked out in a Fedora cap and yellow T-shirt, was the first Sharks player to address the media. He answered questions true to form, with passion and charisma.
“I’m going to take a couple weeks here,” said the 38-year-old center about making a decision to keep playing. “It’s no secret that I felt really good this year. My love for the game has returned. My energy for the game, my passion for it, is as high as it’s ever been. Finishing short is obviously not how I wanted to finish it.
“Doug Wilson has left the opportunity up to me,” he continued. “I’m sure we’ll chat in a couple weeks and make a final decision. But I feel pretty good right now as a hockey player and a person.”
Then the topic of retirement arose. Roenick was adamant that even if he retired today, he would have no regrets.
“For me to come back this year and play like I did made me feel good about myself,” Roenick said. “The fact that I could come and help a lot of these young kids, it was really very satisfying. San Jose has been unbelievable to me; the town, the fans. It’s far and above anything I ever expected.”
For Campbell, he and Wilson will get together soon enough, but there are positive signs out there.
“I’ll talk to his agent and have discussions,” said Wilson. “We’ll get to them all.”
“I don’t think you can promise anything, but the organization’s been great and the guys have been really good,” said Campbell. “I’m happy, really happy with everything. Now it’s just time to get away from it, clear my head and make a decision from there. Right now, I’m just looking forward to going home and clearing up stuff in Buffalo and everywhere else.”