The San Jose Sharks are arguably one of the most successful NHL franchises in the last decade. In fact, the Sharks may even be able to call themselves the most successful franchise in any professional sport for the last 20 years. They haven’t missed the postseason since 2003. In the last five seasons, they’ve racked up a record of 218-112-46. The only teams that have collected more points than the Sharks in that time are Chicago and Pittsburgh. Chicago and Pittsburgh have also made multiple Stanley Cup appearances, and won the trophy that has eluded the team ever adored as “playoff chokers.”
Last season, the Sharks won six in a row to start the season, and ended the opening month of the season with a record of 10-1-2. The year before that? It was of course lockout shortened, but the Sharks roared out of the gate with a record of 7-0-0. You’d have to go all the way back to that same year of 2003 to find the last time the Sharks didn’t have a winning percentage above .500 in the first month of the season. It’s good to wear teal in October.
But what about April?
Many people have their own opinions on where the “choker” term the Sharks have been labeled with dates from. If I had to pick a specific moment in the teams history to entertain the label, it would be the 2010 season, when they were swept out of the playoffs in their second Western Conference Finals appearance by the eventual champions that year, the Chicago Blackhawks. They were eliminated in the same stage the following year by Vancouver in the infamous “stantion” game. And then there was last April. Unless you were living under a rock, you might remember the Sharks became just the fourth NHL team in history to surrender a 3-0 in the playoffs if you pay even minuscule attention to sports. That had sports fans in general in agreement that the Sharks had earned their “choker” label.
But there are several things that could give the Sharks renewed hope in 2014-15, and even make it their year to silence the critics once and for all. The continued presence of Thornton, and the businesslike scoring of Patrick Marleau who has twelve 20 plus goal scoring seasons. The emergence of team superstars Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlassic. The platoon of youthful players showing very bright futures in Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels and 21 year old Matt Nieto. The Sharks have also kept their starting goaltenders on a very short leash to start the season. Veteran Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock have each put up a .933 save percentage to start the new campaign.
The Sharks leaders on the ice have all mutually admitted to the media on a few occasions that they are winnings games right now, with the special teams clicking on all cylinders, but they still aren’t playing the way they’d like to. This Sharks team has squandered plenty of seasons and opportunities, but with the lack of satisfaction, and the bitter taste of last years playoff exit still fresh in their mouths, the Sharks might just be positioned perfectly to make it their year.