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Mirtle: The strange dysfunction of the San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks' Antti Niemi, of Finland, makes a save against against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.

Associated Press

A quick glance at where the San Jose Sharks are in the standings doesn't really offer a great picture of what's going on with that team.

They're sixth in the West, sure, with 51 points in 44 games, on pace for 95 points and the franchise's 11th straight playoff berth.

Pretty decent, right?

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In the context of what the Sharks have been, not really. This is a team with seven 104-plus point seasons in those last 10 years, and in every one, they were considered a contender to varying degrees.

Never with any postseason success, beyond two years in the conference finals.

And that inability to win has created a little dysfunction there.

Here's one story that has made the rounds. Back in November, fourth-liner Adam Burish was a healthy scratch a few games after not playing particularly well. He was told it was management's decision, as they wanted to see young players like Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney play more.

That happens. In fact, it's been an ongoing battle in San Jose with other players at various times. But in this case Burish wanted out. And GM Doug Wilson said he would oblige by finding a better situation for him.

The next day, Burish walked into the dressing room and his gear had been removed from the dressing room. Teammate Joe Pavelski, an old friend from their college days, told Burish he had been waived.

That's not typical. Usually a coach or someone in management informs the player. But what happened was a disagreement between Wilson and coach Todd McLellan. The coach wanted to play Burish. The GM had other ideas and put him on waivers.

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Reminds you a bit of Moneyball, actually, in terms of taking away a player a coach wanted to use.

That's the basic outline of the story and just one small example of what's going on in San Jose. In addition to what happened with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the captaincy in the off-season, there have been rumours all year that Wilson and McLellan aren't getting along and that the coach may be fired at the end of the year.

That likely comes down to how they fare in the postseason, but it explains why you're hearing McLellan's name in the talks about who'll coach next in Toronto.

Amidst all that, there's still a good team in there somewhere. Heading into Thursday's game against the Leafs, the Sharks are 13-6-1 in their last 20 games, despite so-so goaltending and despite not dominating teams the way they have in the past.

Some of that is they're giving roster spots to the likes of John Scott and Mike Brown and don't have the depth they've enjoyed in the past. Some of it is they're trying to work in younger players, as part of a rebuild that's not really a rebuild that Wilson talked about in the off-season.

It'll be fascinating to see if they get it together over the second half – or if things fall apart.

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Either way, there's drama coming in San Jose.

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