A few days ago, the San Jose Sharks reached the seven-year anniversary of their Western Conference Final win against the St. Louis Blues. The 2015-16 season began with a bang for the Sharks as they parted ways with head coach Todd McLellan in favor of Pete DeBoer. DeBoer was able to get the most out of the team, taking them from missing the playoffs altogether in 2015 to a deep playoff run, which ultimately led to a Stanley Cup Final appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, they were unable to complete their ultimate goal, and they fell to the Penguins in six games.
A lot has changed throughout the organization since the Sharks’ only conference final win. Despite being only seven years since the team’s deepest playoff run in history, very little is the same. Considering it looks like it may be a while before fans can expect another run as deep as this one, it is important to take a look at what went right, what went wrong, and how the Sharks can learn from it for future years.
Sharks’ Old Core Carried the Team
When the Sharks beat the Blues in the Western Conference Final, they relied heavily on their core to win the series. At that point in time, their best playoff performers were Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Logan Couture. In addition, Martin Jones provided excellent goaltending not only in that series but the entire season. However, taking a look at this core in hindsight, it’s wild to think that they’ve moved on from almost all of them.
While the majority of the core is gone, it isn’t hard to see why. At the time of the run, Pavelski and Burns were in their primes, and Couture was still developing. The rest of the team was aging out, and the depth was filled with pieces that Doug Wilson let walk in years to come. What resulted was essentially the Sharks’ best chance to win the Stanley Cup, as the majority of the team would be gone a few years later.
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While the Sharks added Erik Karlsson a little over two years later, the Sharks never had a team that fired on all cylinders as well as this team did. They put too much value into superstar talent on long-term contracts instead of having a complete team. To this day, the Sharks continue to suffer the consequences of that line of decision-making.
Sharks Lacked Youth on the Roster
One of the consequences of making the playoffs every year without winning a Stanley Cup is the need to go all-in. Unfortunately for the Sharks, that meant trading young players to get more pieces for a playoff run. The 2016 Western Conference Final run was the beginning of the younger players being sent off. The only major player to join the Sharks’ core after this year was Timo Meier, who is now a member of the New Jersey Devils. By all accounts, they lost out on their future because of their desire to win.
Had the Sharks opted to keep their prospects and draft picks rather than trying to craft an unbeatable roster each year, they would have likely had to take a step back or two before they could make another deep playoff run. That being said, it is entirely possible that they would still be in contention for the Cup seven years later rather than sitting at the bottom of the league. However, that is only speculation. There is no telling where the Sharks would be had things played out differently.
The 2016 Western Conference Final is the closest Sharks fans have ever been to the elusive Stanely Cup. While it may be a while before fans can cheer for them in the playoffs again, hopefully, they have learned from some of their mistakes of the past. While this run was something to admire, it is nothing more than a memory. All that matters now is how they are able to turn the franchise around in the near future.