It's not deja vu all over again, and it's not the same-old-collapsing-Sharks. No, what Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators proved is that San Jose just aren't a good enough hockey team as currently constructed.
A come-from-behind special teams fueled victory for Ottawa gives them a California road sweep while the loss means the Sharks exit the month of February without a single home win to their credit. San Jose was outplayed by a team that was nine points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference at puck drop.
This isn't a referendum on Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau. That instinct to rail against the best players on a bad team — because that's what this is, a bad hockey team — should be suppressed by fans and media members alike. The problem with the Sharks isn't that their star players aren't playing like star players — I promise, it's not — the problem is that Doug Wilson constructed this roster to lose.
Well boy howdy, they're losing.
Mike Hoffman scored twice, one an empty netter and the other a powerplay goal, Eric Karlsson scored a powerplay goal and assisted on Hoffman's first tally and Mark Stone scored the lone 5-on-5 Senators goal of the night thanks to some classic ineptitude from Scott Hannan.
Tommy Wingels opened the scoring and with the exception of a not-great hooking penalty played a strong game. Patrick Marleau scored a powerplay goal after about 10 seconds on the man-advantage to give San Jose their final lead of the game at 2-1. From there it was just about all Ottawa, which isn't something that has been typed in many recaps this season, I don't imagine. But the Sens out shot attempted the Sharks 30-23 after Marleau's goal and ended up with a six corsi advantage in all strengths.
This is the type of game that will have columnists and analysts licking their chops. Now is the time that all their spilled ink and ground axes against the soft-hearted leadership in the Sharks' dressing room pays off. Takes will be spicy, the words will be meaningless and it will all pander to the rightfully frustrated and disappointed fans who have dutifully spend their money at SAP Center hoping for a Stanley Cup for the past several years.
Last summer I, and many others, wrote a lot about the poor and at times nonsensical management strategies being employed by Wilson and company and just how badly that might affect the team's performance this season. This isn't one of those I'd-rather-be-right-than-see-the-team-win-hockey-games things — I'm not a Leafs fan for god's sakes — but this isn't a surprise and it isn't a choke job. This team was never going to be great and quite frankly it's not a surprise that it's just not very good. If someone's at fault here, it's Wilson — not Thornton and Marleau.
With the trade deadline looming it will be interesting to see if Wilson is willing to dump the UFAs and commit to selling in a less half-hearted way than he committed to tanking this past summer. This core is still good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup, the question is will management actually try to win one while its still intact.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Erik Karlsson
2nd Star: Kyle Turris
3rd Star: Mike Hoffman