They have a talented roster made up of a lot of good veteran players, but most of these guys are past the prime of their careers. A rebuild is on the horizon and the decision on when to begin that process should to be made soon.
Does general manager Doug Wilson end the "Joe Thornton era" in San Jose before the April 3 trade deadline by trading some of his best veteran players for young players/prospects and draft picks, or will he look to "buy" at the deadline for one more Stanley Cup run?
Darren Dreger of TSN provided us with an update on the Sharks' situation during the February 20 edition of Insider Trading:
Depending on who you talk to, there are teams that say some big names are potentially in play. Certainly the Sharks are willing to consider just about anything. San Jose is willing to part with a defenceman – Dan Boyle's name, believe it or not, has been thrown out there – but they would need to get a forward in return and preferably someone who could fit in their top nine.
Joe Thornton's name was also thrown out there by an Eastern Conference team but that's not likely to happen. There's no way San Jose is going to put themselves in that position.
The best decision for Wilson is to tear down this roster and begin a proper rebuild.
When you look at the standings, the Sharks are among the five teams with 22 points that are one point behind the fifth-place Nashville Predators. They are also seven points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division title race.
Wilson has to determine if his team is a legitimate contender to win the Western Conference this season with its current roster. Without a lot of top prospects or talented young players to dangle in the trade market, it's unlikely that San Jose's roster will get any stronger before the deadline.
Unfortunately for Wilson, the Sharks aren't good enough to beat the top contenders in the Western Conference. At the moment, there are at least four teams with a good chance to win the West, and San Jose isn't talented enough to beat any of them in a seven-game series.
|Contender||Sharks W/L ||Notes|
|Chicago Blackhawks||0-3||The Sharks went 0-3 versus the Blackhawks and were outscored 11-5. San Jose doesn't have enough scoring depth to beat Chicago four times in a seven-game series. The last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Blackhawks swept the Sharks in the 2010 West Finals.|
|St. Louis Blues||1-0||The Blues beat the Sharks 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs last season. St. Louis has better goaltending than San Jose, a more reliable and deeper offense, and a stronger powerplay(second-best in NHL). The Blues are a bad matchup for the Sharks in nearly every phase of the game.|
|Los Angeles Kings||0-0||The defending champs are too physical for the Sharks and have much more scoring depth. The Kings' Stanley Cup-winning experience from a year ago, combined with star goaltender Jonathan Quick's ability to win a playoffs series almost by himself gives Los Angeles a huge advantage over San Jose.|
|Anaheim Ducks||1-1||The Ducks have three good forward lines and a ton of offense firepower with stars such as Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne having tremendous seasons. Viktor Fasth (9-1, 1.92 GAA) also gives Anaheim a goaltending advantage over San Jose.|
If the Sharks decide to rebuild, which is the proper decision in this case? It must be a proper rebuild and not the "rebuild on the fly" strategy, which is one reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone seven straight seasons without a playoff appearance.
For a good example of why the Sharks need to rebuild now and not let their veterans' value on the trade market dwindle with each passing year, they should look at the Calgary Flames.
The Flames have a lot of overpaid veterans on their roster that likely won't get them good prospects and/or draft picks if traded this season. Jarome Iginla used to have a lot of trade value as one of the best wingers in the game, but the Flames' captain's poor start to the 2013 season, in addition to his age (35), makes him a less valuable player now than he was two years ago.
San Jose cannot hold on to veteran players such Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau too long. The time to rebuild the team around young star Logan Couture and 28-year-old center Joe Pavelski is right now.
The first person who should be traded is Marleau. Since he is a legitimate top-line player with impressive goal scoring ability, there could be a lot of teams interested in him.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need a winger for Sidney Crosby, the Boston Bruins need additional scoring depth and the New York Rangers need another winger. Marleau could be the final piece of all three of these Eastern Conference teams' championship puzzle.
Veteran defenseman Dan Boyle could also help the Sharks acquire valuable assets for the future because he is still a top-four defenseman with impressive offensive skill. With a lot of teams expected to pursue defensemen at the deadline, the Sharks might be able to have a nice bidding war for Boyle, who has just has one more year left on his contract.
If the Sharks do not want to re-sign Marleau, Thornton or Boyle before each of them is eligible to become a UFA in the summer of 2014 (via Capgeek), the team might as well trade them now. The longer the Sharks wait to trade these players (if that's ultimately their decision), the less value they will have because teams are usually unwilling to give up valuable assets for rentals they could lose in free agency.
The 2013 draft class is loaded with potential franchise players, which means that stockpiling first and second round picks is a good trade deadline strategy this season.
Since players like Paul Gaustad and Kyle Quincey were traded in deals that involved first round picks last season, you would have to imagine that Thornton, Boyle and Marleau would, at the very least, help the Sharks acquire some first-rounders if they are traded before this year's deadline.
San Jose isn't good enough to win the Stanley Cup with its current group of players, so why wait to rebuild when that's the direction the team will need to take in just a few seasons (or even next year) anyway?
There's no reason to keep this aging roster intact when the team would be lucky to win one playoff series in 2013. If the Sharks can trade a few of their top veteran players for good young NHLers, talented prospects and/or first round picks before the April 3 deadline, they should do it.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.