SAN JOSE – Perhaps they’ve simply run out of ideas.
Rather than skate in the morning as originally planned, the nose-diving Sharks decided instead to hold a Sunday Funday. The idea arose shortly after their latest loss on Saturday at home, when a 2-1 third period lead turned into a 4-2 loss to Ottawa, their fifth in the last six games.
“We spoke last night and a couple players wanted a day where they could gather and get the group together,” Todd McLellan said. “We came in, we did some gym work, we did some freshening up of legs and that type of stuff, and now they’re going on their own and they’re going to go deal with some things. It’s a good thing.”
Patrick Marleau described the gathering, apparently initiated by Joe Pavelski, as “just trying to regroup, I guess. Just trying to get together for lunch and get ready for the next game.”
The Sharks’ recent struggles have opened the door again to a number of questions that arose during the team’s peculiar summer.
For one, the leadership structure is again in focus. The club has refrained from naming a captain, although publicly it’s been Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels that have been the most vocal in recent weeks in terms of giving an honest take of what’s wrong.
Dealing with the media is just small part of playing that role, of course, but, McLellan said he’s learning more and more about who is emerging when it comes to taking ownership of the team.
“We said [before the season] there were going to be times where the weather wasn’t real good and it was going to rain, then we would see how people would react. Well, we’re watching now,” he said.
“It’s easy to pick four captains when you’re won seven games in a row. Hell, my wife could come in and be a captain at that point. But, what happens when it’s raining? Who goes where, and who’s hiding in the hole? Who’s sticking his head out? Who’s pulling teammates together and who’s pushing them apart?”
There’s also the matter of the team’s “one step backwards” approach, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change less than 24 hours before the NHL trade deadline. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has made it known more than once that this is a year of transition, and there isn’t any help on the way for a playoff push.
Considering not even management expects the Sharks to challenge for a Stanley Cup, and recent results indicate the team isn’t emotionally invested on most nights, perhaps there is a feeling in the dressing room that this is already a lost year.
Marleau said: “I hope there’s nobody thinking that way. We still feel we have a good enough team to be in the playoffs, and you never know once you get in.”
“The standard should be set in the room, not outside the room,” McLellan said. “I firmly believe that if you let anybody off the hook as far as expectations of winning, and giving everything you possibly have to win, it takes a long, long time to get that back. That’s not what we’re about.”
There’s also the matter of Monday’s deadline. The Sharks have a number of players who could get moved.
The situation is a bit similar to 2013, when players like Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray were all pending unrestricted free agents that weren’t in the Sharks’ future plans. All were dealt.
What makes that season different from this one is that the Sharks managed to win a string of games before the 2013 deadline, so Wilson also flipped a third round pick for winger Raffi Torres, who had an immediate positive impact, and depth defenseman Scott Hannan. It was a reward for playing hard.
This version of the Sharks hasn’t done nearly enough to earn help for a playoff push.
“Would I like [Wilson] to trade for [players]? Of course I would,” McLellan said. “We’re human, we want to get better and we want the best. But, we also have to understand that we haven’t put ourselves in a position over the last month for us to walk into his office with a big evidence file, and say ‘do it.’ The evidence is actually pointing the other direction.
“We have to be real. Our goal is to get into the playoffs, and ultimately to build a team that can win and go a long way. Right now we’re struggling with all of that, and we can’t just build to get in. We have to build to be long-term winners. We’ll see where it goes today and tomorrow.”
Today, it went out for lunch. Tomorrow is anyone’s guess.