Mon May 24 11:27am EDT
Almost 24 hours later, San Jose Sharks fans are beginning their mourning phase after yesterday's elimination at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. Another season that had begun with high expectations was washed away in four games after an inspiring performance through the first two rounds.
It was a "Stanley Cup or bust" year for the 2009-10 San Jose Sharks. After years of falling short of expectations general manager Doug Wilson went all in this season when he traded for Dany Heatley(notes) last September. Adding Heatley to a lineup that already included names like Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau, and Boyle increased the expectations that this was finally the year for the Sharks.
Coming up short against theBlackhawks isn't just any playoff exit. San Jose now enters the summer facing the fact that this current group of players just ended their last run at a Stanley Cup together.
On Wilson's "to do" list is to figure out which upcoming unrestricted free agents like Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov(notes) and Manny Malhotra(notes) will be wearing Sharks jerseys next season. There's also the question about whether or not captain Rob Blake(notes) will retire before next season. Then Wilson has to work out deals for restricted free agents Joe Pavelski(notes) and Devin Setoguchi(notes), two young pieces of San Jose's future core. Wilson will certainly be busy trying to spend the $20 million or so in cap space (CapGeek) wisely.
It'll be virtually impossible to bring back all of the top end pieces without skimping throughout the rest of the roster as the Globe & Mail's Matthew Sekeras wrote last night and that'll be part of the challenge for Wilson. Does he attempt to retain most of the team that brought them back to the conference final or decide to change course and say goodbye to some old faces while mixing in new faces in a revamped lineup for the 2010-11 season?
CBS Sports' Wes Goldstein is on the "blow it up" side of the discussion:
"San Jose may still be the class of the Pacific Division, but even that status figures to be challenged next year by a talented and rapidly improving young Los Angeles Kings team as it was this season by the upstart Phoenix Coyotes. And truth be told, that doesn’t really matter. The issue here going forward is finding the right formula to go beyond being a regular season powerhouse to a true championship caliber contender....
Clearly general manager Doug Wilson certainly has his work cut out for him, if he is still around. This is the team he built and at some point, he’s going to have to answer for it. And coach Todd McLellan probably shouldn’t feel all that secure either after inheriting the talent he did before last season and not really making much of it."
It'll be the "Summer of Wilson", and as Sekeras noted, will be a franchise defining few months that will play a vital role in how the Western Conference is won over the next few seasons.