The Sharks will be the last team in the NHL to play their 30th game, a qualifier of little meaning given their current habit of skating in sand.But if youre looking for a bright side to their current flat spot, remember that they did this for another month last year before it dawned on them that all their available wasted time had been used. With Colorado coming down on the back-end of a home-and-home Thursday, San Joses record is eerily similar to the one it had a year ago 14-10-4, as opposed to their current 15-10-3. Their goal differential was worse, plus-two as opposed to this years plus-10, and the goals against is the only real difference 68 this year as opposed to 82.But this Sharks team seems as maddeningly inconsistent as last years, and as difficult for a fan to enjoy. Too many nights where they take lots of shots and dont score, or win faceoffs and dont hold the zone, or complain that the little things that win hockey games arent being done.Which makes us wonder if maybe this isnt the team it was advertised to be.
Of course, it also makes us wonder if they have the wherewithal to assemble another second half like last years. And whether they will ever learn how to self-manufacture the boot in the behind that they seem to need to do their best work.It is easy to forget the 12-2-1 run that got them out of their early self-dug hole, but it is that very run that makes one wonder if they arent in fact a streaky rather than a consistently solid team. Their last 10 games, in which they have won only three and squeezed out a substandard eight points, reveal a more difficult issue.Their speed.The core of this team Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Martin Havlat, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns does not alter games with its pace. And its not about skating fast in a line we speak of here, but speed to pucks, getting to the best checking positions, simply getting to spots first. The Sharks do not appear to be forcing the issue as much as they are trying to slow the game to their liking.And that, frankly, is not the way this team was supposed to operate.The Sharks at their best dominate their space by getting where they need to go before the other sweater and dictating from there. The Sharks as we see them play well enough in spurts and then hope for enough productivity in those spurts to pass it off as a good nights work.This didnt occur nearly often enough against St. Louis, Chicago or Colorado, and their numbers in general (save the penalty kill, which has been ghastly, and the faceoff, which has been typically good) suggest a team at the fringe of the playoffs. A team is not likely to know the joys of home ice advantage.But this is not a difficult lesson to pound into the skulls, and head coach Todd McLellan has been trying to do so. The problem may simply be that the employees may not yet be sufficiently desperate to understand the urgency of the task.Put another way, they are posing the same question they always seem to pose at times like this Do we have to use the spurs now? And mid-December, with a third of the season already spent, may not be it.But it should be, at least more than it is now. This is not a team that has stopped listening to McLellan, but it may be a team that still thinks its skill will carry it to ultimate glory, to which we would respectfully point out that that hasnt worked yet.It can, though. Utilizing the speed and will that comes from having done this kind of work before can still be performed, unless the Sharks are simply too old and slow to do so. And if they were, they wouldnt be eighth in the West now, but 13th.So lets just say theyve wasted an awful lot of time yet again trying to figure what and whom they should be. And youd have though they would have deduced that by now.