After the San Jose Sharks lost their seventh straight game Saturday, trade buzz arose surrounding the team. As this column speculated, general manager (GM) Doug Wilson was not swept up in it, telling the San Jose Mercury News after practice Sunday, February 17 that it is up to the current roster to get the job done.
The only moves made ahead of Tuesday's road game against the St. Louis Blues were putting forward James Sheppard on injured reserve and recalling enforcer Matt Pelech. Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan say effort and execution are the keys to leading the team from its slump, with the GM additionally suggesting to the Mercury News Monday that players might be trying to do too much:
"You try and take the responsibility to go and do something that goes outside our system. You're doing it because you think that helps. It doesn't help. The trust in how we play repetitively is what allows you to play very well for a long period of time...One little thing should not be changing how you approach the game."
This can especially describe the power play, which was the main focus of practice after managing just two goals in its last 38 chances. Had they scored at their typical rate over the past few seasons (over 20 percent), they would have had six more goals in their last six games resulting in between two and four more wins depending on how they were delegated.
True, that could mean as little as two more points in the standings. Still, there would be no trade buzz surrounding a team that started the season 7-0-0 just because they have now gone 2-4-1. A 9-4-1 record would place them ahead of Tuesday's opponent for the fourth spot in the NHL Western Conference standings.
At best, they could have beaten the Anaheim Ducks on the road, Chicago Blackhawks at home and beaten both the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators in regulation. If that had happened, they would be 11-2-1—a half-game ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific Division and a half-game behind Chicago for the top spot in the NHL.
In other words, the difference between glorious success and gaping failure is the performance of a few people on the ice for a few shifts in a few games. Can the Sharks get that execution back Tuesday, or will the slide continue?