Pro Hockey Talk chose to cover the San Jose Sharks Wednesday, August 6. They started the analysis where any must—the 2014 Stanley Cup playoff choke that served as the off-season kickoff—and then went through five pictured summaries that deserve to be further examined.
PHT used two words to describe San Jose's 2013-14 NHL season: "The collapse." Blowing a 3-0 lead in the Pacific Division semifinals was not diminished by the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup. If anything, it was deepened.
It was not about what Los Angeles won. It is about losing to the same Pacific Division rival two years in a row, but even more about how that was done.
Of the five teams in North American sports history to choke a 3-0 playoff series lead, the Sharks had both the best goal differential in the first three games and the worst in the last four. They were dominating the team that was good enough to beat everyone else, then were not close again in losing all four chances to eliminate the Kings in the 2014 Pacific Division semifinals by three or more goals.
To call that a collapse might be kind. Every Stanley Cup playoff from 2006 through 2012 better fit that term. All were during the joint tenure of general manager Doug Wilson, face-of-the-franchise Patrick Marleau and the best player in San Jose's history, Joe Thornton.
In 2006, the Sharks could not respond to Milan Michalek being knocked out by an elbow to the head by Raffi Torres, lost a chance to go up 3-0 and never won again in that second-round series. In 2007, they failed to close out the final 35 seconds with a chance to go up 3-1 and never won again in that second-round series.
In 2008, they dug a 3-0, second-round hole they could not overcome by being out-worked by the Pacific Division rival Dallas Stars. In 2009, it was another rival that burst their President's Trophy-winning bubble, when the Anaheim Ducks took the first two games in San Jose before winning the first-round series in six games.
In 2010, the Sharks were okay through two rounds but were overwhelmed and swept by the Chicago Blackhawks. In 2011, failing to finish off the Detroit Red Wings efficiently for the second straight Stanley Cup playoffs left them too little in the tank for their second consecutive Western Conference finals.
In 2012, even-strength goals and penalty kill deserted San Jose early in the series and only one game was won. The problem that led to those varying ways of losing appeared to be fixed with a strong showing in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, but it reared its ugly head again in the 2014 Pacific Division semifinals.
The fourth Stanley Cup series lost in its last five led to off-season headlines about big change. PHT cited an article they carried with Drew Doughty saying he could see fear in the Sharks and addressed but did not cite Wilson calling for a rebuild. They included another headline with Marleau addressing the comments that they are teammates, not coworkers.
Wilson's comments about needing to take a step backward to move forward, becoming a tomorrow team and wanting players that want to play in San Jose, not just live there were also listed. That last line had been quoted by Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, and his statement about the team having a nervous breakdown was also referenced.
One of a couple off-season comments made by possible captain-in-waiting Logan Couture was linked from the Toronto Globe and Mail July 25. He said the feelings were probably never going to go away, though one might ask the Boston Bruins how much they still sting after winning the Stanley Cup the following year.
Yet for all that talk about needing change, very little happened. PHT goes over the departures of Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart and Marty Havlat (in decline, already declined and not even worth dressing, respectively) as well as the move of Brent Burns back to the blue line. It also details the toughness that Wilson said he was looking for with the re-signing of Mike Brown and addition of John Scott and Michael Haley to a team already boasting Torres, Adam Burish and Andrew Desjardins.
Ultimately, this summer has been more about who Wilson has kept: Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski signed extensions, Justin Braun is discussing one and Jason Demers, Tommy Wingels, Alex Stalock, James Sheppard, Matt Tennyson and Taylor Doherty were youngsters re-signed. More curiously, three 35-year old Sharks were kept: Scott Hannan was re-signed, while Thornton and Marleau had no-movement clauses and made it clear they did not want to go elsewhere.
That means in the end Wilson is unlikely to have more than three or four new players from the San Jose roster that choked a 3-0 lead in the 2014 Pacific Division semifinals. By contrast, Boston had nine players on the ice in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs that were not there for their choke in 2010. Thus even though most of the changes are good, there were simply not enough of them.