Coming off an impressive 4-1 win at Philadelphia that concluded a 4-2 Eastern road trip, one has to wonder just how good is this year's edition of the San Jose Sharks? Certainly, the great expectations are there -- both within and outside the organization. But once again the question is: can they live up to them?
Although the cloud of consistent postseason failure hangs over San Jose, on so many other levels the Sharks might just be one of the true success stories in the NHL. They are a perennial top team, always in the discussion of the league's elite. They draft well and augment their picks with bold moves by GM
Off the ice, as I've noted over the years, the Sharks have accomplished what Commissioner
In fact, after a muddled beginning -- a mark for futility with 71 losses and a 17-game losing streak in the team's second season (1992-93) -- the Sharks have never been shy about setting high standards. From
This season's go-around meant adding Heatley the scorer and
Trading first-round picks (the Sharks haven't had one the last two years) and removing a letter from a mainstay are dicey decisions. Yet, they become easier when the direction is clear and the goal singular. As Wilson put it, "We embrace being in the hunt every year. It is what drives us."
And in McLellan's words: "We know who we are and who we want to be. Are we there yet? No, but we'll get better. We haven't been consistent, especially our starts. But, we put it on the players. We're not going to change too much of how we prepare. It is up to them to be ready to start games."
After that discussion, McLellan's team scored the first goal of the game in each of their final two games of the road trip -- both wins -- after tallying first just once in their first 10 games of the season. It's a little detail, but it may be an indicator that this team is ready to respond to challenges like never before. With veteran
Which, of course, is what the Sharks hope to finally prove they are. It's one thing to be the most firmly entrenched and successful expansion franchise of their era. It is another to be the best team on the ice as well. During the last four postseasons, the Sharks have been one of the league's highest-profile disappointments, failing to reach the conference final despite their status as a Cup contenders. Last season's first-round loss to Anaheim especially called the team's character into question and led to the removal of the C from Marleau's chest as well as the ouster of nine players from the roster.
Maybe this retooled group will be the one that delivers on its considerable promise. The Sharks' time appears to be now -- but, as always, only time will tell if