The Sharks' dismissal of Pete DeBoer is both mildly surprising, and not shocking, all at the same time. It’s a sad truth in professional sports that the head coach takes a fall for his team. It also offers an intriguing aspect, though, to see what kind of response the team delivers after the change.
It’s been difficult to figure out who the Sharks are this season, and that’s a scary trait when you’re responsible for assuring their success. They’ve lost four, then won three. Then lost seven of eight, only to win nine of the next 10. It’s almost a season’s worth of highs and lows as if they’ve ridden an entire amusement park worth of roller-coasters in just 10 minutes.
Other confusing trends include their defensive struggles in 5-on-5 situations, yet their utter dominance on the penalty kill. As well on the other side, their ability to draw a significant number of penalties but rarely be able to capitalize with any consistency on the power play.
A lot of folks will look at the goaltending stats to blame, but the eye test tells a better story. Save percentage and goals-against average are not complimentary right now for either Aaron Dell or Martin Jones. But those numbers are flawed because of the quality and quantity of “Grade-A” chances the Sharks have been giving up dating to the start of last year.
Not all shots are created equal. This holds true in hockey and in basketball. A lay-up usually converts at a much higher clip than shots from beyond the arc. San Jose essentially has been routinely giving up slam dunks while trying to shoot too many 3-pointers.
Team defense has to be a top priority to turn around, no matter who the head coach is.
It’s not realistic to think that change or improvement will take place overnight, but obviously, there will be a lot of extra attention surrounding the Sharks in coming weeks and months, as well as a lot of pressure on the new men at the helm. Bob Boughner was the only member of the staff retained, and will be joined by fan favorites Mike Ricci, Evgeni Nabokov and longtime AHL staple Roy Sommer.
The $80 million question (think salary-cap space) right now is, what happens next for the Sharks?
Does this move from a tactical or symbolic standpoint unify a group that seems to have all the right pieces but hasn't had consistent results? It has become a notable trend across the NHL to see high-profile clubs make moves early when things don’t launch well.
But to think that any team can match what the St. Louis Blues did last season -- going from worst in the league in January to a Stanley Cup win in June -- definitely shouldn't be considered a reliable blueprint.