NHL Playoffs 2012 : Has the Window closed on the San Jose Sharks?

As the Sharks prepare for head out to St. Louis for Game 5 of the opening round, there’s a lot of questions about the team and where it’s heading.

No doubt being eliminated in St Louis will bring an offseason of change or so Sharks fans should hope.

Don’t get me wrong, this team still has plenty of fight and plenty of skill, but maybe the real question should be…

Is it enough?

Let’s face it, this Sharks team just isn’t elite anymore. There was a lot of talk entering the postseason about what was wrong with the Sharks??

Well, maybe there’s nothing wrong with the Sharks.. maybe they aren’t that good anymore, maybe the window has closed on this core, maybe they are who we thought they were?

While some may argue that 2008 was our best shot, I would venture to say that 2010 featured a far more superior team.

San Jose has regressed seriously since then in every single category that matters, starting with the awkward signing of Antti Niemi and the ensuing chain reaction of trades and events that followed.

Want proof?

Sharks lack depth – The 2010 team sported a third line that was simply dynamite, with Manny Malhotra, Torrey Mitchell and Logan Couture. Faceoff ability, excellent special teams ability and good speed.

The 2012 version of this team is either too small or too slow when McLellan switches Handzus and Winchester in for Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi. Against the Blues, the Moore-Mitchell-Galiardi line looks horrible along the boards and in front.

Sharks not special – In 2010, the Sharks power play was fourth in the NHL with 65 goals in 309 chances. The Sharks were fifth on the kill with an 85-percent conversion rate.

The team was ranked 30th in the NHL entering the postseason this year, and the trend has continued in the playoffs, scoring on just 2 goals in 14 man advantages. That’s not championship caliber hockey, hell… it’s barely winning hockey.

This team infuriates me with the spotty special teams play, and the level of domination the Blues have taken over the Sharks is really unexplainable considering the high level talent on this roster.

Or is it really that high level anymore?

Patrick Marleau was almost invisible in the playoffs against the Blues, who outhit the Sharks and just imposed their will. Marleau just isn’t the same even strength player he once was, and that’s not a good sign for the recent resign.

Let’s be clear, he won’t fall off the cliff next season, Marleau will score plenty on the power play, end up with 25-30 goals but he’s on the wrong side of 30.

It’s clear that his slip in numbers was clearly a result of his reduced minutes with Jumbo on the top line. I’m not saying it’s easy to score 44 goals, but it doens’t hurt when you have the league’s top point producer in the last decade feeding you the puck.

Just ask Jonathan Cheechoo.

Sharks don’t play as a unit – What was looking like a lopsided matchup on paper, has played out to exactly that on the ice. The Blues are the sum of their parts, and collectively they have outplayed every single Shark, outside of maybe captain Joe Thornton.

As I eluded to in the Game 4 wrapup, the Blues depend on one another and trust that the line as a unit will get the job done. Too often you see the Sharks trying to do too much, and instead hurting the team, instead of playing as a team.

Until they start doing that, it’s not going to be much different for the men in teal when it comes to the quest for Lord Stanley’s chalice.

I am hoping for the Sharks best effort come Game 5, sadly that just might not be enough this time for San Jose.

Go Sharks