San Francisco Chronicle

Uncertain future clouds nice win

- By Ross McKeon Ross McKeon covers the Sharks for The San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter: @rossmckeon

Inquiring minds deserve to know. Is it a reset or a rebuild?

The Sharks are missing the Stanley Cup playoffs in backtoback years for the third time in franchise history. The drought has never reached three. Should a reset take this long? If San Jose finds itself on the outside looking in next spring, how can it not be defined as a rebuild?

“We probably expected to be fighting for a playoff spot, and we were until about two weeks ago,” Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said. “But we just didn’t sustain it. And that’s on us.”

Erik Karlsson’s tiebreakin­g powerplay goal midway through the third period gave the Sharks a 32 win over Colorado at SAP Center on Wednesday. Tomas Hertl scored his 18th and 19th goals in his 500th career game and rookie goalie Josef Korenar made 30 saves.

Considerin­g they lost six of their eight meetings, the Sharks are glad to waive goodbye to the Avs, who will return to the Central Division along with Minnesota and St. Louis when the NHL is expected to realign its preCOVID19 divisions. Arizona will move to the Central, too, to make room for expansion Seattle.

Vegas will remain as the only West team to reach the postseason. Edmonton, which is playoffbou­nd in the North Division, will rejoin the Pacific in addition to nonqualifi­ers Calgary and Vancouver, so the Sharks have to believe there is an opportunit­y to get back in the hunt simply by attrition.

One easily could argue, however, that San Jose’s contention this season was a mirage as fourth place was for the taking until St. Louis finally got healthy and rediscover­ed its game.

“There were some good peaks to our game, but not in long enough stretches,” Boughner said. “People are going to say it came down to the Anaheim games we lost at home. Yeah, (they were) big games, but there were teams playing well around us as well.”

Truth is the Sharks followed through with their preseason intentions, promoted the youth of the organizati­on early and often, and used the trade deadline to stockpile draft picks.

“It’s been a great opportunit­y for these young guys to showcase themselves, and that seems to be the direction the organizati­on wants to go,” Sharks forward Evander Kane said. “I guess we’ll see how it pays off going into next season.”

Everything about this season was about the future. San Jose will have a top10 draft pick for the first time since selecting Timo Meier ninth overall in 2015.

“This doesn’t happen overnight,” Boughner said. “You don’t go from one season to the next, turn a switch on, and all of a sudden, you’re a different team.”

The offseason will be intriguing in terms of how aggressive the Sharks are to fill out positions where they’re thin (goaltendin­g for starters), and what type of seasontick­et sales can they expect after two disappoint­ing seasons, including one in which spectators were locked out because of the pandemic.

It might be a tough sell. “There’s some good things happening,” Boughner said. “You can’t just snap your fingers and think it’s going to be instant. It’s going to take a little time, and I think we’ve sped that process up in the last 34 months.”

 ?? Tony Avelar / Associated Press ?? Teammates congratula­te Sharks center Tomas Hertl after his secondperi­od goal in a 32 win over Colorado at SAP Center. It marked Hertl’s 500th career game.
Tony Avelar / Associated Press Teammates congratula­te Sharks center Tomas Hertl after his secondperi­od goal in a 32 win over Colorado at SAP Center. It marked Hertl’s 500th career game.

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