Honestly, last night's loss hasn't quite sank in yet. Sure there's the let down, the frustration, the anger, the sadness, the multitude of melodramatics that a playoff ousting consists of. All of these things come with the territory.
But to sift through the vast tide of conflicting emotions emanating from your pores a mere twenty four hours after a team that we have dedicated hours, days, and years to, ceases to exist in it's current form?
I wish I could come here and say that I'm content with the wonderful season San Jose put together. I wish I could come here and say that, "Go get em next year!" and "The boys gave it their all!" is a sufficient response to what occurred on the 27th of April.
But the fact of the matter remains- the Sharks are done. In the first round. No amount of Presidents' Trophies, career years, or record breaking performances can change that. What we have on our hands is black and white. You can label it a success, but I refuse to do so. Not because I do not care about this team, not because I am dissatisfied with all of the great memories they have provided this season, not because I am not proud of the Sharks obtaining the best record in the NHL at the end of 82 games, and certainly not because I won't be tuning in for every single game next season.
It is because this team had talent. They had leaders. They had skill, they had role players, they had goaltending, they had everything that, on paper, comprises a Stanley Cup winning team.
And that is the reason why this should not be casually brushed away.
This is not to say I'm disgusted with the team. You look at Edmonton, it was a lack of physicality. They got pushed around and intimidated. You look at Detroit, it was an inability to cope with adversity. Game four still remains the most gut-wrenching loss I have ever witnessed, and the performances in games five and six were uninspired. You look at Dallas and realize the blueline was not good enough to make a run.
This year, it was different. Sans game four the Sharks came out to play every night. They finished checks. They got pucks on net. They fought to get traffic in front. They competed, and no matter what people will tell you, they showed "heart" and "a will to win."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the difference in this series was. Hiller was phenomenal. If Giguere is in net, I doubt this even goes to game six. Seriously. Anytime a goaltender posts above a .950 SV% you are going to have difficulty winning the series.
Credit Anaheim's blueline as well. Every time the Sharks attempted to generate speed in the neutral zone Anaheim stood them up at the blueline. Every time Hiller left a rebound in the low slot Anaheim either a) cleared the puck b) tied up San Jose's sticks or c) cleared bodies out. It was nothing short of superb.
Carlyle also deserves congratulations, as well as the Ducks forwards. Bobby Ryan's goal in game two was humbling. Ryan Getzlaf's goal in game one was tragically beautiful. This is a damn good team.
Alas, it doesn't change the fact that the Sharks are sitting at home right now wondering just where the season went.
Being the self-loathing type, I've read an assorted amount of pieces today. The one thing that jumped out at me was the anger some fans felt towards Joe Thornton's unwillingness to meet with the media after game four and game six. He was the first person on the bus, and didn't offer a quote.
Maybe it's just me, but I find this absolutely asinine. This man had just poured everything he had into a complete 82 game season. This man had just experienced probably the worst playoff loss in his career. This man had just been punched, both metaphorically and literally, in the face.
There's no reason to offer a quote. None. If I'm Joe Thornton I'm getting out of there as quickly as I can. Call it dodging, call it whatever you will, but there's no way I'm answering the question (posed in fifteen different ways), "How do you feel right now?"
How do you think he feels. How do you think this entire team feels right now? Sure the fanbase is pissed. I'm pissed, you're pissed, everyone is pissed.
But we didn't go out there and compete. We haven't dedicated our entire lives to winning the Stanley Cup, a dream I'm positive every single one of these guys have shared since their playing career began. What the hell do we know about this specific disappointment? What the hell do we know, sitting behind the safety of our computer monitors, about what's going on in these players heads right now? We didn't deal with Chris Pronger's crosschecks. We didn't play through various physical injuries that hampered our ability to perform to the best of our abilities. We didn't do squat.
If we're disappointed, you can best believe every single one of these guys is dying alive.
This is the precise reason I will never make a recommendation on who should be awarded the "C"- it's a facet of this team I'm not qualified to pass judgment on. The on-ice play is visible, we can see what determines that fine line between victory and defeat. But to pretend that we're aware of everything a certain player brings to the locker room is foolish. This isn't to say I don't have an opinion on the matter- everyone has an opinion, and all of those opinions are completely viable. However, I will never choose to state it. Once that decision is made we will certainly comment on it, but at the end of the day, there is a reason Todd McLellan is coaching the Sharks. 55 damn fine ones at that.
This team has a bright future and a murky past. It's a paradox that will continue to haunt everyone involved, from the fanbase to the management to the players, until the puck drops next October. It's a damn shame that the stigma of "playoff chokers" gets thrown around so haphazardly in the media, because I don't think it fits the bill. As so many of you have insightfully stated in downtown Mogadishu (i.e. the comments section lately- take that as a compliment), the NHL playoffs are a crapshoot, and the Sharks have come out on the wrong end of that crapshoot four seasons in a row. Anaheim won this series because of goaltending. The Sharks didn't choke. It's the easiest story to write, and completely off base. If you're calling for all of these players jobs without acknowledging Anaheim, it's high time some folks started calling for yours.
This whole article is a shining example of what going off on multiple tangents is all about. To reiterate- disappointed in the result, but can't find any glaring faults with the effort. I'm proud of the Presidents' Trophy, but it means very little at this moment in time. Hopefully the summer will help heal these wounds. This team has a good core and will be a playoff team for years to come. San Jose came into this season with the playoffs being the ultimate measuring stick of the season. That goal was not achieved. It should not be taken lightly, nor do I expect Doug Wilson to do so.
In terms of throwing names out around, I'm wary to engage in that at this moment in time. There needs to be reflection. In the meantime, look at this piece (circa early March), take a deep breath, mull it over, attempt to let the emotions subside, and get ready for the offseason where we will be all over it.
No matter what anyone says, this team was, is, and will be worth every damn minute of our time.