Hockey is coming back, but the Sharks are not.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday that it will progress straight to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a modified 24-team format in its return to the ice after suspending the season in March due to the coronavirus. Twelve teams from each conference will qualify for the expanded postseason, with games played in two hub cities, which will be announced at a later date.
San Jose's streak of four consecutive playoff appearances officially ended with the NHL's announcement. The Sharks were last in the Pacific Division and Western Conference at the time of the season's suspension. With the season now, over they officially own the franchise's worst points percentage (.450) since 2002-03.
The Sharks entered the season with high expectations after finishing two wins shy of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. Veterans Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist left in free agency while Justin Braun was traded, but San Jose expected to contend after re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract extension last June.
But coach Peter DeBoer was fired after a 15-16-2 start, and the Sharks finished the season just 14-20-3 under interim coach Bob Boughner. The Sharks struggled to score and keep the puck out of their own net all season, with a rotating cast of rookies unable to replace Pavelski, Donskoi and Nyquist's departed offense and other veterans unable to replicate their production from the last season.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in April that Boughner has the "upper hand" to return behind the bench next season, but it's unclear when that will be. The NHL and the NHL Players Association agreed to a playoff format, but a timeline to finish the season -- and, thus, start next season -- is yet to be established.
Now, the Sharks can officially turn the page on a forgettable season, and Wilson now can shift his attention revamping the roster in order to achieve his stated goal of returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2021.