Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Swimming with Sharks

Rebuilt Pacific Division powerhouse makes life difficult for NHL foes

  • Print

Gather around the newspaper, hockey fans, for a little game of word association...

We say "San Jose Sharks" and many of you might answer with:

"Playoff disappointment" or "underachievers."

Some of you, particularly those unfortunate souls with Shark players in your playoff pools over the last few years, might offer up something similar, but accompanied with a string of expletive deleteds that would make Tony Soprano blush.

But conduct the same word-association exercise in NHL circles -- that highly volatile world that has already cost seven coaches jobs this season -- and the San Jose Sharks would elicit responses like "consistency" and "stability" or even "overdue."

"We have a group that we believe in, right from the ownership on down," said Sharks' head coach Todd McLellan after Wednesday's practice at the MTS Centre. "I wouldn't say (ownership) is patient with us, but they believe in us.

"We've worked hard. We've had the Presidents' Trophy, we've been to the final four twice... there's a lot of teams that would trade positions with us to get to that point. Now, with that being said, we haven't reached our final goal. But only one team gets to do that every year and it's a tough road to hoe."

Some numbers that speak as evidence to the Sharks' long, consistent, regular-season run:

-- The club has not had a losing season since 2002-03;

-- The Sharks have finished first in the Pacific Division in four consecutive campaigns and;

-- They have averaged 48 wins and 108 points over the past seven seasons.

It could be said, then, that in many ways the Sharks -- just like the Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins -- represent what franchises like the Winnipeg Jets hope to become.

Yes, winning a Stanley Cup is the ultimate, but building a franchise into a consistent winner along the way is the blueprint any owner/coach/player would covet.

"It takes time. I think it's a cultural thing," McLellan explained. "The wins don't occur as the clock runs out, it's everything that happens before and during. It happens in the front office, it happens in the weight room, it happens with the medical staff, it happens with the commitment to success in the summer.

"We've worked hard in our organization to get to that point to feel confident about our group. And then the input on the ice leads to the wins in the end. We're not perfect by any means, but we like the culture we've created, the players believe they have a chance to be successful if they do it right. They believe in each other and the pieces that are here."

Those pieces, however, aren't exempt from being changed. Feeling pressure to take that next step and fulfill all that promise in the playoffs, the Sharks underwent a significant makeover in the off-season, sending Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick to Minnesota for Brent Burns, trading Dany Heatley to the Wild for Martin Havlat and adding Michal Handzus, Jim Vandermeer, Colin White and Selkirk's Andy Murray in free agency.

Ultimately, this team won't be judged until the spring, but even with many of the new pieces struggling with injuries -- Havlat, White and Vandermeer have missed a combined 57 games -- the Sharks, again, lead the Pacific Division and remain a Western Conference power.

"We're still growing," said McLellan. "We had a large turnaround for a conference final team.

"We're trying to get everybody healthy and put the team together. That's why we play 82 games, that's why we have nine months and when it's all said and done we'd like to think the group can gel and everybody play to their strengths and we'd have a good group."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2012 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Total Body Tune-Up:- Shoulder Press

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012
  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR

View More Gallery Photos


Do you plan to watch Saturday's boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google