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Killer Instinct: What Are the San Jose Sharks?

Martin Jones makes a save against Anaheim Duck Jiri Sekac in Sharks' home opener, October 10, 2015. Courtesy of sjsharks.com

Last night, the San Jose Sharks continued to struggle in their uphill battle for consistency in their 1-0 shutout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the first time they’ve ever been shut out at home this season. As mentioned last night postgame by my fellow writers here on Pucknology After Dark, they got off to another slow start. The Ducks were into it mentally. They started on time, and soon enough one defensive miscue, just one of the few in the game, was enough to give their cross state rivals the 1-0 lead, which would eventually hold up as the game winner. Other than that, Martin Jones was sharp that whole period — and that whole game — as he had to be considering the amount of breakdowns the Sharks had in the neutral zone. That said, other issues other than the fact that they couldn’t get one past the seemingly spectacular back-up goalie Anton Khudobin included the power play, where they had some chances but there weren’t many quality chances. As a result, they are still without a power play goal at home for 18 consecutive opportunities.

It’s just seemingly a trend that just keeps happening for our beloved Sharks. They got off to a marvelous 4-0-0 start before they were handed their first loss of the season by the New York Islanders at Barclay’s Center with a not-so-spectacular performance. From there, it’s just up-and-down, up-and-down. Now, the Sharks are 7-7-0 in their last 14 games played since the start of the season. Granted, it is still early in the season, but before you know it this month of November is going to go by. Then, December. Then, January and the All-Star Break. And then soon after that, the playoff race is on. They need to get it together before then.

It’s the same thing that happened last season, only October all the way up through either December or January, they had an okay-ish run. They weren’t too bad, until February when crap hit the fan, as I use a cleaner word than the one I actually really want to use considering this is a family friendly site.

To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this team. I know this might be beating the dead horse multiple times, but it started with that reverse sweep by the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs two years ago. We all know what happened after that. After last season, Todd McLellan parts ways with the organization, and understandably so, along with the entire coaching staff with Larry Robinson now the Director of Player Development. General Manager Doug Wilson brings in Peter DeBoer as the new head coach, who’s supposed to be teaching them this new system and style of play, and he signs two free agents in Joel Ward and Paul Martin and trades for Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins. Last but not least, DeBoer picks a captain in Joe Pavelski, and gives the alternates to Joe Thornton and the now-injured Logan Couture. Yet, we’re still seeing the same Sharks from a year ago. Sure, they’re still trying to learn to play the new system, but it just begs the question for me now: what are the Sharks? What are they anymore? Are they a team that’s trying to be tough? Are they still a team that’s trying to play well? Or are they a team that’s just trying to sell a half-assed performance to their fans every chance they get? By the way, I’m sure I’m echoing the the concerns of my fellow Pucknology writers as well as many other Sharks fans in this fan base.

One of my fellow writers, Ian Reid, who’s just an all-around hockey geek, asked a question (I believe he is the one who asked it on a Pucknology After Dark this season) that… I’ll admit kind of hurt my soul as a Sharks fan but admittedly is valid the more I think about it. Is this team even good still? Now, you’re probably going to say “why the hell do you even ask that?” The reason why it was asked is because… granted, the Sharks do have talent. They have Thornton, one of the best playmakers in the game. They have Pavelski, who’s an elite goal scorer and is just such a versatile player, along with Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Ward. Not to say that the Sharks don’t have talent in most of their bottom-six forwards, but they’ve got to start stepping up to the plate. We’ve seen an alarming trend time and time again that the Sharks are constantly relying on their top-six forwards to get it done. That obviously shouldn’t and can’t happen. DeBoer has said before that he’s the type of coach that will roll out all four lines and make the necessary changes, which for the most part he’s done. But there are still times early in this season where I’ve seen certain lines being helpful and certain lines and players that just aren’t putting enough of the effort. I don’t know if that’s just because they’re not into it mentally or if it’s from a trend from years past that’s now literally in their blood. Also, being a Sharks fan from 2010, I wouldn’t know how far back this trend started which is why I’m just saying in general, however far back this was.

Going back to the reason, since I kind of rambled on and elaborated without sharing what it is, the Sharks are not utilizing their talents enough. Of course, I don’t mean be flashy and fancy all the time trying to deke and dangle your way through the neutral zone or make a series of pretty passes that’ll just be intercepted along the way. I mean, sticking to the game plan and keeping it simple, just playing North-South hockey and getting high percentage and high quality shots and scoring chances to the net. They just haven’t been doing that enough throughout the line-up, ESPECIALLY the third and fourth lines. It shows in their game play and, more often than not, on the score board. At some point, you’ve got to hit the net and produce.

Anyway, sometimes I just don’t know what the hell’s up with this team anymore. I’m just as frustrated as the next Sharks fan. Their performance isn’t helping to bring up the attendance at SAP Center, and the owner group and management are sure as hell not helping by raising the ticket prices and doing useless as hell promotions. I mean, I understand that this is the 25th anniversary and they’re supposed to promote and stuff, but some of the things I’ve heard on Pucknology After Dark just mark a whole new low for this organization for as long as I’ve been a fan. AJ Strong has constantly brought the “scanned attendance” versus “paid attendance” issue up, and it’s sad. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan so many empty seats while the Sharks are seemingly trying to salvage what’s left of their reputation as a good hockey team. At this point, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the San Jose Barracuda had more sellouts than their NHL affiliate.

Bottom line is, from missed power play opportunities to other missed chances to boost themselves up in the standings to repeating the same trends of previous years, this team really has no one to blame but themselves for their issues. They’re the ones who shot themselves in the foot last season and seem to keep doing so this year. They’ve got to find a way to get it done consistently and establish their identity quick. It’s only the month of November, but boy, a year passes by quick. It’s now or never.

About Felix Chow

Felix is a proud Sharks fan since he started watching the Sharks in 2010. He is in his second year of writing for Pucknology.

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