Last week the SJ Sharks became the 4th team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead. Right when it looked like the Sharks would drop the playoff choker label, they instead went on to have perhaps their worst playoff choke in history. In 2010 and 11 the Sharks lost in the WCF winning a combined 1 game, 2012 the Sharks lost to the Blues in the WCQF 4-1 as a 7th seed, in 2013 lost to the Kings in 7 games in the WCSF as a 6th seed and now in 2014 were sent packing again by the Kings. Every season starts the same for the Sharks. They're looked at as contenders, but always seem to find a way to disappoint. The Sharks have the star power with Marleau, Thornton Couture, and Boyle.
So after another failed playoff appearance what do the Sharks do from here? Marleau and Thornton were just signed to extensions through the 2016-17 season. Boyle is a UFA and I would be surprised if he returned to Northern California. An issue could be arising in net with Niemi for the Sharks. He was benched in game 6 in what I called a panic move by McLellan. I'll start with Niemi while I'm on the topic. Do the Sharks stay with the 30 year old tender who has one year remaining on his deal or do the Sharks look to move him and go a different direction? Stalock showed promise for the Sharks this year, but he is a UFA come July 1st. The Sharks could look at the UFA market come July for help in goal. Ryan Miller would welcome the chance to play in California with his wife living in LA. I don't see Miller returning to the Blues before he tests the market at least. The Sharks could also look at other options like Bryzgalov, Halak, Hiller, Nabokov, Vokoun, or Elliott. However none of the last six I mentioned seem like improvement over Niemi. I believe the Sharks would be wise to stick with the former cup winner in goal next season.
Where I think the Sharks need to make changes is with one of their long tenured stars Marleau or Thornton. Neither played well in the playoffs this year. The Sharks have gone to battle with both for years and neither have led them to the promise land. Now is the time to try to get value for one or both of them while you still can. This team needs to be handed over to the new core of Pavelski, Couture and Hertl. The average age of the Sharks was 28.42 this year, which was the 9th oldest team in the NHL. Trading either or both of Marleau and Thornton could bring younger talent to the roster as well as top prospects to the Sharks system.
Lastly I think a change is needed behind the bench. Todd McLellan is not a bad coach however if your team falls apart to blow a 3-0 lead especially when your team has a reputation for failure then a change is needed. McLellan has been the Sharks bench boss since 2008 and leads a great regular season team, but cannot get it done when it matters. Sharks management has already said they are not looking to replace McLellan, but could be on a short leash.
Long story short it doesn't seem possible the Sharks can go at it again with the same crew. Change is needed, but where will it come? The Sharks should be a fun team to follow in the offseason.