Danny Boyle's Foot
What happened? He started the year with a broken foot, and played like a guy playing 25 minutes a game with a broken foot.
Why was this important? At his age, Boyle needs to have his ice-time managed, especially during the regular season. By insisting on playing through his injury, he actually hurt his team. In the big picture, letting guys like Boyle dictate their readiness explains some of the lack of cohesiveness in the Sharks team play, I think. As important as they are to the overall success of this team, the coaching staff can't let the veteran players have that much say in running the team.
Lose a Poorly Played Game, Cancel Practice
What happened? Todd McLellan would routinely cancel practices or make them optional following losses.
Why was this important? Here's another aspect of how the Sharks just looked out of sync for most of the year. West Coast teams don't have as much practice time due to the more grueling travel, and the Sharks had a crazy schedule with a very light first half, and a very heavy final quarter. But all year the Sharks struggled to play as a 5 man unit (or 4 man unit in the case of the PK). At least some of that could have been rectified with more practice, particularly after losses where the Sharks looked reactive and overly reliant on one or two players to win the game for them. At the very least, making practices required after poor efforts is as clear of a message as you can get that the previous game's results are unacceptable.
Getting Killed on the Kill
What happened? Our PK was shit, all year, and everyone knew it.
Why was this important? Well, it was basically our undoing. It turned a decent even strength team into a bottom seed. It highlighted our terrible team defense. It lost us a ton of games. The coaching staff had no answers for it, which makes them seem either incompetent or ineffective.
Subtraction by Subtraction
What happened? All our roster moves last off-season didn't work out very well.
Why was this important? Doug Wilson made some big gambles by bringing in Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, Colin White, and Jim Vandermeer. Most of those moves were done to shore up our defense, which was exposed as a fatal weakness by the Canucks last postseason. Burns had an ok year, but didn't turn into the type of 2-way defenseman everyone had hoped he would be. White and Vandermeer were supposed to provide some veteran stay-at-home minute eating, but instead were destroyed in the scoring chance department by 1st and 4th liners alike. Handzus (a player that probably shouldn't have even been signed given McLellan's line-matching predilictions), couldn't handle 3rd or 4th line duties vs. other non-scoring lines, and was basically a shootout specialist by the spring. Despite some improvement in league-wide defensive stats, our blueline and defensive forwards were just as poor at preventing goals when playing with the lead as the 2010-11 Sharks. Havlat was injured for most of the year, but was a critical source of speed and creativity when he finally got back in the lineup. His play wasn't enough to kickstart a sputtering offense in the playoffs, though.
The Fucking Churchill Quote
What happened? In December before one of the home games, a quote from Winston Churchill was put on each of the players lockers, with the idea of inspiring the team to overcome challenges and rise to the occasion, etc. The same quote was brought back during the 1st round series vs. the Blues.
Why was this important? Do I even need to describe how the games that followed were some of the least inspired hockey the Sharks played in a pretty underwhelming year? The steely resolve exhibited by the people of Great Britain during World War II was not the end result. Instead, an equally British sense of resignation, passivity, and irony at the world going to hell around them took over.