To say the Sharks were disappointed would be an understatement.
As the players shuffled in to clean out their lockers and answer to the media on Wednesday morning at Sharks Ice, there was a heavy feeling of shock and disbelief. After a 10:30 meeting with the coaching staff, the players came into the locker room one at a time – most of them still trying to accept that they had been eliminated – and faced the reporters all wanting explanations for another early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Defeat could be seen in their eyes and heard in their voices.
Center Jeremy Roenick was the first player to address the media. At 39, he has spent 20 seasons in the National Hockey League without winning a Stanley Cup. It nearly brought him to tears when he tried to describe his emotions about the Sharks missed opportunities and his possibility of retirement.
“It’s kind of a surreal, lost feeling,” Roenick said. “You never like to come in here and pack up your stuff. I don’t like coming in here with my body feeling good. I want to come in here sore. I want to come in here with stitches in my face, with ice bags on. This is not how it should be. There’s way too much talent in here to be talking about summer. We should be talking about the next round.”
When Roenick spoke about Game Six and the possibility of it being his last NHL game, he could barely finish his sentence.
“It was hard for me,” he said. “Standing there and feeling the fact that this could be the last time I might be in that kind of atmosphere…”
Then came Mike Grier. The 34-year-old said he felt like the responsibility fell on everyone’s shoulders. He didn’t want to blame Joe Thornton
or Patrick Marleau
– he felt that the Sharks lost because they lacked secondary and special teams scoring. Although he thought the Sharks were more physical than the Ducks, Grier said special teams won the series for Anaheim.
“This is probably the toughest offseason I’ll have,” Grier said. “A lot of us, especially myself, felt like this year was a good a chance as any to win it all. And to not get it done is difficult.”
When Thornton and Marleau came out, they addressed the criticism that has been omnipresent since the Anaheim series started. As the team’s leaders, they had been taking the most heat for the Sharks early elimination.
“It’s tough because we had high expectations and we didn’t fulfill them as individuals and as a team,” said Thornton who figured in on all three goals (a goal and two assists) in the Sharks 3-2 overtime victory in Game Five. “We should’ve been playing Game Seven, but instead I’m here talking about leaving. We still have a lot to prove to the city of San Jose and to the fans all across North America.”
“Not getting ready for a game is tough,” said Marleau, who scored the game-winning goal in Game Five. “The playoffs are still going on. The teams are still trying to go win what we wanted to win. It’s tough being around all the guys and knowing how good of a team we had during the regular season and stumbling and falling short.”
Even after having a couple days to think about the series, defenseman Dan Boyle
is still searching for answers. After the best regular season in franchise history, the Sharks first round elimination leaves Boyle just scratching his head.
“It’s not a good feeling,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t expect to be done at this time of year. It’s been a couple days and personally I’m still trying to figure out what happened.”
Now the Sharks will have four months to go home and think.
“Life has to move on,” Thornton said. “But we really did expect to play until June.”
With the season ended, detailed information about injuries is no longer a secret. When Marleau was asked how he was feeling physically, he said he’d been playing through a sprained MCL, an injury he had suffered towards the end of the season.