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San Jose Sharks could rebuild while competing for Stanley Cup

When healthy, Logan Couture is already the best two-way center on the Sharks. Put him between Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski and San Jose has an elite first line.
When healthy, Logan Couture is already the best two-way center on the Sharks. Put him between Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski and San Jose has an elite first line.Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

San Jose Sharks future

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This Friday the 13th was another chapter in an annual horror series for the San Jose Sharks. They are deciding what their 2014-15 roster will look like while the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings were locking up another Stanley Cup championship Friday, June 13.

It is time for San Jose to flip the script. Major change means a rebuild not a mere "refresh and reload" as general manager Doug Wilson was fond of saying a year ago. At least one major piece has to go, but a look at the pictured personnel groupings shows a team that could still reach the Stanley Cup playoffs even if they lost captain Joe Thornton for just a draft pick.

There appears to be interest in Thornton by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they have the eighth pick in the 2014 NHL draft. Such a pick might even be able to make the roster this season, but this team would have Stanley Cup playoff expectations even if neither the top pick nor any other player ready to impact the Sharks were netted in that or any other trade, via free agency or through any other means.

If general manager Doug Wilson or his coaching staff want to start the season with more talent, Toronto also seems willing to let go of some current players. It could also lose some via free agency, where San Jose could use some of the cap room created by letting Thornton go to sign someone else.

However, turning the team over to young Sharks is the best avenue because it gives them a chance to develop. Thornton is still an elite player, but his best days are behind him. Having him on the roster keeps a young player from breaking into the NHL or growing into a larger role.

Since Cam Tucker of Pro Hockey Talk also referenced mutual interest with Dan Boyle Friday, one could see Thornton being willing to play there together with him. Add those two to a roster kept largely intact otherwise and the Maple Leafs have a legitimate shot at reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

Showing the remaining Sharks that repeated failure is met with consequences would be invaluable. Having a team that cannot coast on its talent could also build better habits in time for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

If the talent is insufficient after the All-Star game, there will be plenty of room to add a piece or two for a stretch run. In the meantime, San Jose will continue to develop depth and will be in a better position to compete for future Stanley Cups.