It has to hurt the San Jose Sharks to see a team they had on the ropes in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs advance all the way to the finals, but the organization is pretty much used to that sort of thing by now — and they have responded by trading away one of their longtime players.
Of course, San Jose probably wasn’t going to re-sign defenseman Dan Boyle, anyway, as he is about to become an unrestricted free agent. So in a similar sense to the Detroit Red Wings sending Brad Stuart to the Sharks last year about this same time, it basically gives San Jose an extra draft pick.
Boyle will be 38 on July 12, and while he’s been a key cog in the Sharks’ defense for six seasons, he probably registered his worst season in San Jose last year. His 75 games played was his lowest since 2001-02 for full, non-injury season, and his 36 points also was a career-low mark for his tenure as a Sharks defenseman.
Perhaps what was worst was his -8 rating, the only time in six seasons with San Jose he was in negative territory. The previous five seasons combined, Boyle was at +27 for that time frame. He was an All-Star his first four years in a Sharks sweater, but this year, his time-on-ice totals dropped to just 21:17 per contest — again, his worst since that 2001-02 season when he was significantly less experienced.
San Jose acquired a conditional fifth-round draft selection in the 2015 NHL Draft from the Islanders in exchange for Boyle, and if he re-signs with New York prior to the start of the 2014-15 regular season, that conditional pick becomes a fourth-round selection.
Boyle’s impact on the Sharks’ success over the last six seasons cannot be denied, as he ranks first amongst the San Jose franchise defensemen in goals, assists and points. He joined the team at the same time Todd McLellan became the head coach, and the Sharks immediately won the President’s Trophy in the first year Boyle was on the team.
His tenure in San Jose was highlighted by three straight Pacific Division titles (2009-11) and two straight trips to the Western Conference Finals (2010-11). It could be argued Boyle’s six seasons with the Sharks was the club’s most successful stretch ever, although obviously it never ended up with a Cup championship.
Boyle, however, did win the Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
Meanwhile, the team that eliminated Boyle and San Jose in seven-game playoff series the last two springs is in the Cup Finals again: those third-place Los Angeles Kings somehow managed to win three Game Sevens on the road in the Western Conference playoffs, somewhat lessening the pain of the Sharks’ first-round choke job against them.
But still, it has to hurt — again — to know the team was so close to being so good. Too bad that doesn’t count for much in professional sports, and the “always a bridesmaid but never a bride” syndrome will continue for San Jose at least one more year.