Category archive: San Jose Sharks
The NHL playoffs are still three weeks away, but for all intents and purposes, they start tonight for the San Jose Sharks in Minnesota.
A six-game winless streak (0-5-1) has punctured serious dents in the armor of the Sharks, who hit rock bottom -- they better hope -- with a 5-1 loss in Edmonton on Sunday night against the NHL's basement-dwellers.
Of course, the Sharks thought rock bottom was an 8-2 rout to the Stars in Dallas last Tuesday night. In between, there have been lots of meetings, lots of talking and plenty more losing.
"We've talked a lot about it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told ESPN.com on Monday. "I think everybody understands what needs to happen and what needs to be done. I don't think there's any grey there. Words are not going to bring us out of this, it's going to be actions."
The point has come and gone for meetings, echoed veteran Sharks captain Rob Blake.
"That's done now," Blake told ESPN.com. "We have to execute that on the ice."
Execution. The Sharks had no issues with that for most of the season, playing great hockey as they challenged Washington and Chicago for first overall in the NHL. Now, they're not even first in their own division. The desert-hot Phoenix Coyotes, winners of nine straight, have a one-point lead atop the Pacific, reeling in the Sharks after the Olympic break.
San Jose's power-play unit, first overall in the NHL for most of the season, has dropped to fourth thanks to a 2-for-20 stretch during the six-game winless streak. At the other end, goalie Evgeni Nabokov has carried over his Olympic struggles, and his teammates haven't helped him much as the Sharks have been lit up for 26 goals over those six games.
"Eight days ago, we were the top team in the league as far as goals-against average, but I'm pretty sure we're not there right now," said McLellan, whose team has slid to ninth in goals against per game.
Simply put, the Sharks have lost their mojo.
"If you look at our lineup, if we're willing to compete and we're willing to engage mentally and physically in a game, we're going to be very tough to beat," said Blake. "And we've proven that, we've done that during the regular season. We did in the regular season last year, as well. We need to get back and find that."
Back to basics, said the coach.
"We're chasing the game, I think is the best way of putting it," said McLellan. "We're not sure if we need to play well defensively or if we need to open up offensively, and as a result, we're doing neither. So I think we've got to go back to the basics and take care of our end.
"We're probably going to win 2-1 before we win 5-4. We're going to do it collectively, we're sure not going to do it individually."
San Jose's tumble has caught the attention of pundits everywhere. The team's well-documented playoff struggles over the past few seasons follows the team around like oversized baggage. "Uh oh ... here they go again," is what people are saying.
"We're going to hear that, I know," Blake said. "But this isn't same team we had last year. We've got eight or nine new guys. Our main focus from Day 1 was to come out of the regular season and put ourselves in a playoff position. Now if that becomes the first seed, or the fourth seed, or whatever seed, you have to get into the playoffs and you have to be playing well.
"We've got 10 games left to get in game order so we can head into the playoffs [on a stronger note]."
It may very well be that losing the top seed is not the worst thing in the world for this team. Going into the playoffs under a little less spotlight might just be what they need. Or maybe the demons of springs gone by are coming back to torture the men in teal. We'll soon find out.
"We did a lot of research into Nic," Wilson told ESPN.com Monday. "We tried to get him for the last two years to be honest with you."
The Sharks acquired the 34-year-old Swede from Carolina on Sunday along with a fifth-round pick in 2010 in exchange for a second-round pick in 2010. The deal appeared dead on Friday when Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said as much publicly, but it got back on track late Saturday night.
"His game speaks for itself," Wilson said of Wallin. "He's a playoff-hardened veteran that has played with really good players in Carolina, and he's very versatile. He can play the left side or the right side. We think his character, how he plays the game, he's a team-first guy. We really look forward to adding him to our team.
"There are a lot of mutual friends that speak really highly of him as a teammate and competitor," Wilson added. "Whether it be Arturs Irbe or Bret Hedican, for example. We know about him as a person and as a teammate, and he's always played his best hockey in the playoffs."
Wilson had no interest in giving up anyone from his NHL or AHL roster, so the second-round pick was exactly what the doctor ordered. And the timing of the deal was also important to him -- right before the Olympic break.
"The big thing for us was to be able to add player like this and at this time so that it was early enough for him to integrate himself with our team," said the Sharks GM. "And we didn't have to give up anything from our dressing room because I really respect and believe in the group and how they've approached this year."
Is Wilson done shopping?
"You're always looking. We've got some guys out with injuries," Wilson said. "We also have some guys in [AHL] Worcester playing really well and they're certainly part of our player pool and will be going forward."
It appears there's a chance Niclas Wallin could be a San Jose Shark after all.
On Friday, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer the Wallin trade was dead, but two sources close to the situation said the deal was revived late Saturday night.
Wallin has a no-trade clause, and it's believed he was seeking a contract extension to waive it. One source told ESPN.com on Sunday the deal could still fall apart again, but that the possibility of a trade to San Jose was again in the cards.
The Sharks are on the lookout for help on defense, especially with the injury to Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
"There was a pending deal with a team, and after going through the process of a few days, it didn't materialize," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com on Saturday.
TSN of Canada reported Wednesday night that a trade to send Wallin to the San Jose Sharks was nearly complete. Rutherford refused to identify the team to ESPN.com, but a source confirmed it was the Sharks. Wallin, an unrestricted free agent July 1, has a no-trade clause.