Scouting the Enemy: Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks

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Apr 9, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey (39) celebrates with center Ryan Getzlaf (15) after scoring a goal in the second period as San Jose Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan (27) reacts at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Obviously, last season ended in gut-wrenching fashion, and there is no reason to repeat what happened. However, this is mostly the same group of players who won 51 games and had 111 points last season. This season, the Sharks have struggled a bit, going 10-10-4 through the first 24 games. They essentially have a .500 record, and their 24 points place them at 5th in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference. What is the biggest difference between the team last season and this season?

Felix: I think the biggest difference between the team this season and last season is the leadership. Obviously, Thornton was stripped of his captaincy over the off-season. Marleau was also stripped of his alternate captaincy, though he got it back. Thornton’s now an alternate captain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter if the players (or which players, for that matter) are wearing a C or an A. Those are just letters on a jersey. What does matter is still the lack of leadership and confidence in this team this year. Yes, they came out of the gate with three wins in a row, two of them being back-to-back shut-outs (and the first team to have two different goalies to give them back-to-back shut outs to start the season). Yes, they actually managed to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the L.A. Kings in their home opener for the first time since Game 3 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. You would think that would and should at least give them some juice to extend their run to than just three wins.

No. Instead, what you saw was a team that you’re currently seeing right now. You’re seeing a team struggling to find consistency. In fact, now you’re actually seeing a team struggling to get even a win, much less string together two or three wins. You’re seeing a team that’s not just dried up in scoring, but in confidence as well. You’re seeing a younger defense that’s struggling. You’re seeing more of a competition in the crease ever since Antti Niemi was in the hot seat after a less-than-stellar performance last season. There are questions of whether or not “Nemo” will even be in a teal sweater for long now that Alex Stalock was injured and rookies like Troy Grosenick stepped up to the plate and put up a 45-save shut-out performance against the Carolina Hurricanes on their mediocre seven-game road trip. I mean, he practically stole the game for the Sharks.

So, as you can see, there are a lot more questions than answers for the Sharks and confidence is a major factor. We all hope that our big guns can step up and bring it every night, but obviously that’s not going to happen. You can’t constantly rely on them anyway because you still need secondary scoring. If you want to win in this League, everyone’s got to jump on board every night. The coach has got to be able to roll all four lines, no matter the situation. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet and, again, the lack of leadership is still a huge question mark and the biggest difference between the team last season and this season.