A Week of Self-Criticism for Sharks
After Tuesday's loss to conference-leading Vancouver, forward Ryane Clowe stepped up with some harsh words for his teammates, and for himself, telling reporters, "We can't figure it out. We just want to cheat at times. That's how it is. (The Canucks are) not afraid to play a sound defensive game. They'll stick to it, and we have guys that want to do it occasionally, not all the time though, because that's hard work. And when you work hard, you feel it after a game. I guarantee you there's guys who don't feel that tired after that game. Just terrible."
Then came a 3-0 loss to Buffalo on Thursday, and the next day at practice, general manager Doug Wilson addressed the team privately.
Wilson told FanHouse that he won't detail his comments to the Sharks, citing the sanctity of the dressing room, but when asked about the general state of the team, he said, "The level of play we expect from ourselves as players and individuals is not consistent enough, and we're the first ones to admit it. The answer has to be on the ice. We know we're capable of playing better. We've seen glimpses. But glimpses aren't good enough."
Some of the players most relied upon, players such as Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle, have been up and down, and the celebrated top line hasn't ever quite gotten on a roll, with Patrick Marleau going through something of a slump, and then Dany Heatley having difficulty finding the net.
The Sharks are currently in sixth place going into Saturday's game at HP Pavilion against a Nashville team that has won four in a row, but there are five teams in the West that aren't in a playoff spot right now -- but are within four points of San Jose. At this point, is just gaining a playoff spot a concern for a team that has finished atop the conference the past two seasons, and atop the division the past three?
"We worry about our team's game," Wilson said. "We respect our competition but we want to get better as a hockey team. If we take care of business, if we play the way we're capable, that will take care of things. If not, we'll be in a dogfight."
Wilson is never afraid to change things up; he's orchestrated some of the bigger deals in the league the past several years in acquiring Joe Thornton, Boyle and Heatley, and as Clowe told the San Jose Mercury News this week, if the team's play doesn't improve soon, "Doug has choices to make."
Asked about any possible shakeup, Wilson said only that he is always on the lookout for opportunities to improve the team. Since Rob Blake retired, it's been thought that Wilson will try to make a deal for another defenseman, and some of San Jose's difficulty in taking off has been a string of injuries to defensemen; at times, the team has been without three of them.
Twice this season there have been rumors suggesting the team will send Devin Setoguchi to Toronto for Francois Beauchemin. Nothing appears to be on the table at the moment, though.