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Los Angeles Kings show what might have been for San Jose Sharks

Game 4: Kings take the lead in final four minutes of the second period and are winning 4-1 in the first minute after intermission.
Game 4: Kings take the lead in final four minutes of the second period and are winning 4-1 in the first minute after intermission.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings ready themselves for the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday, June 4. All the Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks can do is think about what might have been.

Not only did the Sharks have four chances to advance in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series in April, but the Kings are doing it with a familiar tandem. Collectively, they are the five pictured things that must be the sand that creates a pearl for this team over the summer.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News talked about how their former residence in the Bay Area (1997 to 2002) makes viewing the current partnership of Dean Lombardi as general manager and Darryl Sutter as head coach harder. That duo has a real chance to guide Los Angeles to a second championship in the two most recent complete NHL seasons.

They have earned a solid but unimpressive 230 points over 179 regular season games (.642 point percentage). In the Stanley Cup playoffs, they have won an astounding nine of 10 series.

Meanwhile, San Jose has captured four Pacific Division championships and a President's Trophy after moving on from Lombardi and Sutter. No NHL team has a better regular season record, only one has gotten to as many playoffs and few have as much first-round success.

After Mother's Day, the Sharks are a dismal 7-20 under general manager Doug Wilson. Under head coach Todd McLellan, they are 31-33 after taxes must be filed April 15. While being the envy of many for living in the Bay Area, they are left to envy teams that are still playing this time of year.

San Jose had better hope that envy festers into anger. Anger may be the path to the Dark Side, but it is also a vehicle for winning hockey games in late May. Teams that win often play with anger and use the mind-set that they are going to an actual battle.

The Sharks are not willing to go to war when it is on the line. Maybe that makes them better people because they are enlightened enough to know that it really is not that serious. It is not even the most important thing in their lives—most of them have families that should absolutely be more important.

Maybe San Jose needs players that can fool themselves into feeling that winning the Stanley Cup is more important than anything, whether just for three hours every other day or by being consumed by their profession once the calendar flips to April. Maybe the new ownership needs to learn from the last group and exercise patience.

Who is to say if Lombardi and Sutter would have been successful for the Sharks? They certainly learned along the way, and both spent time not employed in their current roles since leaving the team. However, both have proven themselves worthy of their craft by winning a Stanley Cup and contending for at least one more.

By contrast, neither of San Jose's men in those respective roles can say that. Doug Wilson has been a good general manager but has not fielded a team that can get the job done as the weather warms. Todd McLellan has a losing playoff record and no Stanley Cup as head coach of an elite team for six seasons.

As will be outlined here over the next week, they are not to blame for the Sharks falling short every year. At the same time, they cannot get the credit that is due their Stanley Cup-champion predecessors.

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