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Don’t tell NBC hockey analyst extraordinaire Keith Jones that the San Jose Sharks need a major rebuild.
“To be honest, I think San Jose is going to win the Stanley Cup next year. That’s how strongly I feel about their team,” said Jones from New York, where he is a part of NBC’s broadcast team for the Stanley Cup Final. “I understand there’s going to be some tweaks, but I would not do a whole lot with that lineup.
“I can’t believe they didn’t get past L.A. with the way that series started. And, if I was picking my Cup team for next year, it would be San Jose.”
[RELATED: Sharks acquire draft pick, trade Boyle to Islanders]
Part of the reason Jones likes San Jose’s chances next season is the Boston Bruins’ experience in 2010 and 2011. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in the second round in 2010 against Philadelphia, and responded the next season with a championship.
Jones, who is also a part of the Flyers’ broadcast team for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, compared the Sharks losing Marc-Edouard Vlasic early in Game 5 against the Kings to the Bruins’ David Krejci suffering an injury in Game 3 of their 2010 series with the Flyers.
“The strongest point I can make is that if Marc-Edouard Vlasic didn’t get hurt, the Sharks are playing right now,” Jones said. “The Bruins’ series changed after [Krejci’s injury]. The same thing happened to San Jose. I can’t emphasize that enough, that’s how important of a player [Vlasic] is to that team.”
General manager Doug Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan have already indicated there will be some roster alterations in the offseason, and that could include longtime faces of the franchise Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau leaving town.
[RELATED: Report: Maple Leafs, others interested in acquiring Thornton]
Despite his confidence in the current Sharks group, Jones can understand why there’s talk of major change after another season of disappointment, especially when both Wilson and McLellan have indicated the coaching staff’s message does not get through at key moments, along with a lack of mental toughness in the dressing room.
“The fact that they continue to find ways to not achieve that goal – and they do it in a lot of different ways – that would definitely make you, number one, from within, feel a lot of pressure from your fans to tweak whatever it is that needs to happen to put you over the top,” Jones said. “And, number two, internally, obviously you have to really look deep and figure it out. If that message was being lost, which players was it lost upon?
“It’s difficult to convince me that when a coach like Darryl Sutter can rally the L.A. Kings and say all the right things and have his team play the right way, that Todd McLellan can’t do the same thing. I think Todd McLellan is one of the best coaches in the game. I guess looking into it, there might be a couple players on that team that just don’t have that will, like the Kings have, to get it done. But, they’re not far off.”
The biggest item on the Sharks’ offseason agenda, according to Jones, should be to find a defenseman to replace Dan Boyle. Jones agreed with the Sharks’ decision to part ways with pending unrestricted free agent, whose rights were traded to the Islanders last week, but Boyle’s absence leaves a void.
“Boyle moving on was the right time,” Jones said. “The legs were no longer there anymore. He’s an extremely hard working guy and you know he’s going to put the work in during the offseason, but [he] just was running out of steam.
“So, they need to replace that. If it costs you Joe Thornton to do that, then maybe that’s OK. But, you better get a pretty darn good defenseman back, if that’s what you’re doing.”