The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.
They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.
Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.
San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.
They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.
“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”
That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.
Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.
The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.
“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.
"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”