When the San Jose Sharks met the media on May 26, nearly 72 hours had passed since they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
But that was hardly enough time to take away the sting from seeing the season end just one step removed from the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I’m still disappointed that we’re not playing,” Patrick Marleau
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Joe Pavelski
said about the range of emotions he’s been feeling since the 4-2 loss in Game Four on May 23. “You open up a certain page of the paper or see something on the Stanley Cup Finals and you feel left out. It’s disappointing. It’s not easy.”
“It’s up and down and everywhere,” Manny Malhotra said of his feelings. “It’s very disappointing to have your season come to an abrupt end without obtaining that ultimate goal.”
“You put your heart and soul into this year,” Scott Nichol said. “We came in a month early before training camp to work out together. We invested a lot of time. When you don’t get to the goal you want, it’s a little disappointing.”
“I don’t think any of us are happy,” Dan Boyle
said. “We’re not content with being semifinalists.”
Despite coming up short, the season wasn’t a total failure and lots of lessons were learned.
“I said from Day One that throughout this season, this team acted at a professional level,” Rob Blake said. “They came in early, they were in shape and ready to go. That was one of the major steps that had to be taken.”
“We competed every single night and got into some good habits of doing the little things,” Nichol said. “That carried on into the playoffs and we had a great run.”
One of the lessons everyone learned was how much energy and effort is needed to be one of the National Hockey League’s best teams.
“You get a feeling of the work it takes to get there,” Marleau said. “We’re basically halfway there. There’s a lot of work that has to be done in order to get to the next level and that’s the Stanley Cup. To put that work in and get that feeling of winning a couple of series is something you have to build on.”
The Sharks can be proud of their accomplishments in 2009-10. Their third straight Pacific Division Championship. The Western Conference’s best regular season record for the second consecutive year.
“Many GM’s say that if you get to the conference finals, you’re doing something right,” Joe Thornton
said. “We had a good group of guys this year that meshed well. Reflecting on this year, it was a good year. It was an exciting year for all of us.”
“We played well. We really came together as a team,” Malhotra said. “From inside this locker room, this is the tightest knit group that I’ve been a part of. It was a fun season of hockey. Not reaching the ultimate goal hurts, but it was a fun year for all of us.”
Sure, 2009-10 was an exciting and memorable season. But in more than three months, 2010-11 will be here and this season will be just a memory. And if the Sharks don’t approach the upcoming season the right way, it could be a bitter one.
“There’s definitely some unfinished business left on the table,” Malhotra said.
“We’re not satisfied. There’s another step,” Pavelski said. “We have a summer now to work a little harder and try to find a way to get to the next level.”
“We need to be careful not to pat ourselves on the back,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “We set some new standards for the organization and the players lived up to them. We were beat by a very good Chicago team. I felt we could’ve played better and could’ve challenged them more.
“Next year, it will be important for us to establish ourselves at training camp,” he added. “A lot of players came back early this year, worked hard and did what they had to do and it got us only to the third round. We’d like to build on that and move forward.
“This season is a success as long as we do something with the growth next year.
If we take a step backwards,” McLellan concluded, “we can’t look at this year as being a success.”