As the Sharks losing continues, will there be an unforeseen…

As the Sharks losing continues, will there be an unforeseen cost?.

NHL: San Jose Sharks cannot let a defeatist attitude seep into the players they’re trying to build around.,

Everyone understands where the San Jose Sharks are at as an organization right now. The team is in the throes of a deep rebuild. Wins will be rare. Success, fleeting as it will be, should be measured in other ways.

What everyone doesn’t quite understand — at least not yet — is the cumulative mental effect all this losing is having on the group, particularly the players who figure to be with the Sharks organization for years to come.

The Sharks’ 2-1 shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday was their 15th in their last 16 games, as Blackhawks goalie Petr Mrazek stopped 37 of 38 shots.

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It’s a stretch of futility few if any players on the Sharks roster have ever experienced before. While the losses of late have generally been more competitive than the ones at the start of the season, they’re still tough to swallow.

Being in last place in the NHL is absolutely zero fun.

“I mean, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t wearing on all of us,” Sharks defenseman Kyle Burroughs said after Tuesday’s game. “Especially when you put in all this time and all this effort to create some positive things in a game like that, and obviously to run into a hot goalie, it’s tough.”

What the Sharks absolutely cannot afford to have happen is for their young players to start carrying a defeatist attitude, thinking that losing is preordained. These are the players the organization hopes to build around.

From what the Sharks are saying, that type of mindset hasn’t taken hold. At least not yet.

“One thing that I feel really good about in our organization, those guys haven’t dropped at all in their play,” Sharks coach David Quinn said before Tuesday’s game. “You look at (Fabian) Zetterlund, you look at (William) Eklund, you look at Mario (Ferraro), you look at (Henry) Thrun, you look at our younger players. (Nikita) Okhotiuk probably had his best game of the year (Sunday against Buffalo).

“So our young players have not been affected the way you might expect when you have gone through what we’ve gone through. To me, that’s the silver lining through this. They’re going through some really tough times things that they’ve never gone through before and they’re staying above it, which is a great sign for our organization.”

Still, one wonders if Eklund, who carries with him expectations as high as anyone’s on the roster, has lost some of the confidence, swagger, and belief in himself that made him a seventh overall selection in 2021.

Asked how the losing is affecting him, Eklund was succinct.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I hate it.”

While Eklund, the Sharks’ second-best prospect behind Will Smith, is getting credit from coach David Quinn for other parts of his game — the backchecking, the two-way play — he’s now gone 16 games without a goal, with his golden chance in the second period gone sideways only exasperating his frustration.

After putting a shot toward the Blackhawks net that was tipped on goal by Tomas Hertl, and seeing Mrazek get out of position to stop a subsequent shot from Fabian Zetterlund, Eklund had the puck on his stick just a step outside the crease and a wide-open net in front of him.

His shot from 10 feet away went off the crossbar before the puck was cleared away from the Blackhawks.

That’s just how going right now for the 21-year-old Swedish-born forward.

“During the game, we had to go down and kind of give him a hug because you could see the frustration in his face,” Quinn said. “Apparently he does have a goalless streak. I don’t know what it is. I don’t pay attention to that. I don’t look at the stats in that regard. The thing I love about him is the other things he’s doing.

“Scoring will happen. It’s hard to score in this league, especially for a 21-year-old. But there are really things he’s doing that most 21-year-olds don’t. I like his play away from the puck, his D-zone, his penalty kills have been good. As you get older, you find satisfaction in that, and that’s what he’s got to do.”

In the last 16 games, Eklund has 28 shots on goal and four assists.

“I’m just trying to find my way and keep creating chances,” Eklund said. “If I’m creating chances, it’s going to come.”

Logan Couture and Nico Sturm could both return in the next week or two from their injuries for the Sharks, and that should help. But Mikael Backlund might have to miss some time after he left Tuesday’s game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after he was hit by Blackhawks winger MacKenzie Entwistle in the third period.

The Sharks have 37 games to go and more pain is likely in order. It’s just a matter of how everyone will react.

“Without question, when you play with emotion and passion, you’re just a better hockey player and a hockey team,” Quinn said. “Losing can take that away from you. That can really weigh on you. I think that’s kind of what’s happened here over the last few weeks. But tonight, we had it. We had passion. We had enthusiasm.

“You could see it in our play. It carried over in all three zones. It carried over defensively, and it carried over offensively even though we didn’t score goals.”

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