Doug Wilson, Erik Karlsson, Mike Grier, San Jose Sharks

Sharks Began Their Rebuild Far Too Late

The San Jose Sharks have missed the playoffs for the past four years straight. While some teams are capable of missing the postseason and finding a way to rebound, the Sharks were not one of those teams. With their backs against the wall and hiring Mike Grier as the new general manager, they finally decided to begin their long-awaited rebuild. However, this decision was made far too late.

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It can be difficult to determine at what point a team needs to fold and begin rebuilding, but it is safe to say the Sharks missed their chance. They are finally working towards creating a bright future for themselves, but the future could have been much better for them if they had started a rebuild even a few months earlier. As a result, the Sharks may have put themselves in a tough situation for the next few seasons.

Sharks Should Have Begun Their Rebuild in 2020

While it is easy to say that the Sharks should have begun their rebuild by never trading for Erik Karlsson, it made sense why they decided to do it at the time. They recognized that their window was closing, and they made a last-ditch effort to win the Stanley Cup for their veterans, similar to what the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently trying to do with their addition of Karlsson. While it would have been great in hindsight to have the pick that became Tim Stutzle, it’s hard to fault the Sharks for taking their chance.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Similarly, the Sharks didn’t necessarily make the wrong choice to make another run at the Cup in the 2019-20 season. They had just appeared in the Western Conference Final, and no one could have predicted how sharp of a decline they would have. That being said, Doug Wilson, who was the general manager at the time, absolutely should have realized that the end of the 2019-20 season was the time to begin a rebuild.

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Wilson had a nasty history of turning a blind eye to the idea that the glory days were over. He did everything in his power to build a competitive roster, but it always came at the cost of the future. He had assets that could have been traded to at least shake the roster up, but he chose to avoid it. Wilson was fully capable of putting the Sharks down the right path, but he decided to take blind shots at the Stanley Cup. Now, the Sharks are in a much worse place for that choice.

Sharks Could Have Been in the Playoffs Much Sooner

In a hypothetical situation where Wilson began a rebuild after the 2019-20 season, things could have been much different for the Sharks. In 2020, they managed to draft William Eklund, who is still a phenomenal prospect that will likely make a great impact. However, the 2021 Draft could have been a lot different if the team had committed to being bad. Instead of Filip Bystedt, the Sharks could have had Logan Cooley, Juraj Slafkofsky, or any of the great prospects available in that draft class. However, the ripple effect of those two years could have led to the biggest prize: Connor Bedard.

William Eklund San Jose Sharks
William Eklund, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

If the Sharks’ prospect pool had been slightly better, or they would have had more draft picks due to trading assets earlier, there is a very good chance that they would have been much closer to making the playoffs. They have plenty of players who will help them make the playoffs eventually, but the wait time could have been much shorter for the fans. They could have looked similar to what the Columbus Blue Jackets or New Jersey Devils do today. While it’s all speculation, it wouldn’t be that unrealistic.

While the Sharks made the choice to rebuild too late, that doesn’t mean all is lost. They have a lot of great prospects in the system, and it looks like Grier will avoid trying to compete for at least another year or two. The future is bright in San Jose, even if it isn’t as bright as it could have been. Hopefully, the Sharks will get lucky and find themselves in an advantageous position sooner rather than later.

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