In case you are still wondering what’s wrong with the San Jose Sharks, allow me to help.
The answer is elemental: “Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. This is simply who they are now.”
Monday’s 4-1 home loss to Calgary simply is the latest example of a season that comes straight from Short Attention Span Theatre, only without the funny robots, the avuncular host, the cheesy set, and the crap movies.
This is what the Sharks are – a triumph of the unfocused and aggressively non-urgent. They have finally mastered the art of matching their effort and attention to the direness of their circumstances.
This system is not infallible, of course, in that sometimes they just get their brains beat in because they match up poorly (St. Louis) and sometimes they are the ones doing the brain-beating (Anaheim).
But Monday was just another demonstration of what their essential nature is – a sixth-place team acting like a sixth-place team. And sixth-place teams can often turn into ninth-place teams in a hurry.
Oh, you may have your own theories, and they may all be valid insofar as they stretch. But their metric profiles all scream the mediocrity of sixth, their shooting and save percentages are in the league lower third, they are increasingly substandard at faceoffs the further from their own goal they get, they are remorselessly average at home, on the road, and against three of the other four divisions. There are, in summation, very few things they actually do well.
We have all amused ourselves with discussions about letters on sweaters and cultural changes and coaching and general managing, but that’s all white noise. The letters haven’t made a difference, the culture is not discernibly different, and the personnel is still the personnel – better than it is showing, but stuck in a window frame whose contents are clearly closing.
And the proof? The last 35 games have produced 18 wins and 17 losses, and a goal differential of minus-2. The Sharks are Winnipeg without the distraction of Evander Kane . . . or Boston without the proud recent history.
Except that Winnipeg is playing better without Kane, and Boston does have that proud recent history. The Sharks are . . . well, what, exactly?
Go on, give it some time. We’ll wait.
Nothing? No answer? As we suspected.
The Sharks have become an amorphous blob, fortunate mostly that the Pacific Division has seriously regressed since last year. Calgary is 17-4-1 against its divisional rivals, and no other team is even close to being close.
Their older players have gotten mostly older, their younger players have taken to on-ice leadership only sporadically, and they remain overly reliant on their top two lines for scoring and intrepid play. They are in every way the model of the team that can’t make up its mind, a team that has in the last eight weeks:
Won five in succession.
Lost four of five.
Lost four of five.
If you can make sense of that, you probably have an intriguing world view that would be better kept to yourself. Because you can’t. The players haven’t, the coaches haven’t, the management hasn’t. The Sharks are well into a gray, indistinct smear of a season that shouldn’t provide much in the way of excitement on either end unless there is either a significant move at the trade deadline in 20 days, a sudden rash of out-of-context-wins or an Evander Kane incident to throw the dressing room into disarray.
And time is growing short. Two-thirds of this year is gone, and the Sharks are digging a hip-deep hole out of which only the rarest of teams escape. It may as well be called “Meh-rose Place.”
Or, to give it its more proper and derisive name, sixth.