It's All Over...

Another hockey season come and gone, and the cumulative number of Stanley Cups won by the San Jose Sharks remains at zero.

While the Sharks were able to reach the Western Conference finals for a second consecutive year, they still came up short. They did win one more game than they did in last year's conference finals, but given that they were swept in four straight last year that's not what I'd call a major accomplishment.

A number of Sharks players were fighting through some serious injuries (Thornton and Clowe were playing with separated shoulders and Heatley had a broken hand, among others),so it was probably too much to hope that they would beat the Vancouver Canucks, who finished the season #1 in just about every offensive and defensive category.

The Canucks looked like they would continue their winning ways after brushing aside the Sharks, taking the first two games of the finals against Boston. However, the wheels suddenly fell off, and their goalie Roberto Luongo suddenly became a hunk of swiss cheese, giving up 12 goals over the next two games, and turning in a mediocre performance in the deciding game 7. Luongo's still got another 10 years left on his healthy contract, so he's got plenty of time to redeem himself.

The Sharks have the core of the team locked in for the next two to three seasons, so the window of opportunity remains open and they should be able to ice a contending team again next season. They still need to address the blue line, and I'd like to see a couple of solid veterans shore up the defense (one physical shut-down type and one quick puck moving type), and the Sharks seem to have enough cap space to be able to pull it off, but will likely have to move at least one valuable player (Clowe, Pavelski) to get it done. They might be better off bringing in one veteran D-man and hoping that the young guys will grow into their positions - Demers has come a long way, and I believe Justin Braun will mature into a real offensive and physical threat.

It was particularly encouraging to see Joe Thornton shed those playoff demons, as he was the best Sharks player throughout the post-season, leading the team in scoring and doing his best to carry the team on his back, even with the separated shoulder. With a new focus on the defensive side of his game this season, he led the league in takeaways and became one of the best three-zone players in the league. This bodes well for the Sharks moving forward.

Even as I watched the Bruin skate around the Vancouver arena with that silver chalice last night, I felt myself anticipating next season. Only 109 days until training camp, can't wait!