Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Five teams whose Cup window is closing quickly

Here are five teams who head into the season knowing that their window to win a Stanley Cup may soon be slamming shut.

The NHL regular season starts Wednesday night, and every team will tell you that they're going in with one goal: They want to win the Stanley Cup.

Of course, that goal is more realistic for some teams that for others. Some teams are just paying lip service early one, and it won't be long before they've already shifted to mumbling about the future. But others will stay focused on the big prize all year long. And for some of those teams, this season looms larger than others.

That's because the window to win a championship can slam shut quickly in today's NHL. Thanks to aging players, salary cap pressures and other factors, some teams head into a given season knowing that they're running out of chances to win it all.

Here are five teams who head into the season knowing that their window to win a title may be slamming shut.

San Jose Sharks

Watching the Sharks fall just two wins shy of a Stanley Cup last spring, it was easy to forget that it wasn't that long ago that GM Doug Wilson was openly promising to rebuild while calling the Sharks "a tomorrow team." That came in the wake of the Sharks' epic collapse against the Kings in the 2014 playoffs, a time when the team looked old and in need of some new blood.

Two years later, the Sharks core certainly isn't any younger. But Wilson's decision to pass on a rebuild – or, depending on your perspective, his failure to make one happen – led to last year's run, and today the Sharks are viewed much differently than they were back then.

Still, it's not hard to look at the current roster and see the writing on the wall. Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are all headed for UFA status at the end of this season. Burns will get a deal, but Thornton and Marleau are question marks. For better or worse, those two players have been the face of the franchise for a decade, and they're likely facing down their last chance to win a Cup together in San Jose.

Meanwhile, Joe Pavelski is 32 and even Logan Couture will turn 28 before the end of the season. The Sharks pipeline prospect isn't strong, ranking 25th in THN's Future Watch. At some point, something has to give.

This season may not represent the last chance for the Sharks to win the Cup. But it seems like the last chance this version of the Sharks, the one we've come to know over a decade of playoff ups and downs. If this isn't the year, it sure looks like Wilson is going to get his rebuild wish two years after he made it, whether he still wants it or not.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

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