We’re now fourteen days into the lockout and while the league and NHLPA struggle to find common ground, a shortened season has become a reality rather than a possibility. The question is no longer if we’re going to lose part of this season, but how the lockout will affect our teams. For the Sharks I see three major ways the lockout will have a negative impact on their franchise.
1) The Window Continues to Close- There are those who feel that the Sharks’ window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup has shut due to their aging veteran core. I personally don’t believe this to be true, but I can’t ignore the fact that the Sharks are not getting younger. At 33 Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are still capable of putting up big numbers, but with every year that passes their careers move closer to their respective ends. The same can be said for 36 year old Dan Boyle. When your core group of players are as old as the Sharks’ are, every year becomes more important than the last. So it’s pretty obvious that a lost season can only hurt San Jose
2) New Coaches Have Less Time to Make Changes- After their quickest playoff exit in franchise history, expectations were high for the Sharks to make significant roster changes during the offseason. General Manager Doug Wilson surprised everyone by altering his coaching staff instead. His hopes were that the addition of Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson would finally mold his roster into the cup contenders he envisioned them to be. The problem now is without training camp or a preseason the new coaches have less time to make the changes this team so desperately needs. Having a hall of fame defenseman and the architect of New Jersey’s #1 ranked penalty kill behind their bench is possibly the best thing that could have happened to the Sharks this off season. But the longer this lockout lasts, the more San Jose will suffer.
3) Loss of Chemistry- I have a theory that the largest similarity between all championship teams is an abundance of locker room chemistry. If you look at teams like the Kings, Cardinals and New York Giants they all succeeded when the odds were against them. The Kings were the 8th seed in the west, the Cardinals and Giants both had one of the worst records amongst all playoff teams, yet they all won championships. They believed in themselves, they were loyal and supportive of each other and they came together and gave everything they had to see their teams succeed. This was all possible because the players cared about each other and got along on and off the playing field. The problem for the Sharks is that more and more players are heading overseas to play and becoming a part of other teams. There is a possibility that when they return they will feel less of a connection with their former teammates, and their performance on the ice may suffer. Not to mention the anger that is growing in the hearts of the players towards the NHL, and having lost 15 million last year you can be almost certain that San Jose’s ownership group are one of those asking for a greater share of revenue. It may be hard for the players to give 100% of their efforts for an organization that they feel doesn’t fully appreciate their abilities.
The Sharks had their worst season in 8 years during 2011, in fact it was only the second time since 2002 that they amounted less than 100 points. Now when was the last time the Sharks ended the season with less than 100 points? You guessed it, the year after the last lockout. This could have been a coincidence, but I believe it’s a possibility that the Sharks have and will suffer from the effects of the lockout.