In the midst of a seven-game losing streak that has dealt a massive blow to their 2021-22 playoff chances, the Sharks have no plans to undergo a full rebuild.
“We are highly unlikely -- and I never say never -- highly unlikely to go through a proacted rebuild,” team president Jonathan Becher told reporters Wednesday. “Having said that, we are going to get younger; we are going to get faster. We are going to make some changes. That’s the part we’re going to market to fans and focus on.”
Nine points out of a playoff spot with 32 games remaining, the Sharks are in danger of missing the postseason for a third consecutive season. It’d be the longest playoff drought since the franchise was established in 1991. The recent struggles have made the idea of retooling the roster and bolstering the Sharks' prospect ranks appealing to a portion of the fanbase.
“We do hear from a minority [of fans],” Becher said. “It’s hard to gauge exactly how big they are, how many of them there are, but they are quite vocal. They do manage to get ahold of my email and send me periodic emails about a rebuild. The reality is our market in particular in Northern California, there’s a fight for a share of entertainment dollar. Not just sports but all of entertainment whatsoever. If your product is not engaging, people don’t interact with it frequently.
“Having said that, it’s also just sports are about winning. I know other teams in other markets have intentionally not won. That’s not Hasso [Plattner]’s style. That’s not my style either. We want to win every single year we can.”
The Sharks' poor performance combined with the midseason surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has dropped the San Jose’s attendance numbers. As of Wednesday, San Jose ranks 28th of the NHL’s 32 teams in average attendance with 12,031 fans per game in 25 home tilts.
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"Of course, I’d like bigger crowds,” Becher said. “Let’s not even try to mince around that. The reality is the pandemic is dramatically impacting people’s comfort coming back to events. … Of course, team performance is going to be a little bit of a factor as well, but it’s always way down the survey based on COVID.”
One addition coming soon to the Sharks will be a new jumbotron hanging over center ice at SAP Center. It will be installed after the season concludes.
“We are going to replace the center-hung monitor in the bowl over the summer to make it significantly bigger and brighter and higher pixel ratio,” Becher said. “The way to think about it is it’ll have two [times] the surface area that the current one has. … It’ll have a lot of other changes as well, including an under-sign video that you can see as well.”
With the NHL’s March 21 trade deadline looming, other changes could be coming sooner to SAP Center than later. San Jose has less than a month to change the direction of its season before the front office likely decides to become a seller. The Sharks have insisted they want to re-sign Tomas Hertl, whose contract expires after the season. But trading him away would get the Sharks an intriguing haul in return.
Whatever happens, just don’t anticipate a full rebuild in San Jose.