Friday was a bittersweet day at the Sharks training facility as Team Teal cleaned out their lockers following the conclusion of the 2006 playoffs.
As usual, many injuries are not able to be made public. Patrick Rissmiller was playing with a small fracture on the outside of his foot. Alyn McCauley was playing with a very painful leg.
“I have a couple of bone spurs and a cyst in the back of my leg,” said McCauley.
There are a couple of options on how to treat the injury and McCauley will have one more look at it before making a decision.
“They can shave the bone down or take some of the bone out and put in a cadaver’s bone,” said McCauley. “I expect Dr. Ting would do the surgery (either way). Hopefully it will happen early next week.”
Part of the reason McCauley played through the pain late in the season and through the playoffs is that he could be looking at a two to three month recovery process, which would have effectively ended his season.
“I know I wanted to play well for the guys,” said McCauley.
McCauley is also the Sharks only unrestricted free agent, but he hopes to be back.
“I’d love to come back here,” said McCauley. “I like the coaching staff and the team. We can only get better.”
And it is not just the weather that McCauley likes in San Jose.
“I’ve played long enough to no when a team thinks it can win and when a team is good enough to win a Stanley Cup. We are good enough. The chemistry and atmosphere here is great and it starts with Doug (Wilson).”
The Sharks know they fell short of their goals, but they will return one of the NHL’s youngest rosters and it will now have valuable experience on its side.
“The experience will make us better for next season,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
. “We’re going to be back next year and do what we have to do.”
San Jose’s players enjoyed the team’s success following the Joe Thornton
acquisition and Thornton enjoyed his arrival in San Jose.
“Doug and Ron run a really classy organization,” said Thornton. “We can only get better. Personally, my best years are still to come and the team’s best years are still to come. I love it out here and I think we’ll have momentum rolling into next year.”
San Jose knows why they fell short this year and they will work to reach their goal in 2006-07.
“There are some areas we have to get better at,” said Ron Wilson. “We lost in similar ways the last two playoffs. We have to learn to get better internally or find it externally.”
Maybe the best news for Sharks fans is that making the second round isn’t good enough for this franchise.
“We’re trying to win a Cup,” said Wilson. “Not make the playoffs or win a round. The only time we’re successful now is winning the Stanley Cup. We have a great foundation and the skills in place. We now need to get the job done.”
The two key areas that hurt San Jose against the Oilers were the power play and in the faceoff circle.
“Our power play struggled in Edmonton,” said Wilson. “You have to give credit to them, but part of it is our fault. We have to be better at faceoffs. We are a puck possession team and faceoffs gain possession.”
“The things we need to address are correctible,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson.
Edmonton’s physical play likely would have been curtailed had San Jose converted more frequently while up a man.
Wilson believes the Sharks have found a future dominate blueliner though such that Western Conference finalists Edmonton and Anaheim have in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.
“I think Matt Carle can be that type of player,” said Wilson. “I’m not saying it will be this October. It may be a couple of years down the line. His mistakes are from trying to do too much.”
The Sharks will look to do what they can in the offseason to improve.
On an individual front, rookies like Rissmiller now know what they need to do.
“It was great experience and I’m looking forward to next fall,” said Rissmiller. “I need to put on a few pounds. I may stay here.”
Rissmiller still has to return to Cleveland to clean up his furnishings. He may have been a Sharks regular the last quarter of the season and the playoffs, but he wasn’t sure how long he would be up initially.
“It was very day-to-day,” said Rissmiller. “Once I played 10 games, I had to clear waivers to go down.
The Sharks still possess two number one netminders in Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov and it must be remembered that Nabokov was a great team player while watching Toskala take the bulk of the playing time. Nabokov would prefer to remain in San Jose, but does acknowledge he wants to be the main workhorse.
“We have a great chance to win a Cup and I want to be part of it,” said Nabokov. “It is no secret that I want to play. I’ll talk to Doug and see what he thinks. If I end up playing somewhere else it’ll sill be disappointing to me.”
Nabokov said the Sharks goaltending coaches were great throughout the season.
“Wayne (Thomas) and Warren (Strelow) helped,” said Nabokov. “This would have been tough if I didn’t have good friends around. I have to look in the mirror and say I have to do better.”
GOOD FROM THIS YEAR
Doug Wilson hopes his team will learn a valuable lesson in the next month.
“I want them to see the team that raises the Cup and I want every one of them to ask why not us?” said Wilson. “We will get there.”