Sunday, April 22, 2012

2011/12 San Jose Sharks R.I.P

The second team eliminated from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs is ironically the team that eliminated Detroit from the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks, bounced in five games by the St. Louis Blues. The window is quickly closing shut on the Marleau-Thornton dynasty, and still this franchise has yet to advance beyond the conference finals. The Blues were said to be ripe for an upset, but proved to be too much for the Sharks to handle. Assuming LA can close out the Canucks, we are probably looking at a Nashville/Blues Western finals. San Jose will continue to be a tough team to beat next season, but their chances of winning 16 playoff games seems to be declining rapidly. Either St. Louis is the real deal, or San Jose is a complete fraud. We'll find out more after the next round.

Havlat was the only San Jose player to score more than one goal in the series. Niemi was alright, but made some costly mistakes. Marleau did not score a single point in the entire series, and neither did Pavelski. That's completely unacceptable, though we have seen both shut down for stretches of the playoffs in years gone by, and others where they have been on fire. The Sharks have been picked by just about every pundit at some point over the last 5 years (some multiple times), and yet they have always managed to find a variety of different ways to come up short. Their greatest accomplishment seems to be being Detroit Red Wings kryptonite every few years.

Let's be honest here, Havlat might score a clutch goal every now and then, but there's no way in Hell any team should be paying this guy $5M per year for 3 more years. They have $14M tied up in Thornton and Marleau for the next 2 seasons (with no movement clauses). Couture is their best young player they have, at a good price, but he's the type of kid who needs someone to get him the puck. Dominic Moore ($1M), Torrey Mitchel ($1.4M), Daniel Winnik ($1M) are unrestricted free agents; so the team doesn't have any new money to play with in the offseason. They would have to start clearing salary before taking on any significant salary. The only guys worth keeping are the ones without the no movement clauses.

Brent Burns gets bumped from ($3.6M) to ($5.8M) next year, and is at the very least an above average player. He came at a great price this season, but if a bit pricey next season (with 5 more years at the new price). Brian Boyle is an effective puck mover, even at $6.6M. Vlasic is flawed, and not somebody any team should be relying on for meaningful minutes. Should they blow it up? Thornton, Marleau, Handzus, Boyle, all have no movement clauses and would have to consent. Pavelski, Clowe, Couture are still young enough to be a part of any rebuild. Antti Niemi is a decent goaltender at a reasonable price ($3.8M until 2015) who gets hot every now and then. If they keep this team together as is, they will again contend for a playoff spot and have a decent chance at winning a series. But as currently constructed, this is not a championship team.

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