The Los Angeles Kings kicked off the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Pacific Division champions of the 2013-14 NHL season with a win Saturday, May 3. It should have been the San Jose Sharks taking the ice against the Anaheim Ducks.
Becoming just the fifth team in major American sports history to lose a series after having a 3-0 lead has earned this team the label of a playoff choker. Before that, San Jose was at worst an underachiever: 7-2 series record in the first round during Doug Wilson's tenure as general manager but 3-4 in the second round with a pathetic 3-12 record in Western Conference finals games kept them from even reaching the Stanley Cup finals.
Since Todd McLellan took over the Sharks, they have bowed out easily in every series they lost in except the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. They may have taken the Kings to seven games in the 2014 Pacific Division semifinals, but losing four straight is not putting up a fight. In 2012, they lost the last four after one double-overtime win. In 2011, they lost four of five in the Western Conference finals—one game better than they did there in 2010.
The 2009 President's Trophy team dropped the first two games at home and was knocked out by the Ducks in six first-round games—the biggest upset of the team under McLellan. Then again, much of this same core used to fall short for Ron Wilson: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan were all part of at least one playoff for each coach.
Marleau, Stuart and Hannan were even part of teams that went 18-24 under Darryl Sutter. His inability to get beyond the second round eventually got him fired when the team struggled early the next season, yet his resume has gotten fat with two teams since leaving San Jose.
Thus, it may seem like these players are the problem since they are the only constants on a team that underachieves when it matters most. Yet many of them have performed their roles well in many of the failed Stanley Cup runs.
What ails the Sharks is deeper than any obvious conclusion. That is one reason they are still routinely picked as contenders despite their previous failures. The 2013-14 NHL season proved they were good enough, but the playoffs proved there were still things missing from this team. Rather than the tongue-in-cheek list of 18 things Ray Ratto offered for CSN Bay Area Friday, Examiner.com has five very serious missing elements to obtaining that elusive Stanley Cup...